Shame on Hungary for not bringing Animal Collective to their capital city. This band, originally from Baltimore but at present split between Portugal and the States, are producing some of the most innovative rock music around. And recently, they've been churning it out faster than Hartley's can make jam.

Their current tour has taken them to Slovakia, Vienna, and Poland, but not Budapest - Animal Collective wanted to play here but just couldn't sort out a gig. Still, that wasn't going to stop us. Last week we made the three hour trip to Bratislava for what turned out to be a stunningly good concert, and beforehand, thehub joined up with Dave Porter (aka Avey Tare) to discuss the tour, the new album, and Crayola crayons.

Hub: How’s it all been going?

Dave Porter: Yeah, well. The tour’s been pretty good.

H: It’s an interesting set of locations. A lot of people skip this part of the world.

DP: I think we always make a point, even in the US, of not going back to the sa
me places. It’s not like we have anything against going anywhere but it can get a bit monotonous. A lot of people message us and say 'why don’t you come here', or 'why don’t you play there…'

H: Have you had a lot of people requesting you to come here?
DP: Bratislava I don’t know, I couldn’t tell you about specific places but for a while now
, maybe like a year or two years, we’ve wanted to do a Central and Eastern European tour just because we never get over this way.

H: What did you expect before you came?

DP: I didn’t know what to expect, definitely not as big crowds or as much enthusiasm as we’ve seen so far. I guess only now we’re getting to the heart of places we’ve never been to. We’ve been to Poland and Vienna before and the shows there were great this time too, even better, a lot crazier than I expected. It seems like it's been mostly sold out.

H: A lot of people won’t have seen you before. Has that affected what you do in your sets?
DP: Not really, we’ve been playing the same set of songs now since last Spring when we started writing our new record and we always try to play a lot of new material live. Over the year we’ve been throwing in a lot of old songs as well to mix it up a little, so it doesn’t feel like we’re playing the same set over and over again. We have like 26 songs we can play. We’ve been playing them so much and touring so much that we’re jamming a little bit more.

H: You’ve finished the new album [Merriweather Post Pavilion, due in January]. Is that mainly what you’re playing now?
DP: I’d say half of our set is stuff from the record.

H: And given that you always work ahead, are you performing anything newer than the new album at the moment?

DP: No. We’re working on this visual project. In terms of new material, we’ve been spending a lot of time on that lately and we hope to finish the musical part by December - we’ve got some studio time then. It’s the first time we’ve ever written a lot of new material that we’re not going to play live any time soon. We haven’t really had a lot of time with wanting to just be at home.

H: About the new record, was the writing and recording for Merriweather Post Pavilion similar to Strawberry Jam?
DP: No, not really. Strawberry Jam when we started was a little bit more open ended. We were going on tour for Feels and decided to write some new material for that. It was kind of haphazard at first because we had our initial writing session for Strawberry Jam in Lisbon. It took a little while to get used to the environment - we had a lot of problems with the studio space there and I think that contributed to it being a slower process. With the new one we had a bunch of ideas and we were enthusiastic to start writing as soon as we were done recording Strawberry Jam. Noah [Panda Bear] and I sent demos and melodies to each other and to Brian [Geologist]. Josh [Deakin] had decided that he didn’t want to tour for a while which pretty much meant we started to work on a new record without him. So it was a little bit different. We wrote most of it really quickly and the first tour after Strawberry Jam we had foundations for almost all of the songs.

H: Did that have anything to do with it being your second record on Domino and being more comfortable with them?

DP: I think it was just knowing more what we wanted to do going into it, whereas with Strawberry Jam when we first started writing the songs we didn’t know what was going to go on the record or even what kind of record it would be. This one we had a clear picture. [Various MPP tracks here, here, here, and here].

H: With your aliases and the kind of music you play, Anim
al Collective seem like a band that could distance yourself from your fans but in fact, with the bootlegs and so on, it’s the complete opposite. You’re very accessible. Is that something you’ve wanted from the beginning?
DP: Sort of, I think it goes in both directions. When we starte
d it wasn’t even called Animal Collective. We wanted the name of the band on the record to be whoever was playing, like Avey Tare and Panda Bear, so it would just be the label Animal that put out our records. Starting to tour more it became Animal Collective because we needed a name. We thought it would be better for people to recognise us. We had this back and forth between wanting there to be a bit of mystery. With the records and the music we don’t like to divulge too much information. We like to keep this kind of mystique about the records, to be their own world, their own environment so we don’t really talk about how they’re recorded. I don’t think we’d ever do one of those ’Animal Collective in the Studio’ things. For us it’s got to be this slightly mysterious world.

H: It seems like a happy medium, not too much and not too little.

: Yeah. At the same time we’re like, just normal guys. It was always really important to us that we didn’t have like a rock and roll attitude, like we’re above everybody else. We wanted to go beyond that and have it as an experience that everybody shared together musically. Talking to people and hanging out with people when we can is part of that.

H: In many ways, it seems like you guys can do no wrong. Almost everything written about you is positive. Do you feel pressure from that or is it something that doesn't register, perhaps because you’re in the middle of it?
DP: Pressure only to deliver certain things, information for example. We have this message board that’s popular for fans to write on and I started to kind of distance myself from that, because being a part of it so much can affect the way you think about things. People can write what they like but for me personally, it’s not really any of my business.

H: It was probably different when you weren’t so popular…

DP: Maybe a little bit. It’s cool to be involved in some form and it’s a good source of information. It’s cool that fans can ask questions and we can go on it but at the same time, it’s not really an important part of the music making process.

H: You've become a household name. Is that something you think about?
DP: Not really, we just feel pressure to write records that we’re excited about, because we’ve been doing it for so long. Getting larger has always gone at a natural pace. There was a point when we put out Sung Tongs and we’d go to a 200 capacity club and suddenly it was sold out. It was like wow, people are coming out to see us. We always want
ed that to happen and always wanted as many people as possible to be into our music but you never really know where it’s going to go.

H: Is playing these smaller European venues a way of revisiting your early days?
DP: In a way. The past couple of European tours I’ve felt we were breaking through. It helps to have all these songs out there on the internet. It’s crazy to go somewhere and people know songs that you haven’t put out on a record. It blows our minds. When we put out Strawberry Jam, I felt there were places in Europe that we still needed to crack.

H: Funny to hear an American artist talking about ‘crac
king’ Eastern Europe…
DP: Yeah, in America we instantly started to tour. Back then it was before the internet became a really popular tool, so touring was the only way of getting our band known. It was easy just to hop in a van for two or three weeks, but we had to find a way of managing that because the States is so big.

H: Have you guys been having fun being in sma
ller cities here?
DP: It’s hard because the time and the set up that we have is in
tense and long, so it’s a lot of work. This tour we’ve been trying to go out to bars and stuff after the shows, to talk to people and hang out.

H: One last thing, I wanted to ask you about your commercial.
DP: Yeah, for Crayola.

H: I had the TV on one day and I saw it and was like, I know that song, it’s Sweet Road. How did that come about?
DP: We get offered commercials all the time. Our publisher wants us to make money, obviously, but it’s not really something we’re enthusiastic about, attaching our music to somebody else’s product.

H: Well, a lot of parents would be probably be delighted to hear Animal Collective. I applaud you for it.
DP: Yeah, it’s the only one we’ve ever done. But I guess Crayola crayons were always pretty important for me growing up…


A fresh box of colourful crayons isn't a bad analogy for Animal Collective's music - playful and raucous, experimental and complex - however you choose to describe it, there's certainly a hell of a lot of colours in there. And from what we've heard, it should be a happy new year. Merriweather Post Pavilion is going to be a bumper 150 crayon pack.

(Interview:Andy T, Jacob P
Photos: Jacob P)


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