Animal Collective | More than Studying Rocks

animalcollective 75The records that feature all four of us tend to be the most challenging when listening through all the different parts and noticing the little nuances.



animalcollective 500

When referring to Roxy Music, a reviewer once said: “If you don’t know which instrument is making a certain noise, it’s probably Brian Eno.” Electronics are weird. Not only is it hard to tell what makes what noises, but I can’t even pronounce the names of these instruments. You have guitars, and then you have some kind of synthesizer with all kinds of “CX809CT00” on the end. Some of us don’t want to know what’s making all those noises, because the performance then might lose its mystique.

Geologist also works with incomprehensible machinery, at least for a layman such as me. You might say Geologist is Animal Collective’s Brian Eno.

Do you think the hype after Merriweather Post Pavilion had a significant influence on the creative process while you guys worked on Centipede Hz?

I don’t think so. We tried pretty hard to stick to the formula that you normally use, which is when we come back to make the next record, we decide for ourselves that we’re not going to repeat the previous record. If you already know you’re going to do that, like model it after how the previous record was received you’re going to end up trying to recreate it. It’s happened to us a couple times. The first record we put out in 2000 was popular on a very small scale, and then like Sung Tongs we were pretty popular with the acoustic freak-folk scene, and then the next record was all electric guitars and vocal harmonies. It’s happened before, but it’s never really affected the next one.

Do you think there’s anything about the new one that stands out from the rest? I’ve heard some people say it’s your most mainstream album.

I don’t know, I think a lot of people don’t think it’s nearly as accessible as Merriweather, so it’s hard for me to say. I think, to me, it’s closest to something like Strawberry Jam. I think some of the textures and more straight-ahead vocal performances sound like something that would have come off that record. The things that stand out to me on Strawberry Jam are the things that stand out to me on this record, but they’re a little bit different. There’s a lot of jagged edges, and it has a more live feel to it; I think they’re both pretty dense records. When we all get together, we like to make a lot of noise. The records that feature all four of us—which are not the majority of our discography—tend to be the most challenging when listening through all the different parts and noticing the little nuances.

That was the first thing I thought of, was that it reminds me of Strawberry Jam, but with a more excitable, pop-tinged sound. Because Strawberry Jam starts with something like “Peacebone,” that sort of says, “If you’re not into this, you might want to take a step back.”

It’s kind of like licorice: If you like licorice, you really like licorice, but if you don’t, you really don’t like licorice.

There’s not a whole lot of middle ground.

I don’t know about accessible, but when we were putting a set of songs together initially it was for a set at Coachella, and we didn’t want to play too much from Merriweather; we wanted to play all new stuff. We hadn’t played together live in a while, so we thought hard about it being a live set and how we wanted it to feel, and we kinda wanted it to be all upbeat and jammorous all the way through the set. We didn’t want to go into something like the ending of Chores, where it gets kind of ambient for a while. We didn’t really want to have any more extended periods of ambience throughout the live set. Structurally, it came out a lot less weirder.

So throughout all of this, and the fact that you guys sort of have a different sound for every album, how has your role changed within the band?

I played a lot more keyboards on this record than I have since Danse Manatee, which is about 10 years at this point. This record was a lot more about making a performance that has a more technically complicated sound. Merriweather is a pretty easy record to perform, so we wanted to make this one a bit harder. It always takes a little time for me to figure out what I’m going to add to the record. We have to figure out what world each album is going to exist in, and we kind of have to build a house for it. Like what’s this world going to look like, what does it smell like? That kind of thing. One of our themes on this album was the idea of scrambled radio frequencies. This all helps me conceptually when I’m trying to form a picture of it in my head.

So you guys spend a lot of time thinking of the music in terms other than how it sounds, but more of its aesthetic feel.

Totally. We talk a lot about its color and what we see in our heads when we’re playing it. I think it makes it feel a bit more cinematic, and it makes it a lot easier to get a feel for what we’re trying to accomplish.

I totally agree. It makes talking about music so much more fun. I always like to describe to people what an album tastes like rather than how it sounds, and that’s always a lot of fun when listening to your music.

So to switch gears hear, let’s talk about the tour. What made you decide to bring Dan Deacon along?

We had moved away from Baltimore before Dan lived there, so it’s not like we’re close friends. But we obviously come from the same Baltimore scene, so we’ve gotten to know him a little bit through common friends and whatnot. We were supposed to play a music festival in Miami with him, but the festival got canceled a couple days before. A couple of the clubs down there booked some of the guys who were supposed to be playing the festival and we got invited down. Avey Tare and Deakin went down to do some sets down there, and Dan was there, too.

When they came back, we were thinking about who to take on tour with us. They were talking about his shows and the energy they had. We thought he’d be a good fit, and we’ve probably got a lot of mutual fans.

I feel like he’s one of the only musicians that I could begin to compare to you guys, in style, and even then you’re both so distinct that it’s kind of impossible.

We definitely both do our own thing. I’ve never really gotten to talk to him much, so I’m looking forward to that. It’s like I’ve seen him around Baltimore at shows he sets up, but it’s always a work atmosphere, so we never really get to talk much other than a quick, “Hey, how ya doin’…”

If you get a chance ask him what the banana is all about.

The banana?

Yeah, in his performances I’ve seen that he’s got like an iPod taped to a banana. He seems like an eclectic guy; I’m sure there’ll be a lot to talk about.

Can you give us any hints as to what we should expect for your live show on this tour?

We’ve got a pretty intense show prepared. Around the Merriweather years, we became more aware that us just standing on stage can get a little boring, theatrically at least. So we’ve got some cool stuff ready for this tour. I’m trying to think of the last time we played in St. Louis. It’s been a long time; I think it was at Washington University, a really small venue.

We’ve got a lot more prepared this time since we’ll be playing bigger venues. We’ve got a lot of lights and some inflatable sculptures. It’s all for fans, really, we don’t have a really good way of seeing it since we’ll be on stage the whole time. It varies with the size of the venue, so we’ve been trying to book ourselves at venues where we’ll have a lot of space to work with. | Brian Cheli

Animal Collective was rescheduled to play at The Pageant on Friday, October 25 with Deradoorian at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, $27.50 at the door, a bargain for a band who comes through so rarely. If these guys aren’t actually animals, I’m going to be very disappointed…

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