Animal Collective

Dave Portner, Josh Dibb, Noah Lennox and Brian Weitz met in 1992 at high school in Baltimore. In 2000 they formed noise band Animal Collective, changed their names to Avey Tare, Deakin, Panda Bear and Geologist respectively, and vowed to keep things fluid. Sometimes they wear animal masks. Sometimes they don’t. Usually they perform and record together. But not always – for their eighth and latest album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Deakin has taken a backseat. The only constant in their music, in fact, is that it has remained steadfastly experimental – somewhere between early Pink Floyd tomfoolery, Talking Heads’ art rock and Euro dance pop. Geologist (“I did biology in college but a friend thought I was studying rocks and it just stuck”) – the one to be found standing downstage wearing a headlamp and twiddling knobs – sheds some light on planet Animal Collective’s new obsession with all things water…

What kind of animal is the new album?
Something that lives in a coral reef. Not exactly a fish, something a little more human – a mer-person.

What’s your contribution to the record?
I bring outdoor samples and field recordings to help create the environment of the melody. I made some just around the corner from where we recorded the album – kids playing in the street. The more scientific ones I find from other people. Like the underwater stuff I don’t have the means or the technology to do myself. This record combines the outdoors of the area that we grew up in, Maryland, mixed with coral reef and lagoons.

Where does the Merriweather Post Pavilion title come from?
It’s a venue in Baltimore, an outdoor amphitheatre. We liked the way the words sounded together. And it had ‘weather’ in it, which was important because we’d imagined pictures of weather patterns whilst we worked on the songs. Some sunshine, gentle rain, even some tornadoes and sandstorms but without the violent connotations.

What was your first pet?

A turtle called Teddy. I’m not sure who named him.

Which mythological figure would you like to be?

The sea god Poseidon because he can hang out underwater.

What are your most recent record purchases?

This 80s new-age record by Clare Hammel called Voices. The new Arthur Russell collection Love Is Overtaking Me. Some of Lee Hazelwood’s mid-60s stuff. A ballet by a Japanese composer called Tagi Ito. And some old Grateful Dead on eBay.

What’s Animal Collective’s worst gig to date?

We played a festival in Belgium at the end of a really long tour. We’d had too much to drink and no time to do a sound-check. We couldn’t hear what we were playing and after aborting two songs halfway through we just walked off stage and trashed some equipment on the way. That was a low point. But we did an acoustic set in the parking lot afterwards to make up for it.

How come Deakin isn’t going to be touring with you?

He recorded the album with us. We’ll work around his parts when we’re on the road. It feels really natural to us. It’s the way it’s been since high school. Some people felt like playing some nights and others felt like hanging out with their girlfriends. We established early on that not everyone had to be there to make music. You just make music with whoever is there. It keeps everything feeling really loose and that’s the way it works best for us.

Words: Will Alderwick

A full version of this article first appeared in Wonderland #16, Dec/Jan 2008/09