Last year was bereft of a new Animal Collective record. This year is shaping up to follow suit. However, founder and guitarist David Michael Portner, whose stage name is Avey Tare, has been hard at work. With a six-string in one hand and machete in the other, Portner is prepping to unfurl his latest project on the world.
Enter the Slasher. No, really. The Animal Collective frontman’s latest project, Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, is just about ready to sneak up and grab fans. April 8 will see the release of its debut record, “Enter the Slasher House.”
Its press shot sees Portner and his two bandmates – clad in masks, “Friday the 13th”-esque machetes in hand – submerged in a pool of blood. Its Facebook description is a brief yarn, reading, “A group of three hippies on a road trip through the backwaters of 2013’s rural music scene fall prey to a murderous cannibalistic band.”
And for anyone who pays the trio’s official website a visit, a sensory overload awaits, as the page features a bold haze of trippy colors, as well as a carnival wheel, which can be spun digitally, that appears to have been lifted from the back-woodsiest fairgrounds on earth.
But at the risk of thinking the Animal Collective founder has gone dark, Portner was quick to make the intent of the project clear.
“In terms of putting the whole record together as an album, I just started thinking about old-school haunted house fun rides that you’d do at a fair or something, and how it’s supposed to be really scary,” Portner said, “and maybe for a kid it is, on the one hand, but the effects are so cheap and everything’s like an art project.”
In the beginning of 2013, Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks began to take form. The first to come on board was girlfriend and former Dirty Projectors keyboardist Angel Deradoorian, who contributes vocals and keyboards to the trio.
“We’ve improvised before and messed around with sounds, but we’ve never really written anything,” Portner said. “So it’s just been a long time coming. I like her keyboard style and her singing’s great, so it just seemed like that was an obvious thing to do.”
The final phase of the recruiting process, described by
Portner as “more daunting,” came to be while the couple was living in Baltimore. Jeremy Hyman, an old friend of Deradoorian’s, was a drummer who Portner watched perform fairly often. The former Ponytail member’s work behind the kit caught Portner’s attention, and as the songs began to finalize, Portner said he knew he needed to be a part of the project.
Sonically, Slasher Flicks falls somewhere in the realm of psych-pop. Utilizing tripped-out, skuzzy vocals, fluttering synth, and booming, grooving drums, the songs were described by Portner as “maybe a bit more traditionally rock than anything I do with Animal Collective.” And although Portner gives films such as “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” a nod with the project’s name, he gives no credence to the film’s darkness.
“I’d almost call it psychologically manipulative art,” Portner said. “It really has the most emotional effect on me. I don’t necessarily feel like I’m trying to relate the negativity that goes into something like ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’ It’s never been a side of it that’s really interested me. But just the visual aesthetic, the kind of rough edges and the blurry lens shots. There’s just nothing else like that. And of course there’s a lot of psychedelic music that’s like that, too, especially a lot of early psychedelic music.”
In an interview with Rolling Stone, Portner said the material for “Enter the Slasher Flicks” began to manifest while he was fighting a nasty bout of illnesses, including bronchitis, throat infections and several types of fevers. He said that in order to combat the illnesses, he hashed out some music.
“I thought a lot about how the mind and the body work together, and a lot about stress and pressure,” Portner said. “Playing these songs and writing songs was just one way, besides my friends that were around me, it was the one way I had to get through it and be positive. I feel like last year was a crucial turning point for me in my life. Where I feel like the 2010 era of writing ‘Down There,’ my last record was about dwelling on this place that was stuck in my head. And I’ve had a lot of time the last few years to work through that. It’s been a long process and I feel like this [record] is sort of a real changer for me.”
Despite the band’s name and the grindhouse aesthetic, if there’s one all-encompassing motif of “Enter the Slasher House,” it’s positivity.
“Songs like ‘Outlaw’ or maybe ‘Duplex Tripper’ are in some ways a little bit darker, because they also come from a bit more of a sinister kind of, ‘Life’s gonna get you’ kind of way, which is where ‘Enter the Slasher House,’ the title, comes from,” Portner said. “But they’re also just the ends of what I’m trying to get out of my system, too, to create positivity.”
David Zisser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.