Fans of Animal Collective won't be surprised to hear that "ODDSAC," the movie the band made with director Danny Perez that's getting its local premiere Saturday night at the Senator Theatre, is about as far removed from a conventional concert film as possible.
"I really don't like to use the word ‘film' too much; it kind of carries with it some expectations," band member Brian Weitz, who grew up in Lutherville, says from his Washington home. "It doesn't have any narrative, doesn't have any dialogue. On the other hand, it's not a purely abstract film."
So what then, exactly, is it? Well, it's just under an hour long, took about three years to complete and features all new music by the band. The origins of the film's name, Wietz says, have been lost to obscurity, something about Gummi animals and a possible marketing strategy. "We don't remember the story exactly," he says. "Somewhere in the conversation, the word ‘ODDSAC' was said, and we liked the sound of it."
A 30-second trailer, viewable on youtube.com, contains fleeting images of faces and other indiscernible objects, most looking as if they're on fire. Reviews from limited earlier showings talk about walls bleeding black tar, torch-wielding villagers and marshmallows that eat people.
Weitz, known in Animal Collective parlance as Geologist, isn't saying much more — save to note that, like the experimental rock on last year's "Merriweather Post Pavilion" that has garnered the band heaps of critical praise and a loyal following, "ODDSAC" determinedly follows its own path.
"We usually don't like to give too much away before people see it," he says. "We kind of approached it the way we approach making our records — it's a collection of little clips and bits. The music has some songs, some more ambient sound-design parts. It's kind of like a collection, and the visuals are an element, in the same way a musical element of a song would be."
Maryland Film Festival head Jed Dietz, who saw "ODDSAC" at the Sundance Film Festival in January, endorses the film enthusiastically, invoking the name of a revered 1960s shlock- and gore-meister in singing its praises.
"I loved it," Dietz says. "It's like Herschell Gordon Lewis done through a food blender."
"ODDSAC," Weitz says, was a true collaborative effort between Perez and the band — so collaborative, in fact, that it's impossible to say which came first, the music or the images. One begat the other, he says, and vice versa.
"We were trying to do it as simultaneous as possible," he says. "Danny would send us very rough cuts of the parts of the footage he liked the most and start to think about how he could put them into scenes. And we would respond with pretty simple musical demos, and send it back to him. And then, based on what we would do, he would start thinking about how he would change the scene further. It was kind of a back-and-forth process."
The idea for "ODDSAC," Wietz says, came hard on the heels of a suggestion that Animal Collective, four guys who grew up in the Baltimore area and attended the Park School, put together a documentary or concert film. The guys were not interested in putting themselves out there in the way a documentary would demand, he says, but were intrigued by the idea of a concert film.
"We brought Danny on the road to shoot some live footage," he says, "and talked about ways that maybe we would make it a little different. We talked about ideas for videos we've had over the years that we've never had the chance to do — we were talking about doing those as these little segues between the live footage. Eventually, we were like, ‘Why are we even doing the live footage? It's not even exciting to us.' "
Set to be released on DVD this summer, "ODDSAC" represents Animal Collective's total planned output for 2010. After years of touring and writing songs, the band members are eager to be sedentary for a while. "Some of us have families at home and stuff," Weitz says. "This year is definitely about staying home with the wives and kids."
If you go
"ODDSAC," starring and featuring music by Animal Collective, gets its Maryland premiere Saturday night at the Senator Theatre, 5904 York Road. Director Danny Perez and band member Brian Weitz will be in attendance. Showtime is 8 p.m. and tickets are $15. Call 410-435-8338 or go to senator.com.