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Animal Collective's Josh Dibb On Returning to the Band and Writing Their Latest Record in a Barn

Animal Collective
Animal Collective
Motormouthmedia

Here's some random, sort-of-inconsequential stuff you didn't know about Animal Collective's Josh Dibb: He was born in the city of Orange, his mom is a spiritual educator who runs "a consciousness school that teaches people how to be," his dad taught at the University of California in Santa Barbara when he was growing up.

But as the fourth on-and-off member of Animal Collective, Dibb -- along with childhood friends Noah Lennox (Panda Bear), David Portner (Avey Tare) and Brian Weitz (Geologist) -- is undoubtedly connected to Baltimore. It's where Dibb (who goes by the stage name Deakin) and his avant garde-slash-indie crossover group recorded their latest set, Centipede Hz. 

For now, Baltimore is what Dibb calls "a good transitional spot," after a few years in New York City, but in the creation of Centipede Hz, it was a central base.

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OC Weekly (Lille Bose): I heard you recorded Centipede Hz in a barn?

Josh Dibb: My mom has a few acres in the Maryland countryside, and there was a building on it from the 19th century that we tore down and rebuilt four or five years ago. It's kind of like a garage, we never recorded there but that's where we set up and wrote most of the record. We started in January and through most of March, 2011. That's when Dave and I moved back to Baltimore and Noah came over for three months with his family. We thought it was really convenient and affordable place to practice and write," he said.

So did going back home influence the band creatively?

Definitely. We're really into letting the environment we're in inform what we're doing, whatever that is. A lot of times where we're going to record is what we think about -- what landscape the studio will be in like in terms of howit's going to affect things...but in other ways the more significant influence for us was just having the three month period where we were all in the same place and working together everyday. That was the first time we really had that going on since 2005, since Noah moved to Portugal. It's been a really long time, before we recorded Feels. So that was the significant writing influence.

How so?

In some aspects it was nostalgic and familiar; we've all grown a lot but some things never change. The way we relate to each other, our sense of humor and being around each other regularly re-emphasizes that clubhouse feeling we definitely had when we were younger. But in other ways we are very different people than we were then. We've all done a lot of growing and changing.

You weren't part of [the creation of Animal Collective's most successful album], Merriweather Post Pavilion. Was it difficult going back into the studio with the band for this album?

The process of sitting out of an Animal Collective record isn't new to me; I wasn't part of Sung Tongs and Spirit They're Gone, Spirit They've Vanished. We'd actually gotten a chance to do studio stuff during the years I was taking off; I was part of [Animal Collective's visual album/film] Oddsac, so there was a lot of stuff that kept us linked creatively. 
I just didn't know how long the sitting out time would be so by the time it came to start writing again I was really excited about doing it. The break was longer than I thought it would be on some level so it was really fun for me to get back to that environment, and on that level of intensity.

Why did you take a break from the band?

I took the break for personal reasons; I felt that it wasn't healthy for me to be touring so much and I felt like taking a break to re-engage my creativity in music on my own terms without feeling like it was being driven by the energy of the four of us. So that was really wise and after that it was really just a new open world. A lot of things seemed possible and I started doing solo shows and pushing my music out more.

There was some controversy about you creating a Kickstarter campaign for a trip to Mali... [people complained that Dibbs hasn't delivered the photographs, CDs, art books or other material promised to Kickstarter project supporters]

I'm absolutely still working on the album [made in] Mali. The part that 's been challenging to me and the people who contributed money is that I thought I would be able to immediately come back and immediately be satisfied with what I was doing. When I'm working on my own and not working with a group it's easier for me to [ get really hung up on the details] ... well, I'm not satisfied, basically. If it's going to be my first solo record I want to make sure it's going to be something that 100 percent I'm proud about. It's been a really long process, but that's stills something I'm very focused on.  

So you've been working on your solo music the same time you started writing Centipede Hz. How did you separate the two projects in your head?

The only think I've only really worked on with that question is the song I did for centipede, "Wide Eyed." It's hard to say [how to separate them]. I was looking at a list of songs around the time we were going to go into recording and that was one that I had written a few weeks before. I really liked the energy of it, and the movement of it fit a lot of the ideas of how we wanted this record to feel and how we wanted it to sound, so it made a lot of sense to try it.

What was discussed during those initial conversations about how you wanted Centipede to feel?

 We talked about the type of energy we wanted it to have. We wanted it to be hyper-energized because we felt like we spent a lot of time that was more ethereal and we wanted to do something more gritty and earthy and really direct. That was one of the big things for us. A big thing for us was focusing on single vocals rather than spending a lot of time doing a lot of harmonies and multiple voices. We wanted to be really like if Dave's singing a song, you're just hearing his voice. The movement of songs is something we talked about a lot, too; the word centipede came up a lot as a visual representation of something with a lot of tiny parts moving in a lot of different directions ... we weren't sure it was going to be called that, but we didn't think it would be the actual title til a year later."

Animal Collective performs Sunday, Sept. 23, at the Hollywood Bowl.

Follow us on Twitter @OCWeeklyMusic and like us on Facebook at Heard Mentality.

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