Animal Collective won't play much of "Merriweather" at Merriweather

Experimental group will focus mainly on new material at Saturday's show

  • Animal Collective will perform mostly new material Saturday at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Animal Collective will perform mostly new material Saturday… (Handout photo, Handout…)
July 07, 2011|By Erik Maza, The Baltimore Sun

The news that Animal Collective would perform at Merriweather Post Pavilion — which inspired, at least in name, their breakout album of the same name — was greeted in some corners of Baltimore with unmitigated glee.

But on Saturday, don't expect to hear much of "Merriweather" at Merriweather. The show will be 12 songs — 70 percent of them new, said founding member Dave Portner.

Still, he said, fans abroad, where the band has just come back from a tour, have responded well.

"I definitely think our sets divide a lot of people. Some people aren't into the fact that we do a lot of new things," he said. "The overall reaction people have had has been pretty psyched. But it's hard to say. I don't talk to everybody."

Animal Collective, an experimental band that eschewed mainstream attention, went more pop with their eighth album, named after the good-vibes Columbia arena.

"It was a term [founding member] Brian [Weitz] and I used loosely when we were younger in terms of a big, epic sound, kind of in relation to epic, crowd rock and old psychedelic music. We'd listen to something with expansive guitar lines, and we'd always be like, 'Oh, its some Merriweather.'"

When they were recording the album, someone mentioned the name, and "it seemed like a good record title," Portner said. "We liked the way it sounded together."

The band hasn't played Merriweather before, but it's not for lack of trying. The venue was scheduled to be one of the last shows the band played in 2009. But the timing didn't work out.

"It takes a little bit of organization to get us all together," Portner said. "It was one of those things that it just didn't work out in the end, and then we ran out of time."

Since the band last went on tour two years ago, they've been working on individual and side projects, like a movie soundtrack, and returned to the region to live.

Weitz lives in Washington. Josh Dibb is now in Baltimore, and so is Portner, who is planning on staying here for the rest of the year. Noah Lennox still has a lot of family in the area, Portner said.

The band has found a place to work right outside Owings Mills.

"The benefit of all of us living here is that it's pretty convenient for us to come here," Portner said.

This January, they all got together — with Dibb back in the fold — in Baltimore "to hunker down on the new stuff."

After being overwhelmed by going to too many shows in New York City, Portner said the new material is influenced, if anything, by living in the outskirts of Baltimore.

"[The album's] informed more by being in a wooded setting, by the nature in Maryland," he said.

Musically, they're still using samples, but Portner said they're integrating more guitar work, live drumming and programmed beats.

In comparison to "Merriweather," "we wanted a more immediate," hard-hitting set with more rhythm," he said.

Portner wants to release the new songs next year, but there are no concrete plans.

In total, they've come up with some 10 songs since January, and it was the new material that inspired the tour, the first time they'll do one with Dibb in about four years, by Portner's estimate.

Where other bands like to tour with finished material, Animal Collective uses the shows to work out the songs on stage. "It's the easiest way," Portner said. "This way, we tour with it, get used to playing it and work it out by playing it live."

The songs fans hear Saturday will differ from what ends up on the record, depending "on how psyched we are about them," Portner said.

"We're pretty psyched on where most of these songs are," he said. "I'm sure they'll change a little, but as a set they are pretty sweet right now."

erik.maza@baltsun.com

twitter.com/midnightsunblog

If you go

Animal Collective performs Saturday at Merriweather Post Pavilion, 10475 Little Patuxent Parkway in Columbia. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets start at $30. Call 410-715-5550 or go to merriweathermusic.com.

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