Spotlight on Animal Collective -- EW explores the strange world of indie rock's oddball quartet

Animal Collective aren’t really a glossy-magazine kind of band. In person, they radiate a bemused I-don’t-give-an-eff-about-the-Man indifference to most topics, from whether their new album is accessible (”Even our label was like, I think this one’s gonna be a little tough for people to swallow”) to the wider exposure this glossy magazine might provide (”Maybe we’ve read it before at, um, the dentist’s office”).

Luckily, EW is not so easily put off. At least not by bands that have gone and made — despite, perhaps, their best efforts — a seventh album (the giddy psych-folk noisefest Feels, out Oct. 18 on Fat Cat) that is both artistically fearless and enchantingly accessible. And it turns out the group (singer-guitarist Josh Dibb, singer-guitarist Dave Portner, drummer Noah Lennox, and Brian Weitz on ”electronics”), all friends since their school days in Baltimore and now scattered from Lisbon to Paris to D.C., are actually pretty good sports.

EW has brought them to Manhattan’s cavernous Abracadabra Superstore, mistakenly believing that costumery is a big part of who they are. In fact, says Lennox, the masks, furry animal heads, and other props they’ve been known to wear on stage were actually only ”to help us feel more comfortable, and get beyond the ‘look at us as performers’ ego thing.” Still, Portner takes to a creepy rockabilly-Reagan headpiece immediately, and Lennox looks surprisingly fetching in his lavender Harajuku Girl wig. Maybe not an ideal match for the swooping, organic sprawl of Feels‘ fanciful forest-sprite melodies, but still gratifyingly weird. On the way out, an enthusiastic employee points to the store’s Wall of Fame (Keith Richards, Tim Robbins, an Apprentice castoff) and asks, ”Are you guys famous too?” The band demurs, but soon they’re smiling gamely for his camera. Maybe they’re even starting to get used to it.