Everyone remembers the first time they heard Animal Collective; it’s a transformative experience. From the aquatic dreaminess of Merriweather Post Pavillion to the carefully sequenced Feels, the group’s music consistently challenges the way music can be played and arranged. Their newest album, Painting With, released Friday, is surprisingly punchier and more concise than past albums, and PEOPLE recently caught up with Avey Tare about recording in L.A., the band’s new app, and which Golden Girl he would be.
Before your album was released, it was also streamed at the Baltimore Airport this past Thanksgiving. What was that like?
It felt good to have an idea and to be able to see it through, no matter what the outcome. We really had no expectations in terms of where playing it at the airport would lead. If only one person noticed, I would have felt happy. So just the fact that anyone noticed at all was cool for us. It seems like everything is about the Internet and computers these days, which of course is interesting. But for us it’s important to keep in mind other environments and realities that music and specifically our music can be heard in.
How is Painting With different from past albums?
The songs on average are a lot shorter and punchier, and the reverb has been more or less taken away except for choice moments. The vocal effects have been traded in for more personal vocal arrangements. These are key differences. I think people are criticizing it a lot for missing the magic or themes that are in some of our older records. In terms of the magic and our enthusiasm, I can assure everyone that it’s still there, though I understand the music that is presented is a bit different. At this point in our lives though, we are pretty different people from the guys who made Feels ten years ago. I can’t imagine why anyone would expect us to keep playing with the same themes and sounds. As a musician or artist, that seems so boring to me. I can understand the appeal of more “dreamy” washy-sounding records but it almost seems like that is every band’s go-to sound these days. A lot of records that we like from the ’60s and ’70s don’t have that quality and so I think that’s a reason we wanted to experiment with this sound.
After working together for so long, how do you challenge yourself to create something new?
I think it’s just that we love making music so much that it always seems like there’s something new to explore. I love being in a studio and writing songs, and those are basic challenges to begin with. But also feeling like we are making music that we would want to listen to, that other people will understand as well. That’s part of the challenge, too.
You also had Colin Stetson, who has worked with Arcade Fire and Tom Waits, contribute to "FloriDada." What was it like collaborating with him?
We’ve been a fan of Colin’s music for some years now and the idea came up of putting sax in a song. He seemed like the perfect person to ask to play because he seems to approach the sound of his instrument in a similar way to how we approach ours – hoping to achieve some sort of new or different sound in the end.
What made you want to sample dialogue from Golden Girls at the beginning of "Golden Gal?"
The song hints at my friend’s experience with that show growing up and how it affected her so I thought it was fitting.
Which Golden Girl are you?
[laughs] I’m Ma.
What was it like recording this album in L.A.?
Well, L.A. is home for me, so that was the biggest difference. I was against it at first, ’cause I like to be away from familiar things [when I’m recording] like my friends and my house, but now I can’t imagine us doing it anywhere else. EastWest is also an amazing studio. I feel fortunate to have been able to record there.
You also created an app called Painting With, which is a collaborative tool that allows you to create an image with someone else in real time. What inspired you to create the app?
For me, it was basically about getting the Animal Collective fan community to interact with each other. I felt like since we were calling our record Painting With, it made sense to create something that would bring us and our fans together.