Interview: Animal Collective

Animal Collective’s sound floats around, from folky dream soundtracks to acid washed landscapes. After seven albums of the sounds of a myriad festivalgoers playing guitars, pots and pans under some distant sunset in perfect campfire harmony they’ve now unleashed Merriweather Post Pavilion upon our senses. We caught up with vocalist/instrumentalist Noah Lennox (Panda Bear) before Animal Collective enveloped the Rescue Rooms with rainbows in April.

Whenever I listen to any of your albums I feel like I’m in a very different visual landscape, and Merriweather Post Pavilion almost surrounds me in some form of ether. Is this something you look for when producing an album and its art work?

YES, for sure to both questions. There’s always some sort of atmosphere or image that we’ve got in mind, it’s never just a song. Artwork is really important to me in that typically, in the traditional sort of record store system, it’s the first introduction to the music. So it really has to represent the music, to give someone who’s never heard it an impression of what they’re in for. I’m particularly fond of the Merriweather Post Pavilion artwork, the songs are totally represented by the image of supernatural things happening, without being really sure how they’re going on. That’s what I wanted all the songs to sound like.

You’re doing a film with director Danny Perez. Have you worked with him before?

He did the video for a Sung Tongs song called ‘Who Could Win a Rabbit’ and we thought about doing a feature length film. It’s been a slow process because we’ve tried to fit it in between other stuff, but now it’s our focus. We’ve just worked on it for a week in New York and it’s been sort of a ping-pong thing. We came up with all the visual ideas and shot those. But it’s not straightforward, there’s no narrative and no speaking lines. It’s all sort of dream situations… pretty weird. The editing is as much a part of the visuals because he’s tweaking stuff to the point of being totally abstract in some parts. He would do all the editing and say “you like this?” and we would start making the music to fit that stuff and he would tweak it to get a little bit closer towards the songs. It’s been really a slow process but I’m hoping that in the summer we’re done with it.

How do feel about your progression from folk to a more electronic sound?

Sung Tongs and Campfire Songs are the folkiest ones in terms of using acoustic guitars, they’re pretty stripped-down. Danse Manatee and Spirit They’ve Gone before that are both fairly electronic. I think it’s just waxed and waned like the moon; as we get bored of one thing, we’re excited by something else. It was traditional at first, and then it went a bit more outwards and harder to grasp and then back. I feel with this album it’s gone a bit outward again from Strawberry Jam which was a little easier to follow.

Have you got any plans for Panda Bear [Noah’s stage persona and personal side project]?

Yeah, I’ve gotten really specific about the way I want to do it. It’s made it really difficult. I know exactly how I want to set up the studio, so trying to find the space has taken me a long time. I’ve got a lot of ideas for the songs and the instruments I want to use.

Will we see a Panda Bear album released this year?

Definitely not. I mean maybe, I want to do like a Person Pitch in little bits, like 45 singles. So all the songs will be short, or all the ‘pieces of music’ will be really short. I’m really into albums that just make machine gun noise instead of big sprawling jams.

That’s quite a departure from the likes of Strawberry Jam, where we had big 7-minute tracks.

Yeah, ‘Bros’ was pushing 12 minutes, and ‘Carrots’ too.

In those songs you tend to repeat rhythms a number of times, and yet they can prove captivating for every single second of the song…

It’s like a techno track or something; most of those 12 inches are 12 to 15 minutes long and very repetitious. It’s all about the little things that you do if the vibe is good enough.

Would you say you’re quite proud of the music you’ve produced? Do you ever listen back to the music you’ve created?

No, I don’t listen back to it, but I’m definitely proud of everything that we’ve been a part of. It does it for me for sure…

Duncan Buck and Chris Jones
Win a copy of Merriweather Post Pavilion! E-mail the names of all 8 AC albums to [email protected]


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