Of Montreal: The Band That Keeps On Giving
A limited-edition 12-inch, a limited-edition 7-inch, a mail-order-only five-song EP, a double LP with four bonus tracks and finally a CD-put this all together and you've got one heck of a package suppA limited-edition 12-inch, a limited-edition 7-inch, a mail-order-only five-song EP, a double LP with four bonus tracks and finally a CD-put this all together and you've got one heck of a package supporting Of Montreal's "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?" due Jan. 23 from Chicago-based indie Polyvinyl.
The five "Hissing Fauna"-related releases, squeezed into the seven weeks between Dec. 5, 2006, and Jan. 23, follow closely on the heels of a summer '06 double LP remix album ("Satanic Twins") and the band's last full-length and second for Polyvinyl, "The Sunlandic Twins," released in April 2005.
Polyvinyl signed Of Montreal, which is loosely connected with the Athens, Ga., psych-pop collective Elephant 6, in early 2004, releasing "Satanic Panic in the Attic" that April. "The momentum has pretty much not stopped since we started working with them. It's rolled from one thing into the next," Polyvinyl co-president Matt Lunsford says.
Already seven years into its career when Polyvinyl picked the group up, Of Montreal has featured a revolving cast of notable characters. But founder Kevin Barnes has always been the project's creative heart and soul-and he's been prolific. In 10 years, the band has produced a glut of releases, including two full-lengths for first label Bar/None and three for now-defunct Kindercore, plus numerous EPs, singles and a disc of early four-track recordings.
Still, Lunsford says the band is just hitting its stride. "This is not a band that's become an overnight, online sensation. It's a band that's been working really hard for 10 years and has played something like 1,500 shows," he says.
Indeed, "Sunlandic Twins" was supported with about 200 shows worldwide, and an initial 60-date "Hissing Fauna" tour is slated to run from mid-January through early April, including a performance at the Sundance Film Festival.
Of Montreal's live effort is being buffeted by the largest promotional campaign Polyvinyl has ever undertaken, especially at retail, where the Alternative Distribution Alliance is handling distribution of the elaborately and uniquely packaged new album (the CD has an eye-popping die-cut fold-out design).
While "Sunlandic Twins," Polyvinyl's most successful release to date, has sold slightly more than 47,000 copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, the label anticipates first-month sales alone for "Hissing Fauna" at 20,000 and has a first-year goal of between 75,000 and 100,000.
This despite the fact that a full MP3 version of the album leaked last September. "Instead of freaking out, we just said, 'Fine, people love the band, they want to hear the new record,' " Lunsford says. "So we actually made a listening section on our site where you can stream the whole thing. It's helped to generate enormous buzz. We absolutely trust people will go out and buy it."
First single "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse," currently being worked by AAM to college and commercial specialty radio, has a video that's getting MTV2, mtvU and Fuse play, and Polyvinyl is considering pushing this or a later single to commercial radio, which would be a first for the label. Lunsford says, "The plan is to let the record come out and just see what happens. If people are loving it, we'll try a song on alternative commercial stations."
For his part, new dad Barnes says he's "satisfied" with "Hissing Fauna." "At the time I was making the record, I was really struggling," he says. "I couldn't understand all the anxieties that were arising as a result of my impending fatherhood, and I went through a serious depression. Writing and recording these songs was like therapy for me."
Saying he feels "a lot better" now, Barnes' productivity has not slowed in the face of what could be his band's breakthrough release. "I'm already working on a new record," he says.