When it came time for a new album, Animal Collective decided to keep it simple – they got together in a barn, turned everything up loud and jammed for a week. “We took everything to the sixth gear,” they tell Jim Carroll
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THIS TIME, Animal Collective decided to bring it all back home. This time, unlike previous albums Merriweather Post Pavilion or Strawberry Jam, the band would create the new album with all four of them together in the same room.
Instead of emailing ideas back and forth, the band, close friends since they first met at schools in Baltimore in the 1990s, gathered in a barn out the back of Josh Dibb’s mother’s house and began to play.
“We just jammed and improvised for a week,” explains Dibb. “We didn’t come in with any clear songs so we just decided to get going, jam and start to make sense of the sonic landscape we would be dealing with.
“Pretty quickly, some things became clear from how Noah was playing his drums and the energy from that. I was playing guitar a lot again and Dave was playing his keyboards in a way which was a lot wilder than it has been for a while. By the end of the week, we had a sense about what we were going to do.”
Over the course of nine studio albums and a sprawling set of solo releases and side projects, Animal Collective have never repeated themselves. It means they’ve followed up the warm, hazy electronic breezes of the acclaimed Merriweather Post Pavilion with an album of cranked-up guitar effects, rollicking garage-band jams and wired-to-the-moon waywardness.
In some ways, that new album Centipede Hz is as much a product of its environment as the band’s mindset going into the barn. “It was such a small space,” remembers Noah Lennox. “I mean, we were really close; I could lean over and touch Josh on the shoulder from where I stood. I think that inspired the gnarliness and volume of the songs. We took everything to the sixth gear.”
“Taking everything to the sixth gear” is a good line to sum up Animal Collective’s instincts on this occasion because Centipede Hz is probably the most maximalist thing Animal Collective have ever put their name to.
When Dibb and Lennox talk about the process behind the album, they paint a picture where there was more, not less, in the mix.
“We knew we wanted to do something which was more performancebased, playing with each other rather than being slaves to the machine as was the case on the last album with loops and sequences,” says Dibb. “This time, we wanted a direct interaction between the musicians.
“The way we set up our individual soundstations was really complicated,” adds Lennox. “Josh had a lot of effects with his guitar and sample pad. Dave [Portner] split up his sound to have three different sound effects coming from the same instrument and signal, so one note would make three different sounds.
“Brian [Weitz] had his samples and the bass which he was working at the same time. My drums had contact microphones on each drum which became anther sound source. Even though there were only four of us playing, there was 10 different sounds being produced. From the get-go, we were going to produce a very dense sound.”
One noticeable aspect of the new album is the way radio noises and signals punctuate the tracks. Those sounds were partly inspired by Dave Portner’s brother, who was a DJ on a Top 40 station in Baltimore during the 1980s.
“I don’t think we were doing it in any nostalgic, reminiscent way,” says Dibb, “but we were picking up on what radio used to mean to us. In the 1980s and 1990s, there was good radio in Baltimore and it was a source of where to go to find music.”
“Our connection to music always came via the radio,” adds Lennox. “We’d listen to classic rock and top-40 stations in high school.”
It’s a different matter now. “I don’t think radio as I used to know really