For 15 years ANIMAL COLLECTIVE have been rewriting the musical map, their line-up and aesthetic shifting with each astonishing release as they continue their pursuit of a new strain of psychedelia. The most recent product of the endevaours is Painting With, a dizzying high definition LP concerned with art and the human experience, and the point where the two collide.
The 11th full-length Animal Collective album, Painting With was recorded in 2015 at EastWest Studios in Hollywood; a warm and personal offering, it’s an unmistakably Animal Collective concoction, making for an elemental and joyous experience. Ahead of their Liverpool show at O2 Academy on 3rd September, Dave Tate caught up with Geologist, aka the band’s electronics wiz Brian Weitz.
Bido Lito!: How did moving from writing and honing songs across a number of years to writing in the studio feel? What do you think it brought to the newest album?
Brian Weitz: The main difference was how fresh the parts sounded. We’ve never really spent ‘years’ working out material on the road before going into the studio. Maybe a year at most. This process was about six months from start of writing to the start of recording. Not too much shorter than the process for Merriweather Post Pavilion, which was about nine months from start of writing to start of recording. We also didn’t really write in the studio. Most of the writing was done at home or at a rehearsal/writing session we did prior to tracking. Once we get to a studio we like to have a good idea of what we need to do, so the bulk of the parts and arrangements are written beforehand. The lack of having that repetition this time made the early ideas feel fresh throughout recording as opposed to in the past where certain ideas felt very old by the time the studio process came around.
BL!: Each of your albums has an aesthetic unique to that release. What dictates the parameters of each album? Is it a conscious decision to work within a specific creative framework from album to album?
BW: Some parameters are dictated by individual members more than full band decisions. Like, ‘I won’t use this piece of gear I relied on [for] that last couple [of] records’. We never want to be too rigid, but we like surprising ourselves so sometimes setting a general guideline, like no slow ambient songs, or no super-washy reverb on all the vocals, can be helpful because we don’t know where we will go when our usual tendencies are taken away. But, at the same time, if something needs some reverb, we don’t like to be dogmatic, so we’ll make an exception, and then usually that moment where we make the exception stands out as something unique.
BL!: Why did you choose to make the hocket vocal style so prominent on this album?
BW: Similarly to the answer about challenging ourselves, it was exciting for Dave and Noah to find a new way to use their two voices together. They had done the harmonies and counterpoint stuff a lot over the years and felt like they knew what that would sound like, and that was less exciting to them than trying to weave their voices into something that felt both like a melodic element and a rhythmic element that would blur the lines of who was even singing the lead, so that two voices would become one thing.
BL!: How has it felt playing and developing the songs live after the recording process when you’re so used to doing it the other way around?
BW: It’s great. Mainly we stretch out the intros and outros of the songs. Natural Selection is about two minutes on the album, but some nights it becomes eight or nine minutes on stage. And that extra time is all improvised and forming into something new over time. We’ve always wanted our songs to have more than one identity.
BL!: How does your touring schedule feed/inhibit your creativity?
BW: That answer depends on time and circumstance. Sometimes, after a lot of energy is put into writing and recording, it’s nice to engage with playing live as the only creative output. It’s more physical and less cerebral. But if there is an idea in the head that you want to get out, touring can interfere. Especially since it prohibits access to gear when it’s in the trailer or just waiting in storage between two tours that are close together. But it’s also easy to have Pro Tools or Ableton on a laptop and work on stuff with midi during a tour. Personally, I don’t use a lot of electronic/midi production when I use music so that’s less help to me, but other people use it.