Avey Tare breaks silence on AC rumors

Courtesy: Pitchfork

When word leaked out earlier this week that Animal Collective might release another record this year, it was cause for excitement. The group seems to be at their creative peak right now, thanks to the beloved Merriweather Post Pavilion. And it’s true: Animal Collective will release an EP before 2010.

Dave Portner, aka Avey Tare, revealed to us that the band has a “darker” five-song EP called Fall Be Kind ready to drop in December, with a digital release coming as early as next month. We spoke with Portner about the new EP, as well as the band’s “Brothersport” single, the feature film they’re working on, their aborted plans to play the real Merriweather Post Pavilion, and Animal Collective’s upcoming break from touring. (Note: The release date for the “Brothersport” single has been moved up to November 9 from December 8. – Ed.)

Check below for the interview.

Pitchfork: Fall Be Kind is an EP, right?

Dave Portner: Yeah. It’s like 28 minutes long, five songs. The title is kind of a play on “fall behind,” when you move the clocks back. Everything seems to be very seasonal or weather-oriented for us this year. I wanted to keep it a little bit in line with that. It felt like Merriweather Post Pavilion was really springy or summery. We always try and push for our releases to come out at a specific time. It didn’t really happen with Merriweather, unfortunately, but that’s because we just really wanted to get that one out quickly. But with this one, we were hoping it would come out in the fall, so Fall Be Kind. I think digitally it’s probably going to come out in the middle of November, with a pre-order kind of thing for vinyl or CD for the beginning of December.

Pitchfork: Did you record the songs on the EP at the same time as the Merriweather material?

DP: Some of them. The first song is called “Graze”, and it’s one we’ve been playing live since we started playing the Merriweather stuff. It was in our original 2007 set of those songs. We definitely started recording it then. The last song on the EP is called “I Think I Can”. They’re just two songs that we wanted to take a little more time on. We usually have two passes on the songs when we’re recording them. We’ll go into a studio and record everything that we do live, basically, and do rough mixes. And then there’s ideas that we take into the studio that we know we’re going to do with the songs, and we’re writing stuff as we go along. So we go back after we lay down the initial tracks for every song, which was 14 songs when we recorded Merriweather. We went back and decided what songs to work on right off the bat, and those two– “I Think I Can” and “Graze– we knew they wouldn’t really fit on Merriweather, so we thought we’d put them aside until later.

The second song on the EP is called “What Would I Want? Sky”, which is the one with the Grateful Dead sample that people have been talking about a little bit. I went there with the blueprint of the song, but we never really played it together. We didn’t even really get to that one. We didn’t talk about it, but we figured we’d come back to it. And then we started playing that song live this year. We jammed in Lisbon for our first tour this year and worked it out. We decided we would record it for the EP.

The third song is called “Bleed”, and that’s another one we’ve been playing this year that just came together really fast. I thought it would be cool to do something a little bit more droney for our tour to throw in our live set. We ended up just being pretty psyched on it. It’s pretty simple, a kind of repetitive song. So we recorded that one.

The fourth song is called “On a Highway”, and it’s from the Merriweather era, too. We’ve done it on a BBC session. We started recording it during Merriweather, but it was the most like, “Whoa, this is definitely not going to fit on the record.” It’s got different vibes altogether. We changed it a little. We went into the studio in Brooklyn, a studio called Mission. Ben Allen, the guy we’ve been working with on Merriweather and these songs, has been working there a lot, and he’s pretty familiar with it. It’s got a really great live room, so there’s a lot of that on the new stuff we’ve recorded. The drums sound really roomy and sweet.

Pitchfork: You said this EP’s got more of an autumn feel to it. How would you say it’s different from the Merriweather stuff?

DP: The vibe is a little bit darker, I’d say– not in terms of the sound, maybe. Well, the melodies are definitely darker. It’s not abrasive dark or anything, but I think the mood of it has just a little bit more of a nighttime, kind of dark, sad vibe, even though I think “What Would I Want? Sky” is a little bit more positive or upbeat. That’s the only one. And then “I Think I Can” is very rhythmic, too. A lot of it’s not so rhythmic, or at least not as much as Merriweather is. It’s a little bit more washy and kind of orchestral.

Pitchfork: Is there any reason for you to put out the dark record now, other than the seasonal change?

DP: Maybe. I don’t know. I just think there’s songs of ours that are like that. We write about whatever we encounter, whatever seems to be a big thing. In the past two years, there have definitely been some darker topics worth writing about, and I think they all fit together on this. I wouldn’t necessarily say that “Graze” or “What Would I Want? Sky”, the first two jams, are topically particularly that dark. We even wondered if all these songs feel like a bunch of leftover songs, but I think they definitely do fit together in a sweet way. I guess because I associate fall with Halloween, which is my favorite holiday. It just has that feeling, too. I really like autumn; I don’t necessarily feel like it’s a dark season or anything. The transitional seasons are usually my favorite.

Pitchfork: So it’s not that you guys are in a dark place or anything?

DP: No, no. There are just dark moments. You can’t hide them. So we just put it out there. [Laughs.]

Pitchfork: Do you know what you’re going to be for Halloween this year?

DP: No, I’ve been thinking about it. Brian [Weitz, aka Geologist] is getting married on Halloween, so we’re all going to dress up for his wedding. I’m trying to think of a good costume for it. I don’t necessarily want to come up with something that’s too dark because I don’t want to be a dark shadow at the wedding. I might contribute some music for it. The whole dress-up vibe will be cool.

Pitchfork: With “What Would I Want? Sky”, the Grateful Dead sample is kind of a big deal. You got their first ever licensed sample.

DP: Yeah. The more I think about it, the more it blows my mind. It’s a world I never thought, at least musically, I would be anywhere near. It’s crazy.

Pitchfork: Did you have communication with their camp?

DP: Not me personally, but I guess Phil Lesh, who wrote the original Dead song, did listen to the track and was into it. That means a lot to me and the rest of the dudes in the band.

Pitchfork: Are you big fans?

DP: Yeah, mostly Brian and I. But we’ve definitely got Noah [Lennox, aka Panda Bear] and Josh [Dibb, aka Deakin] to appreciate certain aspects of the Dead over the years.

Pitchfork: Did you go to Dead shows when you were younger?

DP: Yeah, definitely in the latter stages of their career, the early 90s. I probably went to near 10 shows. It was the big summer concert. I went with my older brother, and we’d go at four or five in the morning to the mall near my house to stand in line at the Hecht Company for the Ticketmaster tickets. They’d play three days at RFK Stadium, and they’d sell out in a half hour. It was insane.

Pitchfork: You’re also putting out this “Brothersport” single.

DP: Yeah. Initially, the idea was to do this Brothersport EP and then have all these other tracks on that. But the way that promotion for records goes, we wanted these other songs to be their own thing. The EP stands on its own away from Merriweather. Not that it’s completely different– I mean, it definitely sounds like it’s us, the same band that did Merriweather. But I think putting “Brothersport” on that EP, with the way our label promotes things, it would have just seemed more like the “Brothersport” single with a bunch of B-sides. So it seemed if we were going to do something with “Brothersport”, which is a really sweet song on its own, that it would be its own 10″ thing. The B-side to the single is a live version of “Bleed”, which we did at Big Sur on our last large U.S. tour. We played at the Henry Miller Library, which was awesome. We did this extended jam linking “Bleed” into “What Would I Want? Sky”, so that’s on there, too.

Pitchfork: I understand you’re almost done making a movie with your frequent video collaborator Danny Perez.

DP: Yeah. Musically, I think there might be a few minor mixing things that we have to do– changes, tweaks, whatever you want to call them. Musically, it’s all written and done and laid down. Danny has to do whatever you do to finalize film stuff. That’s not really my world, so I don’t know so well, but I know there’s color correction and that kind of thing, smoothing out all the edits. Danny could probably work on it forever. [Laughs.] After three years, we’re all pretty much ready to be done with it. We watched it straight through twice now in a projected theater situation, and we’re all really psyched on it. Hopefully, it’ll be done sometime next year.

Pitchfork: Does the movie have a title?

DP: Not yet. We’re throwing around some. We usually keep it to ourselves until we’re really certain we’ve got the one. There’s a little bit of debating going on. There’s a few titles we’re all psyched on, but it’s a matter of finding out what sits right, what looks right in terms of putting it in the credits.

Pitchfork: Does the film have a story?

DP: No, not really. Maybe here and there, in our minds, there’s some weird narratives going on. The whole thing cohesively doesn’t have one narrative; it’s more of a visual or psychedelic thing. There are parts that are almost completely abstract, and there are parts that are little bit more live-action.

Pitchfork: Is the movie going to be in theaters?

DP: We’d like to screen it places. It’s a little early to say what we’ll do with it. It’d be cool to have the opportunity. I think we submitted it to Sundance, so that’s really the first step. That’s why we’re hoping to get it done by this month– so we can do that. From there, we’re definitely going to do a DVD release on this company Plexifilm that’s done a lot of other music DVDs. And hopefully we’ll tour it around. It’d be nice to do something like that, since we’re not really going to do other touring, at least for a little while.

Pitchfork: You’re taking a break from touring?

DP: Yeah. We’ve done a lot of it in the past two years. At this point, it’s time for us to take a break. It’s the most we’ve ever taken one group of songs, one era out on the road. We were excited and enthusiastic to go to all the different places we’ve been, especially this year with all the festivals. I just think it feels like a natural ending to it all. We’re going to go to Australia in December. I’m really looking forward to that because we’ve only done that one time before. It’s going to be a slightly bigger thing this time around. So that’ll be great. But I think after that, we want to take a break and start thinking about music more, really going at it and working a lot on it, and work on other things and get inspired by other things, then next year start writing again.

Pitchfork: In the past year or so, you’ve playing on bigger stages than you’ve ever been on before. How’s it been?

DP: In terms of the festivals and I guess the larger club shows, it can feel really great and amazing, and it can feel not so good. With a lot of the festivals, it’s taken a while to get used to the fast-pace operation. You come in, and you don’t really get a soundcheck. You just set up, and we have a pretty big setup in terms of the visual stuff that we like to do. It often feels, when we do festivals, like we’re not really in our element, especially if we have to play in the middle of the day. Bonnaroo didn’t really feel good for us at all. It was scorching hot, and we were really tired, and it was the end of our tour. But then there were some others– it’s really hard to say what makes it good and what makes it not good. It has to do with the connection of the crowd. It’s amazing when you’re playing for 20,000 people or whatever and it just feels like you’re there, and it doesn’t feel more than like 500. You get the same kind of personal feeling, you know?

But then there are other times where it just feels like we’re in our own world, not really connecting with anybody. We’re doing something where we’re not just going out and playing Merriweather– which, for a lot of people coming to see us, especially at a place like Bonnaroo or Lollapalooza, is probably what they want. But we’re doing something that’s fun to us and offering something a little bit different than just listening to our record, which I think is really important for us. Just in terms of going to see a band live, at least for me, I always like when they’re doing something a little bit different– even though I understand and can sympathize with wanting to hear the hits, too. We sold out most of our last U.S. tour, and it just felt really crazy. It’s just unfortunate when there’s those shows where we feel like we don’t connect, but it happens to everybody. You can’t always play great shows.

Pitchfork: Has there been any talk of you playing Merriweather Post Pavilion, the venue?

DP: Yeah, we did talk about it for a little while. When we get involved with something like that, especially with how late in the year the show was supposed to happen– I think they wanted it to happen around now. And for us having played so many shows already this year in the U.S., we thought it wasn’t really worth it unless we could set up our own festival or something like that. Then, after kind of going back and forth about which bands we could get to play, it just didn’t seem to be worth it to us. We didn’t really just want to go play our own show there; it would just feel like we’re just playing too much. As much as we’ve played this year, we like to keep it pretty special for us and keep things minimal in terms of what cities we’re playing. We were doing these two big Prospect Park shows in New York at the end of the summer, and in terms of the U.S., that felt like a really good conclusion to it all.

As much as I’d love to play Merriweather, I don’t know, the situation it turned into didn’t seem that special to us, so we decided not to do it. I definitely enjoyed going there when I was younger– certain shows in the summer, on that lawn, whether I liked the band or not. If there was something even remotely interesting happening there, it was a cool place to go.

Pitchfork: Who did you see there?

DP: I think the most memorable show I saw there was Bob Weir from the Grateful Dead and this dude Rob Wasserman he plays with sometimes. I also saw Metallica there; I think maybe they played with Alice in Chains, I’m not sure. I saw the Violent Femmes there. I saw Elton John there with my family; that kind of ruled. I think I went there for a James Taylor show, which now I wish I hadn’t done. [Laughs.]

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