Collective Appeal

Animal Collective divides to conquer

Good news for completists: When Animal Collective plays the House of Blues on Sept. 25, the experimental rockers will be at their full compliment of four members. “I think the last time we played there, it was just three of us,” says Geologist (born Brian Weitz), remembering the band’s first Las Vegas appearance in 2009. “But you’re getting all four of us this time.”

One has to ask, because nothing about Animal Collective—Geologist, Avey Tare (David Portner), Deakin (Josh Dibb) and Panda Bear (Noah Lennox)—is set in stone. The band, formed in Baltimore, has seen its members scatter to several cities; they convene in Baltimore to write, rehearse and record. Sometimes a member of the band opts not to participate in the process, just as Deakin chose not to appear on the 2009 tour.

And then there’s the matter of their music. Animal Collective doesn’t have a sound so much as a philosophy. They are disciples of sound, and they go wherever a song dictates they go—from folk to techno to straight-up rock to pure dissonance. This fluidity pretty much ensures that you’ll either love Animal Collective or hate them. They even create rifts within their own fan base: Some fans of their latest record, Centipede Hz, dislike their 2009 breakthrough album, Merriweather Post Pavilion, and vice versa.

Geologist is perfectly fine with that.

“The bands that we liked growing up didn’t really sound the same from record to record,” he says. “Every record offered a different experience—some records sounded better during the daytime, some sounded better at night. Some you listened to when you wanted to relax, and some you wanted to listen to when you were angry. We never wanted our discography to be something that felt really linear—where you could interchange any song on any record. That’s not what we respond to in bands we like.

“We like the fact that we switch it up so much,” he adds. “We’ve put so out much that there can literally be a different Animal Collective record that’s somebody’s favorite.”

For now, however, Geologist’s favorite record is the current one. Centipede Hz is a beguiling and sometimes bewildering work, thickly layered with sci-fi beeping and distorted voices. Geologist is looking forward to playing these songs at the House of Blues. Some songs will be carried along by their own momentum, like “Today’s Supernatural” and “Moonjock.” (Geologist loves playing those: “They’re very physical, very fast,” he says.) Other songs will complement the show’s visual elements, designed by Avey Tare’s sister, Abby Portner.

“We’ve got sculptures, video elements—it’s always fun to play shows like that,” he says. “We get a little self-conscious; we don’t really banter with the crowd, and we tend to stand still. We’re comfortable when we’re surrounded by a visual production that takes the focus away from us.”

In other words, Geologist would rather you focus on the band’s sound—which, when you get down to it, really is all of a piece.

“Despite the fact that all of our records sound different, there is something about that [that] is still fundamentally Animal Collective,” Geologist says. “But I’m not entirely sure what it is.”