CULTURE
Avey Tare Is a Human Microdose: An Interview with the Animal Collective Co-Founder
The avant-garde pop god discusses the ‘60s country music and micrograms of LSD that helped shape his new album, “Cows on Hourglass Pond.”
Published on March 28, 2019

Photos by Cody Lynch

Beneath a lemon tree in a backyard in Silverlake, Avey Tare is telling me about microdosing. Not the kind of microdosing my friends do, where they take too much and are actually just on acid all the time. Rather, the Animal Collective co-founder (né Dave Portner) has been embracing the kind that expands concentrative ability, specifically during the recording of his new solo album, Cows on Hourglass Pond (out now on Domino Records). He’s dosing it right. Well... at least he thinks so. “I don’t really know the technical amount, but I get it on sugar cubes. So I imagine one hit per sugar cube, which would be like 90 micrograms or something?” 

Cows on Hourglass Pond is its own kind of microdose, a snapshot of a particular phase within the artist’s 20-year career that highlights his pioneering brand of psychedelia. Tracks like “Our Little Chapter” undulate between classic Avey sounds, where bittersweet lyrics meet lilting melodies, whereas the more unexpected tunes, like “K.C. Yours,” feature twangy overtones that point to his newfound love of ‘60s country. Pair that with a meditative acceptance of his past and present life — likely aided by his move to Asheville — and it’s his best solo album to date. 

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Since Animal Collective debuted in 2000 with Spirit They’ve Gone, Spirit They’ve Vanished — written entirely by Portner, and considered to be more of a solo project than an AC album — he’s pushed the boundaries of psychedelic pop, weaving sonic tapestries with the goal of creating a communal, engaging energy. Think of the ethos-oriented vibe like a punk show, but without the aggression. Whether recording under the (now massive) umbrella of Animal Collective, as a solo artist, or in collaborative projects with lovers and friends (Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, Terrestrial Tones), every song comes from a specific, intimate place.

The aural environments Portner created for 2016’s Down There, and 2017’s Eucalyptus were decidedly darker, which he says was a reaction to turbulence in his life stemming from AC’s hectic tour schedule. He’s been feeling serene after relocating to Asheville, though, and that tranquil energy is immediately noticeable on the latest LP. On “What’s the Goodside” he coos, “We’re getting old now,” symbolic of the overall buoyancy throughout the album’s 45 minutes. 

“It’s the first record I’ve done alone where I felt grounded,” he says, looking healthy in the late morning sun, his brown hair loose, still tousled from the night before. On top of discussing his general contentment with life, the artist chatted with MERRY JANE about all things Cows, his recent embrace of outlaw country, and, of course, acid. 

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Lindsay MaHarry
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Lindsay MaHarry is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in Vice, The Observer, Bullett, Gawker, Fanzine, and others. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
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