The three members of Animal Collective are squeezed into a Skype frame when I ask them about their favorite dinosaurs. Dave “Avey Tare” Portner’s answer is instant: the Ankylosaurus, a nasty-looking quadrupedal with dozens of spikes stuck to its back. Brian “Geologist” Weitz settles on the Parasaurolophus, a horned herbivore. Noah “Panda Bear” Lennox stays silent. It feels silly to push the issue.
Dinosaurs are integral to next month’s Painting With, the band’s first new record in nearly four years. It was recorded at Los Angeles’ EastWest Studios, where no shortage of savants—including the Beach Boys, Frank Sinatra, and Michael Jackson—have made some of their most memorable music. Unsurprisingly, Animal Collective found a way to put their own twist on the hallowed locale. They brought in a baby pool. They dimmed the lights and lit candles. And they projected dinosaurs onto the walls, creating what Portner calls a “prehistoric” vibe, whirling the group millions of years into the past. “It started to mess with me a little bit,” admits Weitz, noting that the band pulled 12 hour days for more than a month; after a week of the intense schedule and setting, he began allotting 20 minutes a day to go outside and see the sun.