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Of Montreal at Vassar College 

What's in a Name?

Of Montreal will perform at Vassar College on April 23.

Of Montreal will perform at Vassar College on April 23.

As far as band names go, Of Montreal might just be the most mystifying moniker since Johnny Winter And. It trips you up, to say the least. Unless, of course, you’re already a fan, and are thus well over the group’s potentially perplexing handle. If that’s the case, you most likely know that 1) Of Montreal isn’t actually from Montreal and 2) its DBA was supposedly inspired by leader Kevin Barnes’s failed romance with a woman hailing from the titular Canadian city. Oh, these kids and their crazy rock-band names. In any event, on April 23 you’ll have your chance to ask the man himself about it, when Of Montreal performs at Vassar College in Poughkeepsie.

The Athens, Georgia-based band is identified with the loose circle of ’90s neo-psychedelic acts known as the Elephant 6 collective, a rambling, interconnected grouping spearheaded by its big three: the Apples in Stereo, Olivia Tremor Control, and Neutral Milk Hotel. Of Montreal debuted with 1997’s The Bird Who Continues to Eat the Rabbit’s Flower (Kindercore Records), a release whose lo-fi, garagey take on twee sunshine psych now seems universes away from the band’s current mode of comparatively slick, Day-Glo theatrical pop. But Of Montreal is actually part of the Elephant 6 scene’s second wave of bands: The movement began in tiny Ruston, Louisiana, in the late 1980s via the home recordings of high schoolers Robert Schneider, Bill Doss, and Jeff Mangum, and next took root in Denver when Schneider moved there to attend college and start both the Apples in Stereo and the Elephant 6 Recording Company label; by the mid ’90s Doss and Mangum had relocated to Athens, where they each founded, respectively, Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel. Inspired by the buzz, singer-guitarist and Athens native Barnes hopped on board, beginning Of Montreal and further bolstering the Southern town’s sobriquet of “E6 East.”

The band’s concept-heavy, 13-album arc has seen it shed the early bedroom Beatles' experiments that culminated with its two commonly cited high-water marks, 1999’s The Gay Parade (Bar/None Records) and 2004’s Satanic Panic in the Attic (Polyvinyl Records), to morph into the synth-driven sound of 2005’s Sunlandic Twins (Bar/None), wallow in the post-breakup despair of 2007’s Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl), and finally burst into the glammy dance-funk of 2008’s Skeletal Lamping and last year’s False Priest (both Polyvinyl; An Eluardian Instance , a Grammy-nominated EP of Skeletal Lamping remixes by producer Jon Brion, appeared on the label in 2009).

Concurrent with his outfit’s newer big-production, Prince-like direction, Barnes has even created an alter ego, the flamboyant, makeup-sporting Georgie Peach. But don’t be confused: Underneath the glittery guise and cheeky epithet it’s still the same old Barnes, continuing to mess with your head. And after all, what’s in a name, right?

Of Montreal and the Knocks will perform at Vassar College’s Walker Field House in Poughkeepsie on April 23 at 9pm. Tickets are $30. (845) 437-7300; www.viceisnice.org.

Speaking of...

  • Peter Aaron reviews music by the award-winning Georgie-based band, Of Montreal.

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