“We’re big in a very small bubble,” Weitz says. “But, yeah, I like the anonymity.”
And that anonymity is surprising, considering the blowout success of Animal Collective’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” Named after the leafy Maryland amphitheater that the band will headline Tuesday night, “Merriweather” was a triumphal gob of hallucinogenic pop music, crowned the best album of 2009 by Pitchfork, Spin and the Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop critics’ poll.
Acclaim riled the curiosity of the band’s already-ravenous admirers. Who’s behind this wondrous stuff? But Weitz, who first moved to Washington in 2004 to work on Capitol Hill, has tried to keep a certain distance, insisting that he and his bandmates are mere dudes.
“We’re just normal people,” he says, sporting the plaid shirt, jeans and sneakers to back that claim up. “But, at a certain point, you can’t hide who you are. Or the fact that I watch sports.”
Later, he’ll be watching “Project Runway” with his wife after a dinner of spinach pasta. (Homemade, hence the eggs.) It’s an easy walk back to his house near H Street NE, and en route, the 33-year-old ambles through Eastern Market’s North Hall, where dozens of toddlers have been released from their strollers for a weekly children’s music concert called Boogie Babes. Weitz says he likes to take his 2-year-old here sometimes.
The scene is chaotic, noisy and gleeful, not unlike an Animal Collective show.
Beginnings in Baltimore
When the band headlined Merriweather Post Pavilion for the first time last summer, the euphoria seemed two-fold. Facepainted hordes danced on the lawn, while the band members onstage played a dream-come-true gig. They grew up catching concerts here in the mid-’90s.
Around that same time, Weitz, Dave Portner and Josh Dibb first started crossing paths in the hallways of the Park School of Baltimore, an arts-friendly private school where Grateful Dead tie-dye was kosher with the dress code. Dibb introduced his pals to the band’s fourth member, Noah Lennox, during junior year.
By the summer of 2000, the core of the band had relocated to New York and began quietly jamming in a tiny Manhattan apartment. Weitz was studying at Columbia University, where he would earn a degree in environmental biology, and later, a master’s in public administration in environmental science and policy.
“It set you up for a career in the EPA or a government agency doing environmental policy work,” says Weitz of his graduate studies. “My goal was to do lobbying for conservation organizations.”