DAVE PORTNER, AKA AVEY TARE (ANIMAL COLLECTIVE, SLASHER FLICKS) TALKS HIS NEW ALBUM, TOURING IN A VAN, AND WHAT SCREAM QUEENS HAVE IN COMMON WITH PSYCHEDELIA
How's the tour going?
AVEY TARE: It's definitely smaller than what I'm used to, just four of us traveling around. For years I've been touring on a bus, and for Slasher Flicks we just toured in a van.
There's also usually a visual element to your shows, no matter what the project is.
AT: We're using these visuals condensed and mapped onto these skull masks that we kind of play around us, and we kind of set them up in different configurations every night.
Why is it important to you to create that kind of visual environment?
AT: I think it just goes with the style of music I'm into and what we're doing. I guess I've just always been the type of musician, or artist, or whatever you want to call it, that's not as interested in this, like, “just get up there and play” kind of vibe. I mean, I feel like that works too, and I've done it. Especially all the early Animal Collective years, we would just get up and play. There's a side of that where the energy just is really vibrant, and people can get into that. But I think there's another side of music and art. I like to be all-encompassing, to create these atmospheres that can be done fairly easily with the visuals.
Your sister's worked on videos before for Animal Collective. Was the video for “Little Fang” her idea?
AT: I mean, it comes from a literal explanation of how the song was written initially, which was based on Angel's and my cat, one of them. I mean that's not really what the song is totally about in the end, but it inspired what became the song. So I think the kind of overtness just lent itself to Abby being like, “Well, let's just do a video like that,” basically. That is “Little Fang.”
With your cat in the starring role.
AT: Just easy—a simple idea. For videos, I always like the simplest idea.
It's a little playful and nostalgic, going back to The Muppets and Sesame Street and all that.
AT: Yeah, I mean, there's an underlying darkness to that show, as well, or a sinister kind of vibe. So I think it's cool to pick up on that sort of stuff. I mean, it's kind of a kid's show, but it also has adult humor. I think it also feels very Hollywood to me, and maybe there's just an underlying dark side of Hollywood, I don't know. Like having the stars always be there, this weird combination of actors and comedians that are promoting themselves on this kid's show, basically. I feel like the humor is also dark in a way that can be mean-spirited. So it was cool to be able to collaborate with the Muppets, because we grew up really liking the Muppets a lot. There's a lot of cool stuff about that show and Jim Henson.
People don't usually think music in horror movies is melodic or fun; you kind of have to dig into the soundtracks of Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street or John Carpenter's music to find these hidden sweet melodies. Is that what inspired this project, the forgotten sweet songs of horror?
AT: Not really. That just sort of found its way into the project. Most of my songs get inspired by day-to-day life sort of things, but when it comes down to producing a record, I find it easier—and I find the people I'm used to playing with have found it easier—to make a whole record based on some certain idea, you know? Feelings or images, that kind of thing. What I was thinking about to make all the songs sort of stick together on this record, I don't know—I guess because I wanted to call the band Slasher Flicks… I've definitely always enjoyed the horror film kind of thing. It just seemed to me that trashier side of B-movie horror and slasher movie aesthetic, sort of like the scream queen kind of thing, fit pretty well with garagey kind of rock and psychedelic music. A bunch of punk bands or old 60s bands have also delved into the imagery and the feelings behind that, and I think it's inspired by those bands as well.
For whatever reason, I always thought that you started with a concept from the beginning, and then you tried to fill that mold.
AT: For sure, yeah. We've done that a lot with Animal Collective. How [else] can songs Noah writes and songs I write fit together, you know? The theme kind of comes in, but also, what style am I writing in? I feel like, for Animal Collective, even though the records end up being more of a cohesive thing, it's usually talked about a bit more what we're going for. When I'm working with Animal Collective, it's left up to the air or to the Animal Collective way, like, how the songs can actually end up. But for this…I work to keep it how I have in my head from the beginning.
And when you're sharing these ideas, do you feel self-conscious?
AT: I mean, I always feel maybe a little self-conscious. Especially with more free-form music and music that's not necessarily so straightforward, you get a little self-conscious about people just getting it. Just, it making sense. Fortunately, that's never happened to me. I feel like I can gauge certain musicians that would understand. But I think there's definitely a side of it where you've got to get used to somebody's style and still get used to the way people approach things.
You've mentioned there are some jazz influences on this record. Anyone in particular?
AT: We were listening to a lot of Ken Burns jazz kind of stuff when were all hanging out making the record. I listen to Ahmad Jamal a lot. He's one of my favorite piano players. And Chico Hamilton and Sun Ra I've always liked. Sonny Sharrock, Archie Shepp, Eric Dolphy. A lot of people.
A lot of those older jazz records, maybe before any other genre was doing it, definitely have a kind of concept or an implied narrative. And Down There, your earlier solo album, also has a kind of narrative. Do you think there's one in Enter the Slasher House?
AT: Not as much. Down There was definitely more of an idea that gestated over a very long time before I could eventually sit down and put all the music down on something. Well, I was sequencing, and creating little songs as I was going, but I had it in my head exactly how I wanted it to be. And I feel like Slasher Flicks stuff is just more of a collection of songs, really, first and foremost. When it came down to producing the record and mixing and stuff, that's where the narrative started to happen with the record. I kind of wanted it to feel like you were going through some weird funhouse or something. The songs are all varied; I wanted to make it feel like there were twists and turns and you didn't really know what to expect.
Enter the Slasher House by Slasher Flicks is out now on Domino Records
Slasher Flicks are on tour now and are playing these dates in August, 2014:
8-23 Los Angeles - FYF Fest
8-24 San Francisco - Great American Music Hall
8-25 Santa Cruz - The Catalyst Atrium
8-27 Portland, OR - Mississippi Studios
8-28 Seattle, WA - Neumos
8-29 Vancouver, BC – Biltmore Cabaret