Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes talks about the influence of the Rolling Stones

Studio 360

Kevin Barnes, the frontman for Of Montreal, credits the Rolling Stones with turning him from an awkward teenager to a popular musician. (Photo by Nina Barnes.)

The band Of Montreal is known for its theatrical, over-the-top shows.

Frontman Kevin Barnes’ antics and flamboyant costumes recall the heyday of glam rock.

Barnes wasn’t a born performer — as a teenager, he was a loner, painfully shy.

On a family camping trip, his uncle brought along a guitar and taught Barnes how to play “Under My Thumb” by the Rolling Stones.

“It was sort of a revelation for me — you can learn those simple [chords] pretty quickly, and then the whole world of pop music opens up to you,” Barnes said.

After he learned the Stones’ catalogue, Barnes started writing his own songs.

Although he fell in love with the pop music of the 1960s, Barnes’ own songwriting evolved into something more complex. Of Montreal’s songs are busy patchworks of chords, melodies, and tempos. But if there’s one thing the Rolling Stones taught him, it’s the value of a hook.

“Not a generic hook," he said, "but something that feels special and has that magical spark to it. That’s the thing about the Stones: they always had really great melody lines — and they’re fairly simple — but each one’s fantastic.”

Of Montreal's new album is Paralytic Stalks.


Kevin Barnes covers the Rolling Stones' "Under My Thumb."