When talking to Brian Weitz (a.k.a Geologist) of Animal Collective, you get the sense that he knows things you don't. Sure, he has a Masters in Environmental Policy and has been involved with one of the most critically acclaimed bands in modern music, but there is something else. I think he knows the meaning of life. RDW got a chance to talk to Weitz via phone to figure out some of that mystique, how to stay immersed in our surroundings and his love of the Philadelphia Flyers. Waitwhat?
The 33-year-old Weitz grew up in Philly, so his hockey leanings cannot be blamed against him. He had to deal with the forever-anticlimactic Lindros/LeClair days, so he knows strife as a sports fan. It isn't much better these days as those Broad Street Bullies are mid-table in the standings. But he was happy about the recent win over his new hometown Washington Capitals.
"I totally hate the Capitals," says Weitz. "I used to go anytime the Caps played the Flyers. The tickets were so cheap before they got Ovechkin." Rattling off a litany of current Caps players, the man clearly knows his hockey. We discussed the Red Wings impending move to the Eastern Conference and the list of prepared questions was thrown out of the window. Turns out his 2-year-old toddler enjoys the spectacle of games. Something was entrancing about the loud music and cheering.
Loud music. Cheering. Visual spectacle. All are terms that apply to Animal Collective, too.
Animal Collective has been releasing feel-good spacey-psychedelic rock for over a decade now. From 2004's harmonic Sung Tongs to the most critically-acclaimed album of 2009 (Merriweather Post Pavilion), they've been ahead of the curve to the point that they are wanted everywhere. Headlining Coachella and regularly selling out venues, the quartet has managed to stay relatively anonymous.
Weitz could walk around D.C. without being noticed even after the much-anticipated Centipede Hz last year. This is surprising with indie fans being notoriously invasive.
"I don't really think I'm a famous musician," Weitz says. "I walk around anonymously. We're not a partying band. It's pretty rare to see us out at a hotel bar or some red-rope kind of event. I never intended music to be a career anyway."
He utilized his Environmental Policy prowess in the band's early days. He worked with legislators in D.C. The music was all kind of for fun. But now, the music is what is bringing home the bacon.
"Music is what feeds my kid now. There's no excuse for being lackadaisical," says Weitz. "Even if I don't have to work on music, I should get up and have a productive day in terms of helping my family. My kid keeps my work ethic sharp."
It was a slow climb, he goes on to say. That ended up being for the best in a time when young bands often fail to hold onto early success. Animal Collective's devout following was small in the beginning. The band used to play to a couple hundred and still only average a few thousand today, but the shows are intricate and trippy as can be. Live performances are sonically and visually arousing. Discombobulated, yet cohesive. The band draws from all decades, so it makes sense they are compared to bands of yesteryear.
Pavement, the Grateful Dead, the Beach Boys. Usually when modern bands are compared to that group, it's by a blog that is overreaching. Not so when it comes to Animal Collective. Last year saw the release of Centipede Hz. The album is not MPP Pt. 2. The band doesn't rest on their laurels. Instead they try to blast music that is era-less back through your headphones.
"That was kinda the goal from the beginning in terms of the style," says Weitz, "it wasn't necessarily to be a part of the discussion."
"Pretty early on, we talked about liking psychedelic music and wanting to make it, but not making it sound dated. That'd be antithetical to what the spirit of that music was in the '60s." Watch the Gaspar Noé-directed video for the instant classic "Applesauce" and you get the sense that the guys would have been really popular with the LSD crowd.
One thing that separates Weitz from a lot of the bands back then is that he is firmly rooted in reality. Things like climate change, family and engaging in his city are important as he gets older. After being raised in Philadelphia, then living in Baltimore, New York City and now the Capitol, Weitz isn't sure exactly how to best engage in his surroundings, but he knows his family is in a good spot at the moment.
"[Moving to D.C.] was one of those moments where I was just like, 'Fuck it, I'll just do it.' My parents live up the road, my wife's parents live up the road," Weitz says. Even rockstars love free babysitting. Good food, too. They love good food. So, Weitz invested in a friend's restaurant just so he would have a reason to stop complaining about the local restaurant selection. Getting up and moving away isn't really an option anymore. Interacting is the way to go these days. Weitz credits his background to developing his work ethic and he considers Rock City to be one of the places that produces the kind of people that make a difference.
"Philadelphia is a pretty blue-collar town that has a strong identity. People from Detroit feel like that, too. Same with Baltimore. They're working-class towns," he says. "I feel like that plays a really big part in a city's culture."
Catch Animal Collective at ROMT as they add their sound to our culture for one-night only, but add memories to our collective culture for a lifetime. | RDW
Animal Collective wsg Dan Deacon • 3/15, 8:00 p.m. • Royal Oak Music Theatre • 318 W.Fourth Street, Royal Oak • 248.399.2980 • royaloakmusictheatre.com • $25 - $45