PET SOUNDZ: Animal Collective Waves The Freak Flag
LA DOLCE VITA: Simone Pets Panda Bear
Dear Phawker Friends,
This is foreign correspondent Simone Secci speaking. I’m back in Italy — I left Philly, the States and a promising career in food preparation in a quiet Philadelphia suburb for outrageously expensive Rome and an outrageously unorganized Italian university, to achieve a useless degree in cinema studies. So even here in the tiny little boot, where everybody in South Philly thinks we’re all Sicilian, we get to have indie rock shows and at one of this shows I got the opportunity to meet ANIMAL COLLECTIVE’s Noah Lennox aka Panda Bear.
PHAWKER: How are you?
PANDA BEAR: Pretty good thank you, last night we played in this place a little bit outside Venice and it went pretty well, lots of people came to talk with us after the show.
PHAWKER: Listening to the new record, Strawberry Jam, I had the feeling it has two separate souls: One more pop, meaning songs with a more traditional structure, and another one more experimental. What do you think about it?
PANDA BEAR: Well, I can see what you mean with that. If I think about a song like “Chores,” I can see that some songs sound more experimental, but they have anyway a defined structure as well as some others that sound more pop. We wrote the record in a lot of different places, so that’s why it sounds a little bit all over the place, but for example in terms of the lyrics I feel like this is the album that has a more united theme structure.
PHAKWER: How is it difficult to keep a style people can recognize, changing your direction very often as well as arrangements and line up?
PANDA BEAR: Not really. We write our music in a very spontaneous way, without any predefined idea. It’s not something really mental, you know? We just work on the songs really hard until we’re happy with what we have and that’s basically it. When a song doesn’t work we all know it. In those cases you just have to start again thinking about the song and how to solve the problems that can come out. It’s not something easy to explain because as I said it’s a very natural process.
PHAWKER: Speaking which, I always asked myself the reason of all the line up changes, even though the people playing in the band are always the same?
PANDA BEAR: We’ve always been friends together, and we’ve always respected each others’ choices, like going to school and other things happening in moments of our life and that was never a problem for us to accept that kind of things. This is the way we have always collaborated and made music together.
PHAWKER: Do you think that had ever influenced the music somehow?
PANDA BEAR: You mean the presence of some people in the band?
PANDA BEAR: I’m sure it did. I couldn’t say how but it’s pretty obvious it did. We are all individuals with a very strong musical personality — like in this tour for example, Josh is not with us and I think I can feel that in the sound of the band. He has a very strong and defined style when he plays guitar, and I think you can hear that, his absence I mean . . . but it’s a positive thing because this is the way has always been and it has always been a characteristic of the band.
PHAWKER: Let?s talk about what happened when you found out that some of the songs of the new album where available for download on the peer-to-peer websites. Did that change your point of view about the whole downloading thing?
PANDA BEAR: Not really. You can’t really stop the technology, you know? I was just disappointed these people couldn’t listen to the whole album the way we recorded. Also downloading mp3s, it kills that entire process of excitement of waiting for the record to be out and then buying it and having a physical object in your hands, with the artwork and everything. But the idea behind the band is transmitting the music to the people and I think it reached them this way so I’m not gonna cry for the downloading. I downloaded music in the past, it can be useful you can find a lot of rare stuff.
PHAWKER: I think it’s also the results of how in the last 15 years the major companies had pushed the price of the records to the limit, without really proposing anything interesting.
PANDA BEAR: Yeah that surely contributes to it but I don’t think you can really force the people to listen to certain things and I think that lately had come out a new willingness to listen to different things. It’s not so drastic as in the ’90s, they pass from hair metal to listen to much more interesting things like Nirvana, but you can see it. A band, a phenomenon like that didn’t happen yet, maybe one of our friend’s band we really hope they will have that success.
PHAWKER: Are you able to live off your music at the moment?
PANDA BEAR: Yeah, now we’re able to support ourselves and our families with the music and I’m really happy about it. It’s probably something that influenced the sound of the new album a little. We are more relaxed, I feel the sound is a little less aggressive than in the past.
PHAWKER: Recently speaking with Chris Leo from The Vague Angels, we were talking about the fact that now since it’s pretty much impossible to live off the profits of the records, people play more for passion in a more pure way, since the most part of the people can’t live off their music.
PANDA BEAR: Maybe that’s true. For us the most part of the earning comes from playing live. I’m sure that there are a lot of bands around really passionate about their music that are just trying to make the best music they possibly can.
PHAWKER: Well that was enough for me. Thanks, Noah, it was great talking with you.
PANDA BEAR: Thanks to you. Was great talking about music with you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Simone is from Italy, and as such English is his second language. While he doesn’t always use it the “right” way, he usually gets where he wants to go. As a service to our English-speaking readers, we will run his reviews in larger type to simulate talking LOUD…AND…SLOWLY.