Exclusive Abby Portner Interview!
Author: kayla
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Words: Patrick O'dell
Photos: Atiba

Tell me about your Altamont collaboration designs? Where did the inspiration come from? Is it for Halloween?
Most of the drawings I do, that aren’t Animal Collective related, are of kids and monsters. So these shirts are a continuation of that. I do really like Halloween but its more the idea of when you’re a kid monsters are scary and real to you, but when you grow up you lose that innocence. When you see someone in a mask as a kid, just like if you go to Disneyland and see Mickey, you think they are real. These shirts reference that more than the actual holiday. I always think, “What if we never lost this … how weird the world would be.”

Are you excited about Halloween? What are you gonna go as?
I do love Halloween but I’m not sure what I’m going to be this year. I will be in Utrecht on tour. It won't be as intense as an LA Halloween.

Besides the current collab, you did other stuff for us in the past ...
Yeah, a pocket tee, a pattern square shirt and a trucker hat.

How did the initial collab come about?
Andrew Reynolds saw the pattern that's on the square shirt and took it in to an Altamont meeting, so I guess that's how it came about. Then they asked for more patterns, so we came up with the pocket tee design. The trucker hat just got thrown in … I've never done a hat before. We should do a pattern beanie. I also want to do a button-up pattern.

What kind of pattern?
Something like plaid, but hand drawn, so you can see its watercolor plaid.

You are from Baltimore? The city?
No the suburbs … the country. So we didn't grow up in The Wire. I moved to New York in '99 to go to Parsons. I lived in Brooklyn Heights. My brother moved there in '98. Eventually Noah, Josh, Dave and I all lived together in Brooklyn Heights.

And they started Animal Collective?
They started a band way before that, when we were all still in Baltimore, when I was in eighth grade I think. Josh and Noah grew up together. Dave and Brian grew up together. Dave wrote music on his own and needed a drummer, so Josh introduced him to Noah, and that's when they started playing. I was doing posters for their Baltimore shows when I was in high school. And all the posters for their early shows in New York, which I want to find, that were with Gang Gang Dance, The Rapture and Black Dice. I want to put all the old posters together and make a book. I did their masks too then. Dave wore a black goggle mask and Noah wore a hood. In Baltimore they covered themselves with blood. I did that stuff for them. I did their t-shirts back then too, and they never wanted their name on them, so people never wanted to buy them [laughs].

So they're merch T-shirts didn't say "Animal Collective" on them?
My brother and I were just talking about this. They were the craziest shirts, with really gnarly colors. Turquoise and hot pink and black writing you couldn't read—scribble. Kids would get really bummed out that they didn't say "Animal Collective." The shirts never noticeably said their name until recently. We saw this dude on the last tour that had one of them.

How did you go from doing poster art to three-dimensional art?
At Parsons I did sculpture and installations. Every two months I would do an installation in my studio and then take it down and do another. And Dave used to do the music for them, which he eventually put out on Fat Cat. He would make ambient sounds and I would build creatures based on the sounds. So it just kept going from there to doing their live stage stuff like I have for their current tour. We've always kind of worked back and forth.

Does he get bummed if you do art for another band?
Ahhh … a little bit [laughs]. He'll never say it, but I think it's a little bit touchy. I've been asked and I've turned some stuff down. It’s hard because I represent Animal Collective. You can't look at my art and not think of Animal Collective and vise-versa. So it’s hard to do art for another band.

Art, installation and you also do music, is it all the same?
Yes, it’s all the same. I do video stuff too, which makes it even more similar.

Watercolors, sculptures, videos and music; you should do a perfume.
Or food … food or a scent or an oil. I think it’s all the same. I try to keep it all the same. The stuff I did for Altamont is even similar to the music I make. I try to keep the same vibe and the same reason I'm making it. I think the only thing I do that is “work” is the stuff I do for Jim Henson. It’s more like you are there to be a fabricator. With my music I try to have the same dark vibe as my drawings and I try to have visual things on stage with me to tie it together.

See Abby's Altamont video here.
Shop Abby's collection here.