Behind Animal Collective's Film "Oddsac": Fire, Cults and Glitter

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After four years of furious editing, a polarizing screening at Sundance and loads of body glitter, Animal Collective's long-awaited "visual album" Oddsac is set to have its New York premiere at a handful of sold-out screenings starting tomorrow. The film, a collaboration between the celebrated avant-indie band and Philadelphia film director Danny Perez, has been shrouded in mystery since its announcement last year. Little footage has leaked, save a 30-second teaser, and initial reviews at Sundance were full of wonder and befuddlement, comparing the 53-minute piece to Stan Brakhage's epileptic edit work and Matthew Barney's haunting imagery, marveling over its haunting jumble of sad vampires, whirling fireballs, flaming heads and glittered faces.

In addition to the film, Animal Collective and Perez are collaborating on a one-day installation this Thursday, where they will be transforming New York's Guggenheim Museum's iconic rotunda into a showcase for the director's demented visuals and the band's dubby sounds. After the screening, Oddsac will spend March traveling to Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland. We caught up with Perez and Animal Collective's David "Avey Tare" Portner to talk about the making of the film, the unscrupulous nature of leak culture and why some parents are scared of them.

So, Oddsac has been in the works since 2006?
David "Avey Tare" Portner: Yeah, Danny came on tour with us at the end of 2006. We were asked to do a movie about Animal Collective, like a tour movie, by Plexi. We didn't think a documentary would do our music justice, so we brought Danny on tour to film us playing live and then do something else with it. He did film it, but we didn't actually record any of the sound. He started doing this abstract colorful stuff. We threw all these visual scenarios at Danny and he took a lot of notes.
Danny Perez, director: The first year was planning, getting money and shooting. And then it was three years of editing and tweaking. I just had this mess of footage and just wanted to come up with the best configuration possible. I probably could have worked on it for another two years, but I'm happy with it. We had multiple deadlines — we were supposed to submit to Sundance the two previous years.

From the trailer, it seems like you filmed in woods a lot.
Perez: There's a lot of daytime exteriors for sure. We actually filmed at Wing's Castles, this place in upstate New York, this castle this guy made himself out of recycled materials. This guy is this awesome, cantankerous outsider artist guy, and was a big help and big supporter. The whole time I was really nervous about rain, because we would have been really screwed. I had told Kristín [Valtýsdóttir, a.k.a. Kría Brekken] it can't rain ever. The next morning one of the grips said he saw her out in the yard playing around with some astronomy book and trying to appease the weather and control it. Sure enough it never rained the whole time.
Portner: The other stuff we shot at [AC member] Josh [Dibb]'s. Danny had hired all these kids to be in the scene. Some parents got really upset and thought we were doing some kind of cult ritual and got really concerned for their kid. One mom just took her child away. We needed this room empty for the effect of the film so we weren't letting parents come into the room. If they couldn't see they started getting really nervous.

And you appear in the movie as well?
Portner: We're up for being involved as much as we can in everything that we do. So a movie that's a visual representation of Animal Collective, it makes sense for us to be in it. I play two roles. There's a whole part where I'm amongst all these fire-spinners, we got a bunch of them. I did this march with these people spinning fire around me. I couldn't see the whole time because I had his mask on. So I was just going down blind listening to the directions to stay away from the flames.
Perez: I definitely put the guys through hell as far as some of the costumes and some of the stuff they had to go through.
Portner: I put Vaseline all over my skin, so I could adhere red glitter to my body. It was one of the worst things I've ever done. It took me so long just scraping at my skin just to get the glitter off after the shoot. It took like three hours in the shower. What a bad idea.

Everyone has been saying the movie reminds them of being on drugs.
Portner: It makes me feel like I'm on drugs. We actually had a discussion whether we'd actually want to take drugs and watch it. You might miss out on stuff because it's so subtle.
Perez: I think my approach is definitely based on different perspectives — something that would be in your peripheral and mutating that into something into the foreground. These are essentially a lot of principles people engage in when they're on drugs. But it's just another way of saying that's an intense experience.

The film hasn't leaked yet, which allows it to still maintain an aura of mystery.
Portner: That's what makes me psyched about Oddsac. Everyone gets first hand access to all recorded music now. We're taking a year off playing as Animal Collective just to write new stuff, but it's cool to still see us in a different context.
Perez: I'm just trying to do what we can to keep it low-key for now, as far as people being able to enjoy it and see it fresh. If you listen to the music on YouTube or see a shitty video… It's like, I killed myself for four years making this thing and tweaking every frame, adjusting gamma values for colors going across shots. I watch stuff on YouTube for sure. But if you wanna see it, see it; don't be such a fucking whore and download it.

No one even leaked it from Sundance?
Perez:

How is the Guggenheim installation coming along?
Perez: I'm really hating the snow. I'm in the final weekend of this and the snow is fucking up all my orders. I can't work outside and the lock of the shop is frozen. It's one adversity after another. It's the hardest thing I've ever done if we can pull it off. I've had people tell me being on my shoots is like being on drugs, so this is just wanting to bring that experience to people who don't get to come to the shoots.
Portner: It's not a lot of time to get something together, but if we approach it like an experiment, which is pretty much what it is, it will be fun.

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