Avey Tare Talks Slasher Flicks
It couldn’t have been easy being Dave Portner aka Avey Tare this time last year, sitting around the house, afflicted with a series of throat-infections that forced him to cancel show after show of Animal Collective dates on their Centipede Hz album tour. But rather than stewing, Tare channeled the energy into a creative zone where, with acoustic guitar in hand, he penned song sketches for his next vision: a jazz-inspired trio set to the surreal aura of horror soundtracks called Slasher Flicks. The new bands’ fascinating debut album, Enter The Slasher House, is a departure from the vibe of Tare’s last solo-album Down There; a darker work that largely consisted of Tare working his way through a divorce with abrasive soundscapes.
Though Slasher House contains much of Tare’s trademark darkness, despite its playful hints at horror, the album is a more upbeat carnival-esque trip to the fun house. And like all of Tare’s output, the material is a trip to be sure – a shape shifting one that is at once frightening, funky, intense, and often bewitching, as in the infectiously danceable Little Fang, or the mellow haunting beauty of Modern Days E. It’s a lot to process on the first time through and so much is to be gained with repeated listening before the effects of Slasher Flicks fully kick in – especially if you experience the album alongside the hypnotic Halloween visuals of Portner’s long-time visual collaborator (and sibling) Abby Portner.
Perhaps the most exciting thing of all about Slasher Flicks is that it offers Tare the first chance to play small venues since Animal Collective were touring Feels. As a fan, getting to see Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, visuals and all, in such venues as Lee’s Palace in Toronto this Saturday (and for $15 no less?!) is a rare treat that more than makes up for the Centipede Hz cancellations. Just hours before taking the stage for their first Slasher House gig in Denver, CO, Avey Tare was kind enough to speak over the phone about the events that led up to the tour and many other subjects.
Aside from playing a few preliminary Slasher Flicks shows last year, how are you feeling on the onset of a brand new tour with a brand new band?
We’re excited! Last year’s shows were really just to feel out what it would be like to play with each other and sort of just get used to that. We’re really just starting to get to know the songs too and since we’re playing pretty much just the songs off that record for the shows, we now know them a lot better. So it opens up these other easier doors for different things to happen. It’s going to be a fun tour.
What would you say are the more striking differences with a solo outfit as opposed to your work in Animal Collective? Not that Slasher Flicks is entirely a solo thing.
Right right, well, I just think it’s different people playing too, I think there’s a little bit of getting used to for me, playing with Jeremy [Hyman] and Angel [Deradoorian] compared to being so used to playing with Animal Collective. They have very different styles of playing and how we practice and it’s something we’re all pretty comfortable with. It wasn’t too difficult, but you know you can just tell the playing is different, which is good.
What were Angel and Jeremy’s reactions when you first sent them the Slasher Flicks demo way back when?
They were excited. I think Jeremy felt they were more intense songs than he really heard from me before. He thought they were more intense than Animal Collective. I think they were just excited to get into it and really thought that it was a band that we could make them something even fresher with.
Do you feel it’s more intense or darker material?
I wouldn’t say it’s darker. A bit of my dark side usually just kind of comes out a lot in the stuff I write, even if it’s a more poppy kind of song with something particularly dark or down tempo in it…but I definitely wanted something more upbeat. I feel like in the past few years or so – you know since like 2012 or something – working on the last Animal Collective record into working on this stuff, I think there’s a mood and it’s been very transitional, for me at least. From where I’m at, I think this collection of songs kind of marks the end of a certain style of stuff I’ll be doing for a while which I’d say is a little bit more aggressive.
So are you starting to feel a bit more chilled in your life or at least less aggressive?
Yes, I think it’s just been a weird last few years for me, and a little bit darker and just learning a lot about myself and going through a lot of changes and just accepting and dealing with it. But I think in the past year, and this year especially, has been a big turning point for me and it feels like I’ve let a lot of that stuff go at this point.
What would you say are the consistent elements of your music that have stuck with you since you first started playing?
I think having songs move around a lot, not necessarily always going A-B,A-B. I like to think of songs that start in one place and move to the next, and the next, and also shift in emotion. I also have a collage style that I’ve always liked.
When you find yourself with a melody, what makes you categorize a groove as appropriate for Animal Collective versus other solo possibilities?
I guess it’s thinking how people will play the song or how it would be produced. Then there’s other times where I’ll think Animal Collective would never play a song like or it just doesn’t make sense. But I feel like when I start to write songs, I start to think of them as a collection of songs. Usually I’ll talk with the dudes from Animal Collective about different ideas and see if something fits in with a record we would make. Or this doesn’t really fit in with that. Or maybe I’m thinking I’ll play a very specific instrument for a certain record, or I would write a song and know I could never play that instrument [with Animal Collective] so I know it’s something else.
Animal Collective haven’t played clubs the size of Lee’s Palace here in Toronto for 7 or 8 years, is there a back-to-roots feeling about playing in a new band and taking chances?
Oh yeah, I mean it’s a little nerve-wracking cause I haven’t really built much of a reputation with my own stuff. I don’t expect everybody that likes Animal Collective to like this stuff because it’s all different. It’s different compared to the last record I did on my own, so you know, like who’s even going to come out to the show? (Laughter) But in terms of playing smaller venues, I love it. I think it’s cool to be able to connect with crowds in that way still and to have this opportunity to do it so I like it a lot. I’m looking forward to it.
You’ve been working with your sister Abby [Portner] on visuals for most of your career – most recently the epic video that accompanied Enter The Slasher House’s album stream – given that you guys are literally coming from the same place, what kind of conversations take place at the beginning of each collaboration?
Well, it’s like when I work with anybody, you know, there’s very specific reasons I like their stuff and really it’s mostly just me wanting them to do their thing and do the best they possibly can. I think visually though it can be tough because I always see music as so visual anyways so often I’ll have a certain ideas, some specific visuals, but that more comes into play when I feel like people do stuff that I don’t really like. But for the most part, especially with someone like Abby who I’ve collaborated with for a long time now, she’s easy to have a dialogue with. If something’s not working, I can guide it in another direction that feels a little bit better. But mostly, I – and with Animal Collective – trust her with what she’s doing.