Did you grow up
in Brooklyn, and how do you think this has influenced
you in your adult life and in your music?
I grew up in Baltimore in Maryland. I lived
with my mother and father, brother and sister and dogs
and cats and birds until they died in a neighborhood
called Roland Park. It’s green and gets spooky
late in the fall and all the leaves go yellow and come
down. Most guys play lacrosse and wear hats and it’s
a wealthy place for sure. My parents told me everything
but they weren’t demanding and did the best they
knew how, and that’s influenced just about everything
I do I would say.
What were you into when you were growing up?
Did you have any role models?
Mom and dad of course. My brother was a really special
athlete and I would always try to keep up with him.
He’s older and built a little more solid than
I am but I could still beat him playing basketball towards
the end there. I will always look up to him. I thought
Stewart Copeland was the sweetest drummer and I guess
I still do and I thought Aphex Twin was really great
when I was younger. My friend Francis was really great
too and I admired him and his way a lot. He was very
calm and very sharp and finished what he started always
and nothing was ever too much for him to handle but
he was also really fun and funny and honest.
What brought you to play music in the first
place, and how did you get involved with Animal Collective?
I started playing piano with lessons when I was really
young but then mom got me a more sophisticated and complicated
teacher and I walked out on him because he was an asshole
and way too intense. I was like eight or something.
Then I moved to cello for a while and played in the
orchestra and what not. I would write songs on the piano
a lot and it’s still my favorite thing to write
songs on. Then I started singing in the chamber choir
in high school and that was my favorite. I would like
to do that these days too. I sang tenor and there was
only like three of us in the whole school who could
sing high like that. I went to school with Deakin since
we were in second grade and he knew the rest of the
boys in high school and I met them all through him.
We liked each other’s songs and tapes and shit
so we started hanging out a lot and going to shows together
Animal Collective have been rather well received
over the last couple of years, and the band’s
reputation grew a lot very quickly after Here Comes
The Indian was released, and even more when the
two first albums were released for the first time in
Europe. How did you all react to it and did that put
a lot of pressure on the band when you came to record
I didn’t notice it too much until after Sung
Tongs was released for a while and we toured and
people seemed really excited to talk to me and be around
me even though they didn’t know me and things
like that. I don’t think we are the kind of people
to do stuff because we feel pressured to do it but I
can certainly feel pressure from all over. The music
business, people want things done one way and that’s
usually not the way we’d like to do it so it’s
a bit give and take sometimes. There was a photographer
today who was upset that Dave had put paint on his face
and we were all kind of like ‘what’s the
big deal?’. We try and always do things the way
we’d like as long as it doesn’t get anyone
really angry. Sometimes it seems like you can’t
avoid that though I guess, like anything else. So you
do the best you can to understand each other and work
Although both Campfire Songs and Here
Comes The Indian were recorded with the all Animal
Collective formation, Sung Tongs was just Avey
Tare and yourself. How do you decide who is going to
be involved in a record or do the live shows?
Sometimes it’s because we’re having trouble
with each other as friends and we need to sort out our
stuff and sometimes it’s just that somebody has
work to do elsewhere or something more pressing to take
care of. We’re all a little separated from each
other these days, which makes touring and recording
and writing and stuff nice because we haven’t
seen each other for a bit and were really psyched to
hang out. When I lived in New York, Davey and I were
together almost every waking second of every day for
the first couple of years.
Campfire Songs was recorded live under
a porch on three minidisks players. How did the idea
come up, and what is as spontaneous as the album sounds?
We had had the idea of doing something really warm and
inviting-sounding for a while, like three or four years
at least. We wanted it to sound like a campfire feels
and I think that also made us think of campfire songs
that you can sing with a bunch of people and everybody
gets connected and feels good and safe. It really wasn’t
spontaneous or improvised if that’s what you mean.
We worked for a month or so to get it just right like
the transitions between songs. I still think Queen
Of My Pictures into Doggy is one of the
best things we’ve done together. I was really
excited about my singing on Campfire Songs
I guess because I felt like I was doing things that
were difficult for me to do. We played it live just
like it was on the record about a week or so before
recording at Tonic in New York. I wore my scarf and
coat and we played in the middle on the floor and everyone
kind of gathered around.
Young Prayer is your
first solo album I believe. Was working on it very different
from working with the whole band?
Yes it was very different. I don’t have the patience
by myself to stick around and get something really sculpted
and polished. With the band we get a lot more intense
in terms of production and that sort of stuff. When
I go by myself, I tend to just spit it out and get away
from it. I heard Ariel (Pink, first signing of the Collective’s
Paw Tracks label) say to someone that he just gets something
sounding good or good enough and I remember thinking:
‘yes that’s the same way I go too’.
This album was recorded just after the passing
of your father, and seems a very personal journey. Yet,
it sounds optimistic rather than sad. Was recording
the album some kind of therapy to help you deal with
It was more a gift to my father when he was sick and
I wanted to make him happy if I could and I wanted to
cheer him up and I wanted to tell him that he’d
done really great in his time. I was pretty fucked up
but I wanted to keep going and I wanted to have strength
and I suppose that comes out in the recording. I wouldn’t
say it was therapeutic though, at least I never thought
of it that way.
None of the songs on the album have titles.
Is there a particular reason for this?
Well I just wanted the whole thing to be the Young
Prayer like I wanted the whole thing to be one
nugget of sound. I put the track markers in there just
to separate the sections. All the music is directly
connected to the words and I did the words first and
they were really the foundation of the whole thing and
dictated the structure and stuff. For the most part
I would just attach a melody to each line of words and
then I would practice them all until I could string
it together. Somebody told me that they didn’t
like it because it was droney and I thought to myself
that it really wasn’t droney at all except for
one of the sections really and I thought it was an odd
Have you discussed Young Prayer with
the rest of the band and how did they react to it? Do
you discuss solo projects within the band, or are the
band and solo projects kept completely separate?
Totally separate, although some of them did help me
out with it. Deakin recorded it with me. Russ Santos
helped me mix it and convinced me to have everyone hear
it. It’s always been important for us to have
freedom to work by ourselves or with other people if
we liked to. Davey plays with Eric (Broucek, from Black
Dice) in Terrestrial Tones and I play with Scotty in
Jane and Russ in Together and Davey and Joshmin have
played with Gang Gang a couple of times when it sounded
Are you already thinking about your next solo
record, and do you already have an idea of what it will
Yes, I’ve got most of the songs together
and ready. I did a tour with Ariel recently in the UK
and parts of Europe and I played all my new songs except
for one I think most nights. When I moved I only took
a few of my old things and all I had to make music was
a sampler box. I got two of the boxes and then I was
really ready to go. It took me forever to get my own
guitar into the country and I had to pay like $200 for
my own guitar. That was crazy but I guess you have to
do what you have to do if you know what I mean. The
new songs are super dubby and old sounding, like Motown
or Buddy Holly just a little bit, and I sing a lot on
What influences you to write in general, and
is it a different process when working as part of the
band or on your own?
I sing almost exclusively about relationships
like with my family and my good friends and with strangers
and music people. I tend to keep things very simple
on the melodic and lyrical side because I don’t
really understand any other way to do it. My favorite
songs of mine are the ones where I haven’t done
anything in a while and it comes out quick and good
and pure. When it’s with the band, it’s
more somebody brings a skeleton to everyone else and
it becomes everyone’s thing after a little while
playing it. Also with the band I feel like I can be
in the background a lot and add a little piece to the
whole part of the sound and I like that sometimes.
You have been extremely busy with Animal Collective
over the last year or so, touring and recording. When
did you find the time to record Young Prayer?
Well I did the recording of it like two years
ago or so and it was a little more mellow then. The
AC didn’t really play for six months although
Joshmin and Davey were working on some stuff but they
never went all the way with it.
You’ve also set up Paw Tracks records,
and have recently released the first album by Ariel
Pink, who is also the first non-Animal Collective artist
to get his work released on the label. Are you planning
to expend the label, and what are you planning to release
in the next few months?
We’ve kind of been taking the label as it comes
if you know what I mean. It was started to just do all
the stuff we wanted to do within the group but after
we heard Ariel’s music, we really wanted to do
it. I think we’ll do another older record of his
and maybe newer jams too. I really like his songs a
lot. I’m sure we’ll put out more stuff but
I don’t know what. We like to keep things on a
personal level and we met Ariel before we knew his music
really. I’d hope that we keep the label going
that way always and I mean on the friendship and personal
The songs, either with Animal Collective or
those from Young Prayer seem very spontaneous.
How do write? Are these the result of improvisations?
Sometimes yes, but we always care a whole lot about
composition and form and stuff like that. We don’t
really wing anything even though it might sound like
it. We spent a lot of time improvising together and
practicing playing with each other and around each other.
But even with something like Young Prayer where
it sounds super meandering and loose, it was all composed
and I would play it more or less the same way every
Last year, Animal Collective toured with Black
Dice, and I read that you are all friends. How did you
come to know them?
I met Eric for the first time in a bar in Brooklyn but
he was already friends with Davey from school and Davey
introduced us. They had class together I think and Davey
would go and see them play sometimes and had them play
at NYU once too because Davey organized that kind of
thing there for a while. Davey and I played our first
show in New York with them at the Cooler which is closed
now I think. Dogg and Pony and the Rapture played too
but we were first. We came out of the dressing room
singing and I was hitting a snare drum and we sort of
marched around for a long time because we couldn’t
find the stage. I think I hurt someone because I knocked
into them hard. That was the first time we wore masks
and makeup and all that shit. We liked each other’s
music but we also got on real well as people and I think
that’s been a stronger connection than the musical
one. Davey and Eric live together these days and play
as Terrestrial Tones. Black Dice took us on our first
tour and I feel like the wisest things I’ve learned
about being in a band I learned by watching them.
You’ve also just toured on your own to
support the album. What can people expect when seeing
you live, and how different from an Animal Collective
performance is your set?
It’s quite a bit different. My new music is pretty
sugary and I hope it’s very deep and it’s
close to me for sure. I’m dreaming a lot more
than I do for the AC and its not manic and possessed
like the AC can be.
Is it essential for Animal Collective to have
the freedom of being anything from just one of you performing
to be a quartet? How does it affect the dynamics between
Yes it is very important to us but I think that’s
just a reflection of the way we are as people. We all
play different things and think about different things
and more than one of us writes music on his own. I’d
like to feel like I can play my own music on my own
when I like or play with someone else that I’ve
just met or something like that. I suppose over all
it just allows for all sorts of things to take place
that wouldn’t get a chance if we operated as a
band in the traditional sense and I think that’s
What is the last record you have bought? Do
you have much time to listen to music and what do you
I like all sorts of things but I don’t buy very
much music and I don’t listen too much at home
or whatever. I worked at a record store for a while
and I’d listen to music all day like I was really
hungry for it. The other guys in the band all have tons
of records and so I get schooled by them all the time.
But I don’t even have a turntable. I like Phoenix
and the most recent George Michael record a lot. I like
Jonathan Richman almost more than anything. I like lots
of dance music although I feel like these days it’s
really wanting something new like all the classics have
dried and nobody knows what new to do. I’m sure
something will come along though. Se Rogie is really
great. I like Roy Orbison and the Everly Brothers. I
don’t get into much noisy things or complications.
I like pop music over all even though that sounds strange.
I like Ariel’s music very much.
What are you plans for the next few weeks and
months? Can we expect a new Animal Collective record
We’re recording right now. There’s
a smaller record we did with Vashti that will be out
in May. This record we’re doing now won’t
be out until fall I would expect. We’ll tour for
a few weeks in the US in April and then I’ll take
a break and maybe record new music just for me this
summer. I’ll have intense things going on for
me and mine so I might step away for a bit or a while
I don’t know.
Where does the Panda Bear pseudonym come from?
When I first made tapes I drew pandas on them because
they’re my favorite animals and it just stayed
Email interview March 2005.
Thank you to Noah and Sean.
BBC Collective: Fat-Cat
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