Slash Dance

music slasherAnimal Collective’s Avey Tare takes a stab at a new horror-inspired project

It’s been two years since Animal Collective’s last album, Centipede HZ, but singer and multi-instrumentalist Avey Tare has used his free time to ratchet up that record’s tense vibe. Tare, whose real name is David Portner, has just released Enter the Slasher House, the debut album from his project Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, formed with ex-Dirty Projectors’ Angel Deradoorian and ex-Ponytail’s Jeremy Hyman.

Enter the Slasher House sounds a bit like a stripped-down version of Centipede HZ, with Tare taking inspiration from B-movies and ’60s garage rock bands, mixed with a ’70s horror flick aesthetic. While it sounds campy, the resulting music is legitimately creepy and unsettling.

“It’s not something I feel I ever would have explored with Animal Collective, being so referential with the music I like. It was cool to be more experimental in that sense,” Portner, says. “There’s also an open-endedness to it. As much as I like that aesthetic, and I’m making it obvious with the photos we take with our press stuff, there’s this other side of music that’s like ‘you should leave it open for somebody’s imagination.’”

For a band called “Slasher Flicks,” the subtlety is surprising. They never break out into Misfits monster-movie punk tunes, or gothy Bauhaus-type songs. The horror influence is more abstract; Portner has paired the recognizably eerie sounds from ’70s horror movies with the youthful exuberance of ’60s teen garage bands, to create a driving, uncomfortable batch of songs that deal with his feelings about getting older.

“This record caught me at a weird point in my life. The songs are cathartic, in a way of getting stuff out that I felt like I needed to get out of my system—there’s a driving tension to it,” Portner says. He agrees there is a direct connection with Centipede HZ. “I feel like the last Animal Collective record was getting a darker side of things out of my system, which made that record more intense.”

Portner had been developing the ideas behind the project for a while, but found himself with more time on his hands than expected when a bout of strep throat forced him to cancel several Animal Collective shows. As he worked on material for Slasher Flicks, he had to play them really quietly to accommodate his voice—the opposite of how they ended up on the album.

“It forced a lot of those emotions out of me, which at the time had to do with touring and being in a band for so long, and now it’s a shift in age and time—I’m not in the new young band anymore,” Portner says.

His change in direction over the last couple of years is less surprising in the context of his history with Animal Collective. Sung Tongs, the record that established them in 2004, was an acoustic record that radiated a natural, organic feeling, right down to the often wordless vocal melodies which resemble animal noises more than they do people singing. They were even hailed as leaders in the “freak-folk” scene. But each album has changed up their sonic palette, and 2009’s breakthrough Merriweather Post Pavilion was completely unexpected: gorgeous Beach Boys psychedelic melodies melded with deliberately synthetic production and texturing. It’s not so much that they’ve been able to succeed in the face of constantly altering their sound; they’ve succeeded because of it.

“It definitely is encouraging to not feel like we have to worry about having hit songs,” says Portner. “A lot of what people respect about us is that we’ve done it in this other way—in the experimental nature of it.”

Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks play the Catalyst Atrium in Santa Cruz at 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 25. $15.

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