Of Montreal was formed in Athens, Georgia in 1996. The band's name comes from lead singer Kevin Barnes, who had a failed relationship with a woman "of Montreal."
Starting with their 2005 album The Sunlandic Twins, Of Montreal became essentially a solo project for Kevin Barnes, who took complete control of the songwriting and used emerging technology to build tracks himself on computer workstations. The 2020 album Ur Fun he recorded all on his own.
Of Montreal singer Kevin Barnes appeared on Bright Eyes
' song "The Difference in the Shades" from the album Letting Off the Happiness
R&B singer (and sister of superstar Beyoncé
) Solange Knowles appears on Of Montreal's 2010 album False Priest
. Soul singer Janelle Monáe also appears on the disc.
In 2007, Of Montreal singer Kevin Barnes spent the summer in Norway. The music influenced his writing style as Barnes says disco and electronic club music is still popular in that country. Barnes wrote songs the whole time he was in Norway and the result was a sexual album called Skeletal Lamping.
Kevin Barnes has a guitar with the name "Arlene" etched into it but he has no idea what the name means. Barnes bought the guitar at a used shop in Minneapolis because he liked how it sounded. The guy working at the store didn't know who "Arlene" was either.
In 2010, Kevin Barnes told Rolling Stone that he was very inspired by Surfjan Stevens' album The Age of Adz. "That woke me up in a way where I realized that music doesn't have to be extremely digestible. You don't have to think about getting on someone's iPod playlist."
They release an album every year or two because Kevin Barnes never really shuts down. Even as he's recording an album, he's thinking about the next one.
Two women have an outsized representation in Of Montreal lyrics: Nina Grottland and Christina Schneider. Grottland met Kevin Barnes when Of Montreal played a festival in Sweden in 2001. They got married in 2003 and had a daughter, Alabee, in 2004. They separated a short time later, got back together, and split for good around 2013.
Schneider fronts a band called Locate S,1; she and Barnes started dating around 2016. Many Of Montreal songs have mentions of "Nina" and "Christina," as Barnes doesn't hide their identities.
Speaking with Songfacts, Barnes explained his lyric-writing process
: "I do a lot of stream-of-consciousness, exquisite corpse type of writing and I sort of cultivate a potentially unhealthy level of racing thoughts in my day-to-day life. So if I'm in the bath or lying in bed or doing the dishes, I don't really let my mind rest."
Barnes' daughter, Alabee, was born in Norway, where his wife at the time, Nina, is from. They didn't have health insurance in America, so having the child in Norway (where there is socialized medicine) was the only way they could afford it.