Experimental pop dog David Portner – AKA Avey Tare – has wowed us from his seat in Animal Collective, his collaborations with Angel Deradoorian and Kría Brekkan, and his solo outputs. We threw him some questions about new solo album Eucalyptus.
In your album letter, you mention several beautiful places in America, particularly in the west, where you created this record. Why did you call it Eucalyptus, a tree we associate very much with Australia?
You could say eucalyptus migrated to California from Australia. I’ve always thought parts of Australia reminded me of California. It’s funny to think of a plant catching a ride from humans and moving, and also of a time when there wasn’t eucalyptus in California. I think the way an environment changes marks a time that’s transient and it is a lot like how music changes time and space. I think a lot of what I’m writing about on the album is the changes that happen in life, and in space and time. Like eucalyptus suddenly growing in California or the many plants that were introduced to Hawaii from outside places. Things die and grow, things travel, things mutate. I wanted the music to feel like that too: like something that comes and changes the environment, and that you can inhabit as well for a short time, and then it’s over.
Where did you learn about the astonishing solar/lunar coral cycles mentioned in Coral Lords’ opening monologue?
The passage spoken on the record is from a piece my friend Colin Foord wrote about coral. That’s actually him speaking. He studies its nature, and is also involved heavily in the conservation of coral (specifically in Miami where he lives) via an art video project he has with his friend Jared McKay. Its called Coral Morphalogic. Animal Collective actually collaborated with them this past winter at an event in Miami. As you probably know, our Earth’s reefs and coral are in serious danger. This change or degradation could affect the ocean and our planet quite seriously. We are living in very interesting but often frightening times.
That speech also says “The purpose of life is to quantify the nature of the cosmos itself.” Does this mean not just understand, but measure and record?
It definitely seems as though that is the human way, yes.
Did you make field recordings and compile them into a big digital tome to draw from?
I do that often. Usually the recordings I make are grouped into a certain era that matches a time in my life. A lot of these recordings were made in Hawaii, and Florida and Califonia. The album has a very coastal feeling to me.
There’s a honking sound on Melody Unfair which could be a goose and it could be your heel rubbing against the bottom of the bathtub or it could be electronic. Is there deliberate ambiguity in these sounds?
It’s always a challenge to make certain sounds feel organic and not too mechanical. I feel like it has as much to do with the sounds as how they are worked into, and groove with, the other instruments. I’ve always liked acoustic sounds that sound electronic. The majority of the instruments on the record are acoustic so I think I was definitely going for that ambiguity, yeah.
What made you move from the boingy jaw harp into the very contemplative acoustic guitar drone halfway through DR aw one for J?
I kind of view this record as my attempt at making some sort of personal Americana or even world folk lore music, and yet also documenting emotions and circumstances in my life. I associate the jaw harp and similar sounds with American folk music and African folk music. I wanted the record to feel like a collage of those elements. The drone part of the song is a spiritual hymn of sorts. It’s dedicated to Dylan Rieder and my aunt Jackie Baetz, hence their initials DR and J being a part of the title. They both passed away last year unfortunately.
Do the two Lunch(es) Out Of Order have any reference to William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch?
No but it’s interesting that you mention Burroughs because I am very interested in his tape recorder and cut and paste techniques. You could say there is a bit of that in this record.
Eucalyptus is out July 28 via Domino.