Since banding together 23 years ago, Animal Collective and its four members have established a vast and diverse catalogue, spoiling their fans with a seemingly never-ending stream of music.
Animal Collective cofounder Dave Portner's (AKA Avey Tare's) latest solo contribution to the ever-growing Animal Collective universe is the album 7s, a psychedelic-pop experiment released in February under Domino Records.
In support of his album, Portner has embarked on a solo tour with a stop at Gramps on October 6, with an opening set by Animal Collective's Brian Weitz (AKA Geologist).
"You could say it's my pandemic record," Portner tells New Times.
Portner began writing the bulk of 7s (which, fittingly, has a total of seven tracks) in 2020 under quarantine, right around the time he and the three other Animal Collective members were working remotely from different cities to record the songs that would end up on the 2022 album Time Skiffs.
"During quarantine, I started writing enough that I thought I could record another album," Portner recalls. "It got to be pretty dark and depressing not being able to get together with Animal Collective and any other musician, really."
After writing enough material for 7s, Portner — a recent transplant to Asheville, North Carolina, at the time — got together with his friend and producer Adam McDaniel. "He's one of the reasons I moved to Asheville in the first place," he adds. "We started talking during quarantine about how we could get together, and we started interacting musically with each other because we were both craving doing that."
After a year of casual recording sessions here and there at Drop of Sun Studios, owned by McDaniel, 7s was completed.
From elusive and surrealistic lyrics to catchy bass riffs, strange but whimsical melodies, and wavy vocal effects, Portner's magic trick is being able to evoke warm and homey nostalgia throughout his work, whether it's as part of Animal Collective or going at it solo.
Hypnotizing tracks like "Hey Bog" and "Sweeper's Grin" are reminiscent of the swampy synth murkiness of Portner's 2010 debut album Down There, now mixed in with fresh layers and textures of psychedelic, folk, and some electronica, and riddled with figurative lyrics that make up 7s.
"I'm influenced, in terms of writing, by the novels I read and surrealism. To other people, it could be nonsensical, but the way I view language is it's a tool that can be fun to be messed around with," Portner shares on his songwriting style. "I don't like to make it obvious or hand the meaning of things to people on a plate. I like things to be interpretive. I like that Animal Collective fans can pick up on the fact that there are these emotions there and these feelings, and they can develop their connections to the songs and connect it to their own lives."
Animal Collective keeps things fresh by performing new and unreleased tracks on tour. The first hit fans received of 7s was when Portner performed the then-unreleased track "Hey Bog" during the 2019 tour in support of his third album, Cows on Hourglass Pond.
On his current tour, Portner has teased two new unreleased tracks, plus has mixed in a few Animal Collective songs into his setlist, such as "Man of Oil" and earlier tracks like "Chocolate Girl" or "Ahhh Good Country," which he performs with Weitz.
Portner's tour stop in Miami closely follows the release date of Animal Collective's 12th studio album, Isn't It Now?, set to release on September 29. The anticipated album closes a five-year chapter on a pool of songs the band started writing in 2018. The first chunk of songs were recorded remotely and released as part of Time Skiffs. The rest were recorded straight-to-tape style in a studio and produced by Grammy-winning music engineer Russell Elevado, known for his work with R&B artist D'Angelo.
It's been a busy year for Portner and other Animal Collective members. Noah Lennox (AKA Panda Bear) has been touring internationally with Sonic Boom after the release of their collaborative album Reset. And when New Times spoke with Joshua Dibbs (AKA Deakin) last year, he hinted at spending more time on his solo work.
Once they can get past these ongoing projects, Portner believes they'll have a clearer idea of Animal Collective's next endeavors.
"Personally, the last couple years have been a time of looking back, with the re-issue of [Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished] and having put out Time Skiffs and seeing the response to it and how people view us now as a band, it sent me into thinking a lot about our roots and how we started, why we started this group, and what we want to do," Portner says. "We're still the kind of group that doesn't always want to just make a record and do the normal touring cycle kind of thing. In a sense, the possibilities are endless right now. The pot is starting to brew a little bit, and we're trying to figure out where we're going to go next."
Avey Tare. With Geologist. 8 p.m. Friday, October 6, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami; gramps.com. Tickets cost $25 at eventbrite.com.