Avey Tare of Animal Collective has an omnivorous approach to songwriting
It took almost all day to track down Avey Tare, a.k.a. David Portner, vocalist and founding member of Animal Collective. Back in late January, the band hadn’t even begun rehearsing for the current tour, hence a call to Brooklyn from the 916 came as a total surprise to the understanding and obliging Tare. “I hadn’t planned on being in a good spot, and I was on the train,” he said.
“Where are you located now?”—uninspired first question.
“In our practice space, actually.”
Alright, then. Animal Collective isn’t exactly an enigma, but the band—four friends with cryptic monikers who hail from the East Coast—are by no means an easy group to pigeonhole. Tare and his bandmates (Panda Bear, Geologist and Deakin) should not be reduced to experimental-folk noise-rock stereotypes. Sure, they play psychedelic rhythms and occasionally wear animal masks, but Feels, their acclaimed 2005 LP release, was an uncompromising critical darling.
“It’s kind of really important that everybody puts their personality into the music,” affirmed Tare, who will be in Sacramento with the mates on Saturday as part of their U.S. tour. Opening will be Paw Tracks labelmate First Nation and the experimental Barr from Los Angeles.
“I was in Iceland over New Year’s,” Tare recalled, “and I’ve never really seen anything quite like that. … The local volunteer-rescue departments are the people who actually sell the fireworks to raise money. So, it’s kind of weird.”
This analogy hints at the Collective’s approach to songwriting, and Tare sees the group’s modus operandi as remaining “as open as possible.” “Noah and I write a lot of the melodies most of the time,” acknowledged Tare, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean ‘Oh, it has to be played this specific way.’” By the way, Noah Lennox is Panda Bear, a founding member of the Collective who now lives in Lisbon, Portugal. (“[He] really gets into Benefica,” said Tare of Lennox’s European-football jones).
Back in Brooklyn, Tare repeatedly alluded to the importance of not closing the door on songs. He noted that the band wrote “Turn Into Something,” the last song on Feels, right before it was recorded. “And then, right after we recorded it, we went on tour, and it just progressed into this thing that was so much more free and open to these new ideas, and then we were kind of like ‘Oh, if we could only record it now, it would be so much different.’ But it’s still a good version on the record.”
The cliché of songs taking a life of their own is decidedly appropriate. “I think, even if we have some pretty solid ideas, we try and keep ourselves open to the way [songs] might change,” Tare explained.
This is not to say that lyrics are an afterthought. While Tare revealed very little of his inspiration, he did admit he wrote most of the lyrics on Feels. “A lot of the times, it’s nice to use lyrics just as sort of a guide to the feeling or color of one song—sort of have certain words just poke out here and there. The lyrics mean a lot to me. I’m pretty picky about [them].”
So, when Tare sings, “Can I tell you that you are the purple in me? / Can I call you just to hear you, would you care?” on “The Purple Bottle,” he has intimately mulled over these ostensibly stream-of-consciousness offerings. Tare wants his vocals to “blend in and be part of the texture rather than just being a focal point.” He’s truly committed to the idea of every voice being heard.
Animal Collective is one of the first high-profile acts to bring its show to The Library. When playing live, Tare said, the band is “focused more on the energy we have and just getting the momentum going. … We don’t often stop between songs.” That should make for an evening of free-form jams and other surprises.
Is he excited about playing here in Sac? “I like Sacramento,” he demurred. “It’s sweet.”