"Lousy with Sylvianbriar" was created with a new songwriting approach, a different recording method, and a fresh group of musicians.
Seeking creative inspiration, Kevin Barnes re-located to San Francisco where he spent days soaking in the strange surroundings and channeling the city’s energy into his writing. After a very prolific period there, he returned to Athens, GA, and assembled the cast of musicians to begin the sessions.
Barnes eschewed computer recording – with its pitch correction, limitless effects plug-ins and editing possibilities – and instead, with the help of engineer Drew Vandenberg (Deerhunter, Toro y Moi), he recorded "Lousy with Sylvianbriar" in his home studio on a 24-track tape machine.
With no computer tricks to fall back on, the band – Kevin Barnes (guitars, bass, vocals), Rebecca Cash (vocals), Clayton Rychlik (drums, vocals), Jojo Glidewell (keys), Bob Parins (pedal steel, bass), and Bennet Lewis (guitars, mandolin) – could only get out of the recordings what they put into them.
Most of the tracking was recorded live with the band in the same room together. They worked quickly, with the band members composing their parts on the fly and with little second guessing. The album was recorded in just three weeks.
"I knew I wanted the process to be more in line with the way people used to make albums in the late 60s and early 70s," reveals Barnes. "I wanted to work fast and to maintain a high level of spontaneity and immediacy. I wanted the songs to be more lyric-driven, and for the instrumental arrangements to be understated and uncluttered."
Opening track and lead single ‘Fugitive Air’ feels like a Stones-y anthem, with sparks of Philip K. Dick’s psychedelic prose, Ralph Bakshi’s cartoon violence, and William S. Burroughs’ hyper-paranoia.
‘Belle Glade Missionaries’ finds Barnes lyrically at his most political, backed by a soundtrack that is pure Dylan circa Highway 61 Revisited.
Vocalist Rebecca Cash makes several appearances on the album, taking the lead on the plaintive ‘Raindrop in My Skull,’ where her and Barnes share a Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris-inspired duet.
‘She Ain’t Speakin’ Now’ ranks among of Montreal’s all-time great songs, transforming its brooding acoustic guitar intro into a visceral angst-ridden rocker that sounds like the best moments of Neil Young & Crazy Horse.
The album’s closer, ‘Imbecile Rages,’ a caustic and doleful epitaph for a crumbling relationship, is one of Barnes’ most raw and personal statements.
Like the classic albums that inspired it, this is an album to be explored, to be lived with, to be listened to in happiness and in darkness, to be dissolved into. To be played very loudly at parties and with eyes closed, in headphones, alone. It should become dog-eared and dirty with use and it should lessen the blow of our enemies, in all their forms.