How Spiders, Telepathy and Broadcast Singer Trish Keenan Inspired Animal Collective’s New Album
David Portner: It’s always been fun for us to see how scared Noah is of spiders.
NL: Spiders and old hags and pigmen.
DP: It’s a very guttural reaction.
Brian Weitz: The highest altar boy note you’ve ever heard Noah sing? The cry is much higher than that.
DP: Brown recluse spiders have always been on the radar. They grew up a lot in Maryland, and I had family members bitten by them. But then they came back into all of our lives, en masse, when I moved to North Carolina. And for that time we were in Tennessee…
Josh Dibb: …they were everywhere.
DP: They were in Brian’s bathtub.
BW: They were crawling out of my drain, and I was picking them up to take a shower. And they were also in our equipment. The last day we went to pack our bags, dozens and dozens…
NL: …just scattered.
BW: I made myself little by little, we think. In my pants. It itched and looked like a big circle with a small hole in it. But they also became my spiritual guide for the record, because they have the violin on their back; their other name is the violin spider. David played me a recording while we were in Tennessee it led me to play the hurdy-gurdy, which is kind of like a fiddle. To play the hurdy-gurdy, you have to learn how to spin cotton around the strings, and with the idea of spinning cotton and spinning webs, I began to feel like the spiders seemed to be connected d one way or another.
Also, when we came home during the pandemic and started recording, my family ended up with a tarantula. My daughter was in first grade and they had one in class. But since the school was closed, there was no one to take care of it. So I volunteered. It is always with us. The school did not claim it.
I had to learn how to feed a tarantula, because it knows the difference between too big prey and too small prey. You can’t just grab a cockroach in your hand and throw it in there, because they’ll feel the vibrations even though they can’t really see, and it’s just become a metaphor for feeling each other …
NL: … vibrations.
DP: But also, we just released some live songs which we did at the Music Box in New Orleans, and one of the songs was called “Spider Bit My Lady”. It came from the early stages of writing these songs. To me, it was actually more like a metaphor for poisoning America, but it definitely carried over to all those spiders.
JD: The Music Box Village is this collaboration with different artists where they build structures that you can walk into that are instruments themselves, like an entire house built out of all the handmade chimes that are all tuned differently. When I was there in 2015 they did it in a pop-up fashion with outside artists culminating in a performance. I was part of it, very peripherally, when Arto Lindsay arrived. Solange was one of them. She had a much more important role!