Animal Collective, the once-Baltimore based electronic-psychedelic act consisting of Avey Tare, Deakin, Geologist, and Panda Bear, seems to be in a constant state of flux when the band's entire catalog is taken into perspective. From the combinations of the most disparate electronic and acoustic musical elements on 2000's Spirit They've Gone, Spirit They've Vanished to the traditional pop transitions of the wildly popular Merriweather Post Pavilion, Animal Collective has always shape-shifted by exploring new sonic territory.
In one way, Arizona also played a role in Animal Collective's evolution.
Multi-instrumentalist Geologist, also known as Brian Weitz, did two stints at Biosphere 2, located 110 miles southeast of Phoenix in Oracle, as part of both his bachelor's and master's degrees through Columbia University in the early '00s. Whether it was revisiting his childhood Deadhead past while driving through the desert or finding local inspiration, Weitz attributes part of that next stage of Animal Collective's sound, the period during Sung Tongs and Here Comes the Indian, to his time in Oracle.
"Some of [the] electronic music does fit with sitting in the desert and staring at a cactus or something [that's] very geometrical or mathematical about its structure, and it does work with something a bit more ambient or techno-oriented," Weitz says. "It really just got me thinking about a synthesis of different styles of music."
As prolific as Animal Collective is, Weitz has his academic sensibilities, as well as his degrees, rooted in environmental science. Biosphere 2, during Columbia's occupation and prior to the University of Arizona's acquisition of the facility, was intrinsic to Weitz's research, despite Columbia University's apprehension regarding studies from the institution.
"[Columbia] decided to cut all the ties because none of the research was getting published, because you couldn't replicate these experiments anywhere else," Weitz explains. "All of us there just thought it was the best climate change research facility you could ask for. I just thought it was a waste and a shame. I'm glad [the University of] Arizona has the foresight and balls to take on [Biosphere 2]."
Weitz's desert sojourns took place during stints away from Animal Collective, often resulting in new, entire albums being written when the band was reunited. Such a breakneck pace was the four-piece's mode of operation through 2009's Merriweather Post Pavilion, a record that the band wrote before its predecessor, 2007's Strawberry Jam, had even hit shelves.
That instance was a reaction to Josh "Deakin" Dibb's brief hiatus from the group, made in a knee-jerk reaction to the need for trio-friendly songs for their then-upcoming tour. Nowadays, with band members flung far and wide from Los Angeles to New York to Portugal, the traditional recording, writing, and touring cycles have slowed their paces.
"Essentially, we're not at the next Animal Collective record right now, so even though Centipede Hz has been out for a year we're still sort of finishing it up," Weitz says. "We're going to go on tour in December just to play some makeup shows for things that were cancelled earlier in the year, but if that hadn't happened, this would literally be the last tour -- this would be our goodbye tour for those songs."
That's not to say that Animal Collective is disbanding anytime soon; rather, they're just changing their strategies. Beneath their massive, sometimes alienating back catalogue, change is the theme that seems to underlie all, whether fans like it or not. Weitz notes that the band's mainstream success is nothing to be denounced however, even if you're the Animal Collective fan that attends shows if only to hear "My Girls." Success at this level was never meant to be an accomplishment -- as it's been for the majority of their career, Animal Collective did what they wanted and life just followed suit.
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"To us, it's a bit of an accident that we got as popular as we did," Weitz admits. "It's better to have one or two songs [that are hits], and they're still weird songs, but something's filtered through them. It's not a bad thing to only have one song that people like. It's more than some people get."
Animal Collective are scheduled to play the Marquee Theatre on Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our online concert calendar.
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