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Interview: Panda Bear

Posted by Joe Lazar on March 2, 2007

By Joe Lazar 

Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) is gearing up for the release of Person Pitch, his third studio album. He took a break from making magical music, to talk to us. He describes the difference between Young Prayer and Person Pitch, the best Wu-Tang solo album, and of course an Animal Collective update.

Headless Ponch: It is very fun to place a specific sound with your music. I think it sounds like Brian Wilson got lost on an island with Ewoks. How would you describe your music?

Panda Bear: It is hard for me to describe to people for sure especially my mothers friends or friends of my family and people like that who maybe aren’t familiar at all with a lot of the music that I get excited about. I usually wind up saying its rock music as that seems to end the conversation and everyone seems pretty satisfied with that answer. If i get into talking about experimental music and dance music and dub music it just raises eyebrows and I feel like I just get strange sideways glances and that kind of thing and that never makes me feel very good. I suppose these days I’d say I’m making electronic pop music. It’s pretty bland and superficial and is for sure a lame way to talk about what im doing but its pretty neutral and i feel like it would provide a pretty accurate picture for most people.

Ponch: Why are you having such a small tour in support of Person Pitch? You have people in other places that are dying to see you.

Panda Bear: It’s mostly because I don’t have a lot of time in between working with Animal Collective and being with my family. I feel like I have enough trouble just with the AC and trying to make sure I’m representing in my family and being there for them if you know what I mean. I don’t know exactly what my schedule will be like later on in the year and if I can I will try and go everywhere for sure. I feel bad about it I should say and I know I’m letting people down and I don’t like that.

Ponch: Now Young Prayer was a homage to your passing father correct? RIP to your father, and the music showcased that vibe. It was all acoustic, and minimalist to the ‘T’. Since then you have gotten married and had a kid. Person Pitch is extremely vibrant and to me seems like the music showcases this new turn in your life. Do you cite these new parts of your life as a big influence to Person Pitch? And how much has being a father and a husband impacted your recording career?

Panda Bear: Yes for sure it has and in so many ways. I’d say the most important change was in my work ethic and how intensely strict I got about trying to get good sounds and good mixes and good vocal takes and those kinds of things. I used to be way more into winging it performance and production wise like I didn’t care so much about audio mistakes (hiss noise pops cut outs) and faults and things like that and I would very rarely spend more than one sitting on writing or recording a song. But the heavy routines that the kid demands and overall the massive amount of responsibility that she’s brought to me have undoubtedly changed my habits all over the place and I found I was much more willing to spend up to a month or so on one song (I think I’m talking about the longer ones like Bros and Carrots mostly). And sometimes I’d take out certain parts I had done, feeling that they weren’t working in a way I thought was nice and I’d try something else. I was never that kind of person before the little girl. As far as subject matter goes for the album my wife and daughter were very inspirational no doubt.
When we had the kid I thought I was prepared, like a spent a lot of time psyching myself up for it. I was really scared at first for sure. When she was born it was like an explosion mentally and emotionally for me and in a lot of ways I still don’t feel like I’ve harnessed it fully and perhaps I won’t ever and that’s ok and maybe thats the way it goes. I feel like there’s fashions in which its changed me that I can’t identify and don’t understand quite yet.

Ponch: Does your daughter dig your tunes?

Panda Bear: Sometimes I can tell she gets into it but to be fair I don’t think I’ve played much of my jams for her, like I haven’t sat her down and been like so check this out and tell me what you think. Maybe I will a little later on. She does really get into music with heavy rhythms like modern hip hop and r and b and that sort of thing. Her eyes light up quite a bit and sometimes she’ll look at me like whoa. Maybe my jams aren’t slamming enough for her I don’t know. Maybe I’ll aim for that kind of thing the next time around.

Ponch: Can you give us an update on the next Animal Collective record?

Panda Bear: I can tell you a little but I’m not allowed to reveal much I should say. The recording session went well and we worked every day of 30 except for one. There are more songs than will fit on one album so well have to choose from a group and those choices will define the way the album sounds, like there’s a bunch of pretty different sounding songs that we’ve got. We all had a good time out in the desert and I miss the endless sensations of space out there.

Ponch: Now we are going to the homestretch of the interview, and to the Headless Ponch patented section Quick Hits. I will ask a question, and you fire back with a quick answer.

Panda Bear: Ok I’m ready…..

Ponch: What person or persons in the current scene of music exemplifies your definition of cool?

Panda Bear: Jonathan Richman

Ponch: I believe it was on Paw Tracks that it stated it hoped Person Pitch would be put alongside the classics of a few artists, but I remember Ghostface specifically. Now I’m a diehard Wu-Tang fan. What do you believe is the best Wu-Tang solo album?

Panda Bear: Raekwon — Only Built 4 Cuban Linx

Ponch: Your favorite album of all-time?

Panda Bear: King Tubby — Roots of Dub. I don’t think this is really my favorite ever, but it’s the first one that came into my head and I’m trying to do the thing right, so there it is.

Ponch: Thank you for doing the interview, Noah.

Panda Bear: Thank you very much for wanting to talk to me about the music I make.

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2 Responses to “Interview: Panda Bear”

  1. […] If you haven’t heard Panda Bear’s new Person Pitch album you are missing out. Check out Comfy in Nautica (LISTEN). While you are at it check out a recent interview at Headless Ponch. […]

  2. […] Interview with Panda Bear […]

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