Animal Collective on nostalgia and sonic clutter

Indie/art-rock darlings Animal Collective are spread out across the U.S., with an outpost in Europe, but chose to gather in their native Baltimore to make Centipede HZ, a record that prompted the band to look back for the first time. Ahead of tonight’s show, Cult MTL spoke to Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) about radio waves and old habits.

Animal Collective

Centipede HZ is the latest release by indie/art-rock darlings Animal Collective, a record that prompted the band to change their ways and perhaps even get a little nostalgic in their old age.

For the first time in eight years, the band convened to write the record together, in their native Baltimore — Dave Portner was already living there, but has since moved to L.A.; Josh Dibb was without a permanent residence (aka homeless-ish) and quickly warmed to the idea of crashing at his mom’s place, and using her barn for band business; Brian Weitz made the 45-minute commute from D.C. daily; and Noah Lennox (aka Panda Bear) flew in from Lisbon, where he’s been based since 2004. I spoke to the latter last month about reverting to old ways and building a conventional live set-list for the first time.

Lorraine Carpenter: Why did you choose to go home to write this record?
Noah Lennox: It was more out of convenience than it was trying to recapture some sort of energy we used to have. Maybe it’s a cliche thing to say, but the city is so different now. It doesn’t feel like the same place to me, with things having changed and not really knowing anybody there anymore.
Maybe the strangest thing for me, having been a kid there growing up, was being on the other side of the fence in terms of being there with my own kids, taking them to school. That was odd, reliving that from the opposite perspective.

LC: Has the way you guys work together changed much?
NL: Some things are the same. Managing all our personalities is identical as it ever was. It’s not really jockeying for position, but it’s like any team relationship; it’s like a soup that you all make together, and some people really like celery, some people want to put mushrooms in there and other people don’t like mushrooms. But we also made conscious decisions to switch up some details, like using different equipment.

LC: You guys played all the material live on the road prior to recording — that’s a regular part of your process, right?
NL: It’s something that we’ve done forever, and actually, doing the opposite is something we’re doing for the first time with these songs, in light of the fact that we made a record and then we’re playing those songs live after the release. We’ve always played unreleased songs live, and then recording them was typically the end of the cycle for us. Recording was the death knell for a song.

LC: So will you be playing a mix of Centipede HZ tracks and new, unreleased stuff?
NL: There are no new, unreleased songs. We’ve been shifting through various collections of older songs, that’s been the way for the past year that we’ve been keeping the set fresh.

LC: The songs on Centipede HZ are linked and dotted with radio segues and noise. Was it strictly for the sonic quality, or was nostalgia part of the inspiration?
NL: It was almost exclusively the style of the way that programming happens, everything but the actual [radio] music. What was really inspirational for us in terms of making our own sounds and arranging the songs were the rapid-fire station IDs and sonic clutter of radio. Radio used to be a big part of my life, and it’s not so much anymore; we’re connecting to music in a different way now. But in referencing these stylistic things, chaining sounds together and getting that sort of attitude and sonic clutter was a nostalgic exercise. ■

Animal Collective headline with opener Dan Deacon at Metropolis tonight, Friday, March 8, 8 p.m., $31.70

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