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28 September 2007, 3:23 am No Comments

Music: Animal Collective’s Brian Weitz: The New Gay Interview

This post was submitted by Zack Rosen

Brian Weitz, far left, and the rest of his Animal Collective band mates in a myspace photo by Benjamin Corrigan.

What if Charles Manson had actually joined the Beach Boys?

Though Dennis Wilson’s relationship with the California psycho produced only one song, 1968′s “Never Learn Not to Love,” it is easy to imagine that any further collaboration between the two would have produced something very close to the work of Animal Collective. The Baltimore natives are almost preternaturally gifted at melding pop hooks and noisy, psychedelic repetition until you don’t know whether to hum the songs or carve them into your arms. Grass, off their 2005 album “Feels,” has the particular ability to play on such a maddening loop in my head that Sharon Tate, even in her present condition, starts to look pretty cute. (Too soon?) That doesn’t mean, however, that I don’t want to immediately listen to it again.

Brian Weitz, better known as Geologist, is in charge of samples and electronics for the Collective, and also lives near Eastern Market when he is not touring or recording. Weitz was nice enough to answer some of my relevant questions about his music, some less than germane inquiries into his opinions on gay culture and some truly inane queries on his past drug use.

Animal Collective is currently touring behind the just-released album, Strawberry Jam, and enjoying a lot of press for their ability to make indie noise-pop so accessible. They are playing at the 930 club tonight. Doors open at 10.

The New Gay Zack: How much is Animal Collective actually a collective?

Brian Weitz: We have different roles in the band, Dave [Portner, better known as Avey Tare] and Noah [Lennox, Panda Bear,] write melodies. Noah does rhythms, Josh [Dibb, Deakin] does guitar and I do electronics. If you have an idea, and you’re the only one that can hear it in your head, you just do it in the studio.

TNG: You live in DC, but other member of your band live as far away as New York City or Lisbon, Portugal. How does this affect your creative process?

BW: It hasn’t been too bad. We’ve been playing together for so long that we can anticipate each other’s sensibilities and tastes. We come [to the studio] with all these focused, produced ideas and we put them together. When we lived together we’d start from the skeleton, from scratch. That’s the main difference.

TNG: You live in DC right now. After all the time you spend on the road, are you excited to be playing at home?

BW: I’m counting the hours. We’re driving in from Chapel Hill, NC, and we have an early sound check, but after that I get to hang out with my cats all day and sleep in my own bed.

TNG: Anything you’re looking forward to doing while you’re in town?

BW: I don’t really leave my house if I can help it. its nothing against dc, but I’m on the road so much. I love my house and my girlfriend. If you spend five or six months a year sleeping in foreign beds, you really start to appreciate your own space, especially after sharing it with six other people.

: You grew up in Baltimore but live in D.C. Which city are you more attached to?

BW: I feel more attached to Baltimore. I moved here [to D.C.] for work, we stay here for my girlfriend’s job. Baltimore and Philadelphia were the towns I spent my childhood in, they’re similar in a blue collar sense, they’re defined by their middle class. D.C. doesn’t have a middle class, everyone there that would be is transient and intellectual and they have lofty career goals.

TNG: You’re set lists can vary between new songs, old songs and songs being played for the first time on that tour. What will you be playing at the 930 club?

BW: There’ll be a mix. Josh wanted to take a break to do some traveling, so there’s a lot of songs we can’t play because his guitar parts are the main element. We’ve reworked some old songs from [our albums] Sung Tongs and Danse Manatee in this formation, and we have ten new songs we’ve recorded since Strawberry Jam, we’ll play those as well. We make the set-list twenty minutes before we get on stage.

TNG: What are some of your current favorite bands?

BW: I rarely get to listen to a lot of bands, we’re around music so much that sometimes I retreat from it when we’re not on tour. A lot of our friends in NY are still favorite, like Black Dice and Gang Gang Dance. I really like more mainstream pop, I’ve liked the last two Kylie Minogue records and Daft Punk is always amazing.

TNG: What are some of your influences?

BW: I don’t have too many musical influences to just point to, I was always inspired by horror soundtracks, things that use unconventional sounds and textures as music. I’m interested in how abstract sounds can have the same impact on the listener as traditional musical sounds.

TNG: Your music is widely considered to be pop, but that is also the label applied to someone like Britney Spears. How do you reconcile your kind of music with her kind of music if they both fall under this same umbrella?

BW: I don’t think they need to be reconciled. Someone like Britney Spears is referred to as pop because they are popular for the masses. Other indie bands, like The New Pornographers, are power pop. When they talk about that they refer to a catchy melody and song structures. When people refer to us as pop that’s what they mean, its like you’re not all noise, you have catchy ear candy in there.

TNG: Is it hard to be melodic and experimental at the same time?

BW: I don’t know, we don’t even think about it, it’s just naturally what we end up doing when we make music. Only when we were younger did we try to sound like bands we looked up to, at a certain point we just said we’ll throw into the mix everything we like about music. We’re not really playing around with lofty academic musical ideas, we just do what sounds good to us.

TNG: Your band makes songs that could be considered stoner music. How do you feel about this?

yle="font-weight:bold;">BW: The way people listen to my music is up to them, if they’re enjoying it that way, good for them. It can be a bummer to be labeled as a drug band, if we become associated with that people think we’re on a lot more drugs than we actually are. When you get stuck with that label it bums my parents out. I hope my music appeals to people that aren’t on drugs as well.

TNG: Pardon me for asking, but what are or were your favorite bands to get high to?

BW: I was a very together kid, I wasn’t a total burnout, I got into a decent college [Columbia] and got good grades and everything. But we were really into Pink Floyd, The Dead, Pavement, Sun City Girls, Silver Apples, and a lot of European psychedelic music from the late sixties and early seventies

TNG: This is way off the subject, but as someone on the indie vanguard do you see any similarities between gay culture and indie culture?

BW: I’ve never really thought about that . If people pass me in pickup trucks on tour we get called fags, if you wear tight fitting clothes, if you’re wearing something like a tie die, anything different, they assume you’re gay.

TNG: As someone on the outside looking in on gay culture, how do you think it has changed or advanced in recent years?

BW: With the people I’m friends with, like Antony [of Antony and The Johnsons], or [Deerhunter's Bradford Cox,] or Xiu Xui, the gay thing gets tagged on to them as an afterthought these days. I think its kind of amazing. Its not like what it was, I remember the way people talked about Boy George, the gay came first before the music. With the handful of artists I’ve mentioned it seems like whether or not they’re gay has been pushed as a secondary issue behind the fact that they are making great music, which I think is the way it should be.

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