Just listening to the new Animal Collective on repeat, it's pretty much all I do here, but I don't think it's such a bad thing, I mean there are certainly worse things to be doing with my time, like watching BIG BROTHER or something like that, or biking real far to an art gallery opening just for the free booze and when you get there you find out that a glass of wine is $5, shit. At least there was free cheese. Anyway, here's an interview with Panda Bear aka Noah Lennox aka the maker of the best freakin' album you could imagine apart from maybe the new Animal Collective (his other - main? - band). This was done in April 07. CHECK IT:
Person Pitch took a reasonable amount of time to make. Have you been reading many reviews of it?
Yeah, I’ve seen a bunch of them. There’s a lot of stuff online that I’ve been reading.
Did any of these surprise you much?
The whole level of attention the album received was really super surprising to me. That’s not to say that I thought the album was bad, but what I expected was that I thought it would do just a little bit better than Young Prayer. But I certainly didn’t expect it to get a whole lot of attention.
Do you think it is doing better than Young Prayer because of the whole happier tone of it?
It’s definitely a lot easier to swallow than Young Prayer was, I guess that’s why I thought it would do a little bit better.
It all sounds quite carefree to me; and I find that big thing that comes through is a sense of instinctiveness. I was wondering just how naturally the album came in the making to you?
It was pretty natural, as you say. I think it helped that I was only working in little bits, just in my free time, and I didn’t have any deadlines or anything. So it was always kind of a relaxed atmosphere, I was working from home so there was always a mellow vibe going on. I should also say that after the last one which was so intense, and where the subject matter was so serious, it was definitely a conscious decision on my part to try and do something that I felt was way more casual and didn’t take itself too seriously. Overall, and on the most basic level, I just wanted the music to be just positive on any level, for somebody when they were listening to it, and for me making it too.
I think the change in sounds from Young Prayer to Person Pitch is at least a little bit reflective of what I’ve gone through the past couple of years. I feel like I’ve bee a much happier person overall and its something I’ve definitely worked on. I guess I’m always working on being a happier person; I suppose everyone is in different ways.
So was the whole album recorded in Lisbon? I feel weird knowing all this stuff like how you got married and had a child.
[laughs] Yeah it was all recorded in Lisbon.
From what I hear it’s a pretty chilled out place. It’s funny how the whole idea of the ‘casual’ in your music seems so apt. Even though there are so many sounds going on in the record it still just sounds so laid back. There’s a certain rhythmic spontaneity that comes through for me. I was listening to this record by The Field just before I came here, this techno record, and one of the tracks really reminded me of one of the tracks on Person Pitch; ‘Bros’ maybe. Have you heard that record?
Yeah for sure. I’ve heard a lot of those jams. I feel like dance music on the production side of things, as well as dub music (which kind of has its own place in the lineage of dance production); those were the two most influential things for me when I was thinking about it, and in terms of the production of the album.
I was wondering what it was in particular what you liked about dance music and DJ culture?
I think the biggest thing is I get really psyched on being in a club with lots of people dancing and the music sounding really loud and feeling the bass really heavy and in yr body. It’s a special way to experience music and I really like that sort of environment a lot. I guess my dream for the album was that it would be played in that sort of environment. I don't really think it will be, but that was what I really wanted.
It’s funny, because I find it a very uplifting record to hear. I think it’s the rhythmic element of the record that makes me want to move around or dance.
Yeah, well it’s funny that you say that because I have that sensation too, like when I was making it I wanted to kind of move around. It’s the rhythms of it or something about that, but it’s like, my body can’t do that; I cant move that way!
It’s this urge to dance but yeah, I don't know how yr meant to move to that sound.
In terms of dance music and how it relates to that, I think it’s the repetitions of everything and how monotonous the loops are in a way. To me, it harkens back to that sort of music, dance music and that sort of format.
You put a couple of tracks out on 12” single, is that to do with that too?
Yeah that was definitely a direct influence of dance culture, the way things are produced.
Are you much of a dancer yourself?
I’m not, no, unless I’m in a room by myself at home. I’m not much of a public dancer, I should say. But every once in a while, if I’m drunk enough [laughs]
I’m glad you feel the sensation of that as well, though. Because there was one time in Sydney when the Animal Collective played and me and my friend couldn't contain ourselves and danced fairly ridiculously during the whole set and then this guy was like 'DUDE CAN YOU GUYZ STAY STILL I'M JUST TRYING TO WATCH THE BAND; GOSH. And I was like (in my head) 'DUDE YR NOT GETTIN' IT'.
I want everybody to have a good time; I mean I can sort of see his point of view but I’m kind of bummed out that he wasn’t in to it in that way. I’m always kind of dancing in my own weird way up on stage, I must look like a moron for sure.
Do you still play most of the drums in Animal Collective now?
Yeah, that’s still my main role in the band by default.
A lot of articles and music press say that you’re the most melodic member of the group. Would you say that’s fair enough?
I wouldn’t really agree with that actually. I mean Dave certainly writes most of the songs and I feel like his is the strongest voice in the band by far. So I don't think its accurate to say that im like the melodic or the pop side of the band at all. More recently I’ve written more songs for the band but still I feel like the bulk of it is his jams.
Right. But with your solo stuff, have you been playing much of that live?
Yeah, I have, here and there over the past two years. I did one small European tour with Ariel Pink and then I’ve played maybe about five times in the past couple of years here in Lisbon. I played twice in the UK about a month ago. I did this one here recently that was at this like African disco, and that was so sweet; I had a really good time at that one. And also a couple of days ago I played at my wife’s fashion show. It was on the roof of this mall, it was really intense.
What sort of stuff does she design?
She’s a designer who makes pieces that are all unique. She really cranks it out, too. It’s pretty surreal and weird on a certain level. I think her stuff is unique because it’s kind of casual and comfortable but weird at the same time. It’s like something that yr not used to seeing.
It’s funny that yr describing these clothes like that because you could probably say that exact thing about Person Pitch.
Totally. It’s weird; we talk a lot about our places in our respective fields and there are so many similarities in our own places in terms of what everyone else is doing. Or how we feel like we fit in, or don't fit in to things.
Did it all work at this fashion show, yr music?
Yeah I think it really worked well, and she seemed to think so as well. It felt good to me. We spent a while picking the different songs I would use. I took a lot of the songs off Person Pitch and cut them up and put them together with other songs. They were all mainly the more subdued jams. It’s nice to play in the fashion show setting; I’d done it a couple of times previously. It’s nice not to be the focus of attention in a way.
So how do you react to playing solo and just being up there on your own?
It’s kind of nerve racking really, because if I make any kind of mistake it’s really obvious, because there’s no one else making sound except for me. The system I’ve got is just two samplers and singing; if I hit the button at the wrong time its really noticeable. I practice pretty heavily to limit those events. I guess I do pretty good with it, but it’s definitely something I get more nervous about compared to the Animal Collective shows.
Were you nervous about releasing yr album?
Not really. Maybe I would’ve been if I thought people wre going to care about it. At the time though, it was sort of the leak on the internet that made people pay attention to it. Before that, though, I thought it would do just a little bit better than Young Prayer.
Are you planning on staying in Lisbon for the near future?
Yeah, I should say that my wife and I are totally happy here. I was definitely concerned about how it was going to work but its turned out in a really positive way. It hasn’t really seemed to be a problem so far. At least for now, I think we’re totally satisfied and happy being here.
You were just in Arizona recording with Animal Collective. Did you find that the way you made music there was a lot different to making it in Lisbon?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, we had written all the songs and we knew pretty much exactly what we were going to do before we got there; there wasn’t much of a songwriting process going on. It was so much more of a formal experience in terms of recording. It was way more organized with the band. And it followed a more strict path, whereas on my own I could just do whatever I want, I didn’t have any deadlines, it was kind of more…well, to use the word casual again.
I was about to mention that word again myself. But its strange, because it all sounds so dense as well, you can tell that a lot of work has gone into it. I was wondering where you dug up all the samples from.
They’re all off the Internet. Almost all of them, something like 95% I just got from free sound FX sites and things like that. I’m kind of psyched about it being this real digital, internet age sort of album. And at first, I was like, ‘I’m definitely not going to release this on vinyl’. But now lots of people have been asking about it’s vinyl release so we probably will.