Interview: Avey Tare of Animal Collective

A friend of ours from Serbia was able to have a fan interview with Avey Tare of Animal Collective and has allowed us to post it. Thanks again to Verbal.

S: Could you imagine like 5 years ago, that you’d be playing in Serbia?

Avey Tare: No, not at all, this whole tour has been kinda like blowing my mind, in terms of people that are coming to see us, the amount of people, and just a places we get to see around, we walked around today in Belgrade, it’s pretty amazing to imagine some places and then be able to walk around. It’s pretty good.

S: You’ve been touring all over the world?

A: Yeah, we’ve toured a lot of places now. This tour not particularly, we’re sticking to the Central and Eastern Europe.

B: Is this some kind of off-tour before the release of the new album?

A: Sort of, that’s why it’s so short. You know, we like to tour, keep playing with each other and just go to places we’ve never been before, so it’s good to tour that much. But since we don’t have a record out, we usually do like two-week tour. Next year when our new record comes out, we’ll tour a little bit longer in Europe, like a month or something maybe.

S: Tell me something about the new record, when it’s gonna be, how it’s gonna sound? Is Brothersport gonna be on it?

A: Yeah, Brothersport’s on it, it’s called Merriweather Post Pavilion and it comes out in Europe on January 12th.

B: Could you tell us something about working with the producer Ben Allen? Why did you choose Ben and what was the whole process like?

A: We discovered, when we initially wanted to worked with somebody, that someone maybe with little more feel for electronic music and could manage low-end, like low frequencies, cause there’s a little more bass on our new stuff that has been in the past. And we kinda just researched, you know, it’s hard to decide who to work with, because we’d like to feel pretty comfortable about working with someone. We usually work with our friends or somebody that we just kinda hit. It was a little scary deciding on Ben, we kinda discovered him through his work on the first Gnarls Barkley record and a lot of other work he did, like P. Diddy and all Bad Boy stuff for a while in New York, but he’s also really familiar with the kind of Athens, Georgia – that’s where he grew up – indie rock scene and kinda grew up around rock music and so we just got along really well right from the beginning. He’s kind of a really intense worker and he has a lot of firm set ideas and he’s real laid back and it worked really well working with him.

S: And you are originally from Baltimore, Maryland, how’s the living in Baltimore, is it really like in The Wire?

A: There are parts of Baltimore – not where we grew up, we kinda grew up in the countryside, Baltimore County. But, yeah , there are parts of Baltimore that are like that. We grew up going to DIY shows in Baltimore, that were in the neighborhood and they wouldn’t let you go out in the street. There are pretty brutal parts of Baltimore, but not all of the city is like that, it’s kind of different from place to place.

S: And you’re in New York now?

A: I live in South Brooklyn, Crown Heights, Prospect Heights area.

S: So, you’re in New York, Noah is in Portugal…

A: Yeah, and Brian lives in Washington, DC…

S: So, how do you get along?

A: We’ve worked this way, apart from each other for about three-four years now and it just works for us. For this record, we’ve sent demos around to each other and sounds.. get adding things. Since we tour a bunch, we’ll get together for two weeks before a tour and kind of work on a new material that we play on tour and I think it’s doing that – playing, working and playing on tour – that just gets us comfortable with the songs and get us thinking about them a lot, what we wanna do with them.

B: Let’s get back for a while to the sound of a new record Merriweather Post Pavilion. What will be the unique experience about MPP in terms of sound or production?

A: I think there are lot more harmonies, kinda little bit more Sung Tongs, and I think the vocals are recorded in really interesting wet way, buttery – we like to say buttery kind of way…yeah, a little bit more washy way, not like on Strawberry Jam… we wanted to have like this really live feeling, I think this is probably one of the most live sounding records we’ve ever done. Merriweather Post Pavilion has a really good room sound, that’s got a lot of live percussion…

B: So, I guess you named the record Merriweather Post Pavilion because you wanted to pay a tribute to the live sound of the record?

A: Not really. We were having a conversation about experiencing music, we were talking about Terry Reilly actually and how he often would play these overnight concerts and we thought it would be really sweet to see something like that outside where you could just sit back, because we all really appreciate listening to music outside, it’s kinda how we grew up. And the big venue to that in Maryland is the Merriweather Post Pavilion and Brian was like ‘Oh, it would be cool to see a show like that in the Merriweather Post Pavilion’ we were like ‘Oh, we should call the record a MPP..’, kinda like futuristic title for us if you just separate the name from the venue. But I think we were also into it because we viewed these songs as being very weather oriented and being kinda similar to different patterns of weather, like hurricanes or desert wind, that kind of thing. And we like that it has the word ‘weather’ in the title, ‘cause there were a lot of early title names that were like ‘spring’ and we couldn’t think of the best one and then MPP just seems like the album title that just isn’t like any other record title and it’s pretty unique. We also wanted it to be three words, ‘cause we had a lot of like two-word titles and a lot of one-word titles, we really wanted a three-word title and it fit everything we could hope for it (laughing).

S: So, are you in the middle of making it or you’re done?

A: We are done Merriweather and we’re working on kinda more visual record right now with our friend Danny. We’ve spent two years editing and filming all this footage, it’s about 45 minutes to an hour, working different visual stuff in New York and Noah has been making demos again for this visual record. It’s actually the first time we’ve been working on the stuff that we’re not gonna play live, we’re just gonna release this as a kinda visual record.

B: Do you feel comfortable at Domino Records now?

A: Yeah, it’s been working out pretty well, we all get along really well with the Domino people and they are really enthusiastic and they’re really psyched on this new record that we were working on.

S: You think that you’re gonna be picked by some major soon?

A: Oh, no, I don’t know if that’s our style really. I think we spoke to one major label the last time that we were trying to think about the new label. It’s hard for people to work with us and it’s hard for us to work under some guide lines. It was really important for Domino to be like ‘Oh, no, we just wanna kind of elevate the way you guys work already, we don’t wanna do anything to change the way you guys work’ and that really appeals to us, ‘cause we do really have a set way, a comfortable way of working on things or presenting our music to the public, that we wouldn’t wanna change… which you sometimes probably would have to at the major label.

S: What’s happening with the live box set on Catsup Plate Records?

A: It’s almost done, we’re just finishing the artwork. It’s looking really, really sweet, I’m really excited about it…

B: So, the beginning of the next year…

A: Yeah, beginning of the next year I think it is. We’ve just okayed getting the test pressings for the vinyl, so it should be next year very soon.

S: What about getting this big attention…. This is like third Animal Collective interview for tthe Serbian media? Five years ago, I couldn’t imagine it. How that happened, what do you think?

A: I don’t know, for us, it’s seems really natural. It’s nothing to seems crazy all the sudden. Right after the Sung Tongs it seemed like, especially in the US, suddenly we were selling out shows, not huge shows, but for us, it was little like ‘Wow, people actually coming to see us’. A lot of people might not very like us or something. It seems like with every record we’ve kind of stepped it up a little and I couldn’t never imagine coming to this part of the world… it’s still really all fascinating and really cool , but I think with each record we are still little uncertain about what’s gonna happen, ‘cause I think they are all still pretty different from each other and different from the last one. Honestly, we didn’t think Strawberry Jam would have the appeal that it does to people and we didn’t think people would respond so well to it…

S: Really?

A: Yeah, we thought it was a little bit darker for us, a little bit more abrasive and people seemed to be like ‘No, it’s a really good pop record’ and that kind of thing, so we were like ‘Alright… ‘, you know, it’s hard for us to tell.

B: Any plans in the future for new solo record or the record with Kria?

A: I am for all that kind of stuff, whatever we have time for really. This year especially and for the first part of the next year, we’re putting a lot of time into Animal Collective. I know Panda Bear has started working on new Panda Bear stuff and usually he works on a stuff over a longer period of time, so it won’t be probably out any time soon. Other record that he has started working on some stuff and I know he wants to do more stuff in the future. We are always working on something…

B: How many songs on the new record would you call sample-based?

A: There is one song that is actually based on somebody else’s sample or sample from another song, but all the other songs… we say ‘samples’, but they are really samples of us playing most of the time…

B: That’s what I wanted to ask you, about live sampling in the studio, it’s like imagining samples..

A: Yeah, it’s like, we’re writing a song… and because we all like a lot of electronic music these days, listen to lot of electronic music, listen to dub.. and we wanna have our sound… You know when you’re just playing guitars on stage or drums, it’s limiting after a while and we wanted our sound to be a little bit more elaborate, but it’s like ‘How can you do it when it’s just like three people’… Definitely, Josh deciding to stop playing for a while made us rethink how we’re gonna approach making a full record without him playing guitar, it seemed like samplers and sequencers were the way to go, there’s more things going on and it’s definitely a little bit more difficult to get them to play together, but it’s almost just, like, we’re using them as instruments really, because it’s our material, we manipulate the sounds live, we wanted to stay organic and still have really organic, live feeling, but it seems to work a little bit more with the samplers.

B: So, Deakin is definitely out of the band?

A: He’s in the band in a way he’s been working on this visual stuff, but he didn’t really wanna tour for a while. He need to clear his head a little bit and a lot of intense stuff is going personally for him. We’re all still very good friends and really close and it’s just a matter of time when he get back playing live.

S: How’s in New York right now, considering political situation, musical situation, how’s living in New York these days?

A: It’s alright, I mean there is uncertainty in the air with what’s happening politically in the US and I guess more will be revealed over the next month or so once the election happens. Musically, it feels pretty good, there’s a lot of cool stuff happening. My favorite band, Black Dice, are still working and doing amazing stuff right now. I think there are lot of good stuff happening in New York right now, a lot of smaller bands, or solo projects, I like what Kristin is doing – Kria Brekkan – and there’s a band called First Nation that plays a lot…

B: You mentioned Paw Tracks, what is the plan to do next year on Paw Tracks?

A: We’re gonna put out a Black Dice record, which they are kind of half way done now, I think they’re still working on. I don’t know if it comes out sooner than the next year actually, but the new Eric Copeland solo EP which is really, really good. We’re putting out this guy Dent May that we met when we were recording our record in Oxford, Mississippi. It’s a little bit more, straight-forward pop songwriting, kinda more like classic or 50s style. It might shock people that we’re putting such a record, but we were really into his songs, he writes really nice, catchy songs. Hopefully, we will have some more stuff coming out…

B: What are you listening these days on the tour bus or at home?

A: I really like this record by Grouper, this woman Lis Harris is from Portland, her record Dragging A Dead Deer… is very good.. I really like newest Erykah Badu record actually and I really like Portishead’s Third. I’ve always been a big fan of Portishead and I thought it was kinda cool that they changed their style…

B: I think it’s the best Portishead album…

A: Yeah, it’s interesting, it’s more like rock record or something…

B: And it has a certain post-punk vibe, like Suicide or Pop Group…

A: Yeah.. and I listen to a lot of dub music still, always a lot of dub.

S: They have probably asked you this a thousand times, why Avey Tare?

A: Avey is my name – Dave, Davey without the D – and Tare was like tearing your name apart, but I spelled it differently.

S: Errm, OK, I have a bunch of questions, but to be honest I thought I would talk to Noah (laughing)…

A: That’s cool (laughing)…

S: Do you mind when people download your albums for free?

A: I think there’s a plus side and a negative side to it. I think having our music available on the internet, especially when we are really, really open to people recording our live sets, and definitely a lot of our new material is available live on the internet, I think that only helps us coming to a place, you know like here or somewhere our records might not be fully available. It helps just to get the word around. In certain places, if we were just relying on a records or stores, that thing might not…

B: Yeah, I have like three or four versions of Pullhair Rubeye, because people used those songs and reversed it and changed their speed… those songs were used as samples to create something new…

A: Yeah, and I think that’s cool. We honestly just did like it in reverse. We liked it forwards too, but listening to it in reverse, we just liked it like that. And once people reversed the record, it seemed like why should we release it forwards now… I think it’s cool that people can use the naterial like that. There’s downright side about people downloading stuff, ‘cause they usually end up hearing it in a way we don’t intend. Strawberry Jam leaked earlier, whatever, that’s cool, this record wil probably too, and it’s OK but the fact SJ leaked a track at a time… to us it’s really important how the record is presented and the artwork is really important to us.
I grew up listening to full records and artwork. There’s something impersonal about the internet to me, it still feels just like information to me.

B: What about the artwork for the Merriweather Post Pavilion? That picture of the swimming pool…

A: That’s part of the artwork, there’s gonna be two parts of the record, there’s gonna be outer sleeve and inner sleeve and we’ll probably be releasing the full cover artwork soon so the people could see it…

note: Presumably this is the outer sleeve:

S: The artwork for Strawberry Jam is excellent…

A: A woman the other night, last night (Zagreb) was like ‘Is it supposed to be so ugly?’

S: [laughing]

A: I was like ‘Oh, man’ but in a way I understand what she’s saying…

S: How did you get the idea for the Strawberry Jam artwork?

A: I just wanted to mess around with the strawberry jam at first, but I was not happy with that… you know, I thought the ideas I was coming up with were kinda cheesy and surreal.. I like a little bit grosser, more disgusting aspects of things, stuff like that. We always saw strawberry jam as being some kind of alien landscape

S: I’ve read somewhere that while on airplane, Noah saw something interesting…

A: Yeah, he saw that really synthetic, kinda like electronic looking material.. I wanted to keep with that a have a bit of this alien looking thing… I think it’s really pretty.

S: So, tonight the majority of the set will be new songs?

A: It’ll be half old and half new stuff.

S: Thank you for coming to Serbia.