|Origin||Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.|
|Automine, Vashti Bunyan, Black Dice|
Animal Collective is an American experimental pop band formed in Baltimore, Maryland in 2003. Its members and founders are Avey Tare (David Portner), Panda Bear (Noah Lennox), Deakin (Josh Dibb), and Geologist (Brian Weitz). The band's music is characterized by studio experimentation, vocal harmonies, and an exploration of various genres which include freak folk, noise rock, ambient drone, and psychedelia. Records released under the name "Animal Collective" may include contributions from any or all of its members. In the case of Dibb, who often takes breaks from recording and performing with the band, his time off does not constitute full leave.
The band members met in school and started recording together in various forms of collaboration from a young age. Originally a duo comprising Lennox and Portner, the collective was not officially established until all four members came together for the album Here Comes the Indian (2003). Most prior collaborations between the band members were then retroactively classified under Animal Collective's discography. In 1999, they established the record label Paw Tracks, issuing what is now considered their debut album, Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished (2000), as well as work by other artists. In 2009, the band released their most commercially successful album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, which Uncut magazine called: "one of the landmark American albums of the century so far".
Animal Collective grew out of childhood friendships in Baltimore County. Noah Lennox and Josh Dibb met in the second grade at the Waldorf School of Baltimore and became good friends. After the eighth grade, Lennox went away to a Waldorf high school in Pennsylvania, while Dibb enrolled at The Park School of Baltimore, where David Portner had studied since grade school. In 1993, Brian Weitz moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore County and began attending Park as well, becoming friends with Portner. According to Lennox, they attended "progressive" schools that emphasized creativity, imagination and artistic self-expression as part of "a complete kind of education". Weitz and Portner started playing music together at the age of fifteen because of their shared love of the band Pavement and horror movies. Their musical range included cover songs by Pavement and The Cure as well as the songs "Poison" by Bell Biv DeVoe and "Seasons In The Sun" by Terry Jacks.
When Portner and Weitz met Dibb later in high school, they started an indie rock band called Automine with schoolmates Brendan Fowler (a.k.a. BARR) and David Shpritz, being the only ones they knew who wrote their own songs. "We [once] set up a show with four bands--bands that were different formations of us", Portner remembered in an interview with Baltimore City Paper. At that time, the group did not have any contact to the music scene in Baltimore and "was more about the back porch." In 1995, Automine self-released their first and only record, the 7-inch-single Paddington Band. Around that time, they also had their first experiences with psychedelic drugs like LSD and started to improvise while playing music.[nb 1]
The four started to discover psychedelic and experimental music like Noggin, as well as krautrock-related bands such as Silver Apples and Can. Meanwhile, Dibb had introduced Lennox to Portner and Weitz, and the four of them began playing music in different group lineups (and often solo), producing several home recordings and swapping them and sharing ideas. Using a drum machine for the first time, Weitz and Portner started a duo called Wendy Darling, whose sound was inspired by soundtracks of horror movies like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Shining, especially Gyrgy Ligeti and Krzysztof Penderecki.
In 1997, Lennox and Dibb both went off to college in the Boston area (Boston University and Brandeis University), while Portner and Weitz attended schools in New York City (NYU and Columbia University). Lennox and Dibb assembled Lennox's debut album, Panda Bear, during this time from the multitude of recordings Lennox had made in the previous years and established their own label, Soccer Star Records, to release it.
Abhorring the new life as a student at NYU, Portner, along with Weitz, returned to Maryland every summer to meet Lennox and Dibb and play music together. At that time Portner was also working on a record, which would eventually become Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished. Portner asked Lennox to play drums on the record and they recorded them along with piano and acoustic guitars in the summer of 1999. The rest of the year, Portner returned to Maryland on weekends to record overdubs and finish the mixing. It was finally released in the following summer under the name Avey Tare and Panda Bear. Soccer Star morphed into the Animal label, with the intention of putting out music that came from the four musicians.
In parallel with his environmental policy and marine biology studies, Weitz hosted a noise show at WKCR, Columbia's college radio station. On weekends, he and Portner borrowed avant-garde music records and listened to them all night at Weitz's dorm room which rapidly broadened their musical horizon.
In the summer of 2000, the four friends spent several months at Portner's apartment in downtown New York City intensely playing music together using antiquated synthesizers, acoustic guitars, and household objects. According to Lennox, in this summer the basis for all of Animal Collective's later music was created. However, all recordings of this period were stolen when Portner changed apartments and packed up the car the night before he moved.
While studying, Dave Portner organized shows at New York University for a while. As he had class together with Eric Copeland, he organized a show for his band Black Dice and eventually became friends with him. In 2000, Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished was finished, Lennox and Dibb left school in Boston and moved to New York and the group's music became much more collaborative in nature. After introducing Lennox to Copeland, Portner and Lennox played their first show together in New York at The Cooler with Dogg and Pony, The Rapture and Black Dice in late summer of 2000.
This was also the first time they wore makeup and masks, which later became a prominent characteristic of the group's live performances. From thereon, Portner wore a mask for the first two years of the group performing. Lennox wore a panda hood on his head and later put face paint on; throughout the Europe tour in early 2004 he wore a white wig. Dibb performed masked during the Here Comes the Indian tour. On the Australia tour in November 2006 and inspired by Halloween, they wore masks for the last time.
According to Portner, the reason for disguising was to "help us be more relaxed and find an easier place in that other world we wanted people to join us in." They eventually stopped because they felt like it could become "too gimmicky" and distract from the music, although Weitz still sports a head lamp at live performances, as he did from the beginning.
After Portner and Lennox had played clubs around New York in twos, Weitz came on board in the end of 2000 and began performing with them. Much of the live material from this time would eventually end up on Danse Manatee (Catsup Plate). Danse Manatee was released in 2001 under the name of Avey Tare, Panda Bear and Geologist.
Notably, the close friendship with Black Dice has been a major influence throughout the group's career. In the summer of 2001, Black Dice took them as support on their first tour, which was captured on the 2002 live album Hollinndagain. It was released by St. Ives, a boutique label run by Secretly Canadian which releases limited edition vinyl only records. Limited to 300 copies, each of which featured a one-of-a-kind handmade cover, Hollinndagain is among the rarest of Animal Collective artifacts. It was re-released, both on CD and vinyl, on October 31, 2006 through the Paw Tracks label.
At this point, Dibb began to perform with the group. The next album to be released was Campfire Songs, again working with Catsup Plate in 2003. The Campfire Songs concept and some of the material dated back to the earliest Avey Tare and Panda Bear shows in New York. Recorded live in 2001 on Portner's aunt's screened-in porch in Monkton, Maryland, the record is one take of five songs played straight through. Attempting to make a record as warm and inviting as a campfire, the band recorded their performance straight to minidisc, with one recorder outside to grab the ambient sound of the environment. Field recordings of the surrounding area were also added. The original album is out of print but Paw Tracks reissued it on January 26, 2010.
After this recording session they started to work on new material which was later released on Here Comes the Indian and they were faced with some serious problems within the group. In early 2002, they went on their first big tour which took them to the South of the US and turned out to be "pretty brutal [...]. "We all lost our minds on that tour", Portner recalls. Right before their next tour in summer, Weitz got the message that he was accepted to his first choice graduate school in Arizona. After three chaotic days on the road with their tour van breaking down, equipment getting damaged bundled with a lack of money, the tour was about to be cancelled. "At that point we all knew we'd get back from tour, record the songs, and then we needed space from each other, and we still had more than 2 weeks left on the road", Weitz said on the Collected Animals message board.
Worrying that Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Deakin and Geologist would be too long-winded a moniker, and with record companies advising that a unifying name would be necessary for the marketplace, the group decided to adopt a catch-all name. Using their old label of Animal as inspiration they picked "Animal Collective". This formation was to be different from a straightforward band, giving the musicians the freedom to work in combinations of two to four, as dictated by the project at hand or their mood. Their first entry under this name was Here Comes the Indian, which was released in 2003 by their newly formed record label, Paw Tracks, formed with Carpark Records' Todd Hyman. Animal Collective makes decisions on what Paw Tracks is to release, while Hyman runs the day-to-day operations. The group was happy to find someone like Hyman, who had experience running a label and was dedicated to the group's music; the Animal label was more or less abandoned upon the formation of Paw Tracks. Here Comes the Indian was the first record to feature all four of Animal Collective.
After the two releases in 2003 attracted much attention, Black Dice introduced the group to the Fat Cat Records label which eventually ended up with the group beginning a relationship with their new admirers. The first Fat Cat release from the Collective was a double disc package of Spirit They've Gone, Spirit They've Vanished and Danse Manatee.
After the dense soundscapes of Here Comes the Indian, Portner and Lennox decided to concentrate on more stripped-down material. Each of them began composing material and they performed as a duo usually with just acoustic guitars, a single drum, some effects and their voices. The duo toured the world for the better part of a year with this new material, opening for mm and Four Tet among others, before retreating to Lamar, Colorado to record the material with Rusty Santos, a New York musician and friend. The result was Sung Tongs, released on Fat Cat Records in 2004 to critical acclaim.
In the meantime, Brian Weitz returned from Arizona and he and Josh Dibb joined the duo again. All four started writing new songs together which finally ended up on their 2005 release Feels. Animal Collective, as the duo of Panda Bear & Deakin (a.k.a. Noah's Ark), toured in Japan for the first time in February 2004 with Carpark Records' artists Greg Davis & Ogurusu Norihide. In early 2004, they started touring with their regular setlists including exclusively post-Sung-Tongs material, except for "We Tigers" and "Who Could Win a Rabbit?", which have been performed regularly up to the present. During their Europe tour, the group was introduced to Vashti Bunyan in Edinburgh, Scotland by Kieran Hebden (AKA Four Tet), who had recently played in Bunyan's band. Being fans of the cult folk singer's 1970 album Just Another Diamond Day, the group had dinner with Bunyan and asked her to collaborate on some recordings. The group encouraged her to sing lead vocals on three songs left over from the Sung Tongs era, released on the Prospect Hummer EP in early 2005. Weitz, who had started a day job in early 2004, could not join this tour and therefore missed the recording session with Bunyan, but contributed one instrumental song to the EP.
In October 2005, Animal Collective released their sixth studio album, Feels, recorded in Seattle with Climax Golden Twins' Scott Colburn, known for his work with the Sun City Girls. Following the release of Feels, Animal Collective mounted their most extensive tour, which lasted into the Fall of 2006 and saw them visit Australia and New Zealand for the first time in addition to many European festivals and North American dates, including a headline set in the Carling Tent at the Reading and Leeds festival. In the summer of 2006, Dibb's father died, which led to a show breakup after only two songs at Rock Herk Festival on July 15.
In the late fall of 2006, Animal Collective released People in Australia as a 7" on their Australian label Spunk Records, and worldwide as a 12" and CD EP in early 2007 on FatCat Records. It contains three studio songs "People", "Tikwid", and "My Favorite Colors", as well as a live version of "People".
In January 2007, Domino Recording Company announced that they would be releasing the new, then still unnamed, Animal Collective album. During the recording process in early 2007, Dibb announced via the Collected Animals forum that he would take a break from touring for a "myriad of personal reasons" until fall. Animal Collective performed live as a three-piece from that time until late 2009 with Deakin making his return to live performances in 2011.
On July 4, 2007, Strawberry Jam was leaked online. The album was released in the U.S. on September 11, 2007 and received much acclaim and multiple accolades, including Album of the Year from Pitchfork Media and Tiny Mix Tapes.
The band toured extensively throughout 2007, completing several American and European tours. Beginning in May 2007 the band debuted a brand new batch of post-Strawberry Jam live songs. These songs were written in an intense two-week session before the tour, months before the release of Strawberry Jam. On October 5, 2007, the band, in its full four-man line up (as opposed to its three-man lineup performances in 2007 and 2008) made their national television debut on Late Night with Conan O'Brien performing the song "#1" in support of Strawberry Jam.
On March 12, 2008, Water Curses EP leaked and was released on May 5, 2008. On April 9, the song "Water Curses" was released by itself digitally. In early 2008, sans Dibb, the collective entered the studio to record tracks for their eighth studio album. The album, entitled Merriweather Post Pavilion after the outdoor concert venue, was officially announced on the band's official website on October 5, 2008 and was released January 6, 2009. The first single released from the album was "My Girls". The band set to tour throughout Europe and US in 2009, notably being one of the headlining acts at September's ATP New York Festival, where Lennox also performed a solo set as Panda Bear.
Starting with their first tour dates in early 2009, the band introduced a new song, "What Would I Want? Sky". This song was also part of a BBC Session recording, and the May 2009 tour saw the debut of "Bleed" - both of these songs would later be included on their Fall Be Kind EP. On May 7, the band made their second television appearance, on the Late Show with David Letterman, performing the single "Summertime Clothes" from Merriweather Post Pavilion. The appearance included the regular three-man lineup indicative of their 2007-2009 tours, which excluded Josh Dibb. Four dancers draped in sheets also appeared on-stage behind the band, a first in their live performances. The video accompanied the release of the single on July 7, 2009, also featuring remixes by Zomby (Hyperdub), Dm-Funk (Stones Throw), and L.D. In an interview with Pitchfork Media, Portner announced the last single from the album would be "Brother Sport", which was released November 9 on vinyl with the live B-side "Bleeding".
The release of the Fall Be Kind EP followed on December 8, which included Merriweather leftovers "Graze" and "I Think I Can", along with "What Would I Want? Sky", containing the first ever legal Grateful Dead sample,. Also included were "On A Highway" and "Bleed".
For four years, the band had been working on ODDSAC, a visual record, with Danny Perez, who directed music videos for the band's "Who Could Win a Rabbit" and "Summertime Clothes" singles. The movie featured visuals which were developed and edited simultaneously with the music they recorded for it. Panda Bear stated they would like to "create a movie that would have visuals similar to what somebody would see if they closed their eyes while listening to Animal Collective's music". Weitz further added that "it's the most experimental stuff we've ever done." According to Portner, "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."
Aside from touring New Zealand and Australia in December 2009, the band planned a break from their two years of touring to focus more on creating and writing music. On November 13, Panda Bear announced a small European tour of his solo material in early 2010.
On March 4, 2010, Animal Collective collaborated once again with Danny Perez in the audio-visual performance piece Transverse Temporal Gyrus at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City, celebrating its 50th anniversary. Two years later, it was announced that a collage of studio and live recordings of music from the project would be released as a 12" vinyl LP on April 21 for Record Store Day 2012.
During several interviews in the second half of 2010, Lennox and Portner mentioned plans for Animal Collective's next album, including writing all together in the same location and the possibility of recording the new songs before taking them on tour, neither of which had happened for a long time. Portner revealed in October that the band would soon be moving back to Baltimore to write music there.
Near the end of October 2010, All Tomorrow's Parties announced that Animal Collective would be curating and headlining their UK festival in May 2011. It was confirmed in late November 2010 that Deakin would be rejoining the group for this show as well as the rest of the shows of their new tour. Before starting their first European tour of 2011, all four members of the band had a short tour of California leading up to an appearance at the Coachella Music Festival. At the shows, the band mostly played their newly written songs that were yet to be recorded.
During this period, the members of Animal Collective were invited by Maryland Film Festival to share a favorite film with an audience. On the evening of May 6, 2011, Avey Tare, Geologist, and Deakin presented a rare 35mm print of the 1983 Shaw Brothers production The Boxer's Omen in the historic Charles Theatre, and noted that another favorite film of the group was House.
Portner, in an interview for Madison, revealed that they had just finished writing sessions and that they intended to start full recording sessions in January 2012 for the next album. "We just finished another two weeks of writing sessions and put together five new songs," he said, noting that the crew planned to begin full recording sessions in January. "We're really excited about this record ... and it's been really fun jamming with those guys again." On May 6, 2012 they announced the release of a 7" through Domino Records, entitled "Honeycomb" / "Gotham". Both tracks were immediately made available to stream through their website. One week later, Animal Collective released a video on their website indicating that a new album, Centipede Hz, would be released in September 2012.
On July 15, 2015, EastWest Studios announced that the band had finished recording a new album in their Studio 3 room. On November 25, the album was reportedly named Painting With, and debuted over the speakers of Baltimore-Washington International Airport, playing on loop until the evening. Tare confirmed that "FloriDada", the impending single from the album, would be released on November 30. The album was released in February 2016. On November 16, the band released "Mountain Game", a song that was rejected for the Red Dead Redemption soundtrack.
On February 14, 2017, the band announced the release of The Painters EP later that week on the 17th. It features two songs recorded during the Painting With sessions, as well as two songs recorded for the EP, "Kinda Bonkers" and a cover of Martha and The Vandellas' "Jimmy Mack".
On March 21, the band announced via their Instagram page their plans to release the Meeting of the Waters EP on Record Store Day 2017. It was recorded live in Brazil by Avey Tare and Geologist in 2016. The process of recording this EP was featured on the first episode of "Earthworks" on Viceland.
On March 19, 2018, Animal Collective announced a tour where Portner and Lennox would be playing 2004's Sung Tongs in full. This was following a performance in 2017 for Pitchfork's 21st birthday where the duo also played the album live, and a two-night residency at the Music Box in New Orleans where Portner, Dibb, and Weitz played "site-specific music" with three accompanying musicians. 
Portner, Lennox, Weitz, and Dibb began as lo-fi indie rock musicians who, by high school, had amassed individual bodies of work recorded on cassette tapes. Influenced by horror film soundtracks and 20th century classical music, along with a shared passion for vocal harmony the group progressed to "walls of drones with guitars and delay pedals and us screaming into mics," in Portner's words. In college, Weltz and Portner listened to avant-garde records while Lennox explored electronic music, a style he took interest in after listening to The Orb's UFOrb (1992) in boarding school. When the group (sans Dibb) convened in 2000 after the recording of Spirit They've Gone, Spirit They've Vanished, they conducted improvisational music sessions which used vintage synthesizers, acoustic guitars and household objects. In 2005, Lennox spoke of it as a defining era: "everything since then has been a variation of what we explored that summer." The following album, Danse Manatee (2001), would draw from freak folk, noise rock, ambient drone, and psychedelia. Genres that have been used to label the band include experimental pop,psychedelic,indie rock,electronic,experimental,,art rock,freak folk,noise pop,, and psychedelic pop.
About the word "Animal" in their name, Panda Bear said, "It sounds kind of lame, but we're all really big fans of animals. At the time, we were thinking along the lines of animals as beings that act purely instinctually... kind of the opposite of a "collective" in that way. Musically, it was about not making decisions based on knowledge or reason. We wanted to work with music on an emotional level, not on an intellectual level. That's where it comes from."
Lennox compared Portner's songwriting to the songwriting of Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham. Portner believes they're "one of the greatest ... in terms of older bands or pop bands ... a song like 'That's All for Everyone' is really influential to me. ... It blew me away the first time I heard it." For Centipede Hz (2012), Weltz created an "inspirational mix" of songs which influenced the album's making; the playlist included content by Pink Floyd, Portishead, We the People, Milton Nascimento, Ze; Ramalho, Eddie & Ernie, Gandalf, Catherine Ribeiro Alpes, Silver Apples, Dorothy Ashby, 13th Floor Elevators, Apryl Fool, and others.
Animal Collective are often compared to American rock band the Beach Boys, a vocal group who performed original songs penned by their co-founder and leader Brian Wilson, himself inspired by barbershop music and his use of psychedelic drugs. The comparisons led Thorin Klosowski of the publication Westword to negatively refer to Animal Collective's music as "two Beach Boys records [playing] at the same time". Animal Collective responded to the initial comparisons by recording "College", an "anti-Beach Boys" song from the album Sung Tongs.[nb 2] Lennox has expressed reverence for their album Pet Sounds (1966) and reluctance on being compared to the Beach Boys.[nb 3] In 2015, Animal Collective recorded their album Painting With in the same studio space once used by Wilson for the recording of Pet Sounds and Smile.
right now Merriweather Post Pavilion doesn't just seem like one of the first great records of 2009, it feels like one of the landmark American albums of the century so far.
...I am most likely taking a break from touring with the band until sometime this fall. It was a hard choice to come to, but for a myriad of personal reasons I decided I would benefit a lot from spending a little less time running around the world.