Animal Collective's Panda Bear on new album, ATP fest and more: An exclusive Music Mix Q and A
This year marks the 10th anniversary of All Tomorrow’s Parties, the annual alt-bro bonanza curated by invite-only artists like Thurston Moore, Belle & Sebastian, and Matt Groening (yes, that one).
The Flaming Lips have been anointed the deciders for the 2009 U.S. lineup, taking place in New York’s Catskill mountains this September 11-13 (ticket link here!), and they’ve selected quite a smorgasbord: Headliners include Sufjan Stevens, Animal Collective, the Jesus Lizard, Iron & Wine, Panda Bear, Shellac, the Boredoms, Super Furry Animal, Deerhoof, and of course, the Lips themselves.
Only one man, however, is so nice they booked him twice: Noah Lennox, a.k.a. Panda Bear, of both psych-pastiche champions Animal Collective and his own much-lauded solo output. From his home in Portugal, the Maryland native talks with EW exclusively about his double duties at the upcoming fest, work on the long-awaited follow-up to Person Pitch, and why Sade’s Love Deluxe is the jam.
Entertainment Weekly: Are you ATP experienced, or will this be your first time? Who are you most excited to see?
Panda Bear: We played ATP in the U.K. a year or so ago. It was nice and the vibe around seemed sweet, but I remember we had to go right after we played because it was the start of a tour for us. I’m actually not the kind of person who goes to see music all that often, and I’d say that has a lot to do with the fact that I’m doing it so much or thinking about it so much that when I’m not involved in it, I’d rather be away from it if I can. I feel like it’s kind of a lame answer, but the things I’m most into at the ATP coming up are the performances by people that I know at least a little bit. So: No Age, Atlas Sound, Grouper, Black Dice, Four Tet and Oneida. Besides those bands, I’d be psyched to see the Boredoms, Boris, and Deerhoof.
EW: What’s different for you about playing a festival show, versus regular tour dates?
PB: A lot is different! A lot of it is kind of hard to talk about, because it involves the mood of the festival and the kind of overriding attitude of the thing. I feel like that kind of thing affects me really hard. Regular club shows are typically a more relaxed and routine thing — at least the setup and all that. I mean, the parameters for a club show are pretty familiar at this point, at least for the most recent songs — once we do new songs, that will change to a degree. The festival is a much more foreign and wild environment, and it feels very much more every man for himself. I think we’ve done them quite a bit this year, to the point where we’ve figured some things out so that they’re more mellow, but I think the wild cards still exist, if you know what I mean.
EW: Is the one-off-ness of it something that changes the content or quality of the show for you?
PB: Not intentionally so, but I think for sure sometimes our festival shows have been not so good — and by that I mean principally that we didnt sound or perform as we’d like to.
EW: So what can fans expect from your ATP sets — say, what might be different from your recent shows in Brooklyn?
PB: the Animal Collective one will be similar to what we’ve done over the past year or so. We had really wanted to do some totally new things, or at least songs from the record that we hadn,t really played live just yet, but ran out of time to really make it happen. The Panda Bear one will be similar in setup to what I did for all the Person Pitch shows. I guess I’m considering this the final Person Pitch performance — I feel like its been so long and I don’t feel good doing those songs any more after this.
EW: So of course we have to ask, what’s the status of the follow-up to Person Pitch? There was word that it wouldn’t be completed until the current AnCo tour was finished, but now that you guys have pretty much wrapped that up, are you turning back to it again? Will there possibly be new songs in your ATP set?
PB: I’ve spent all the time since the last one was released thinking about new songs and new equipment and new ways of doing songs for me, but I haven’t recorded anything I feel good about releasing just yet. My plan is to begin recording after the ATP shows — so late September I suppose I’ll really get started. There are some new songs in the set for me and some songs from Person Pitch that I didn’t play live when I did the release shows and before then, but I don’t think I’ll keep them as I’ll play them for the record down the road.
EW: What have you been listening to lately? Where do most of your new music discoveries tend to come from — friends and bandmates? Internet spelunking? Are there certain sources you return to?
PB: Most of it comes from friends, and bandmates in particular, but the internet plays a part for me, most definitely. I’ll go to some music blogs sometimes and see what’s going on there. I’ve been listening to Take a Picture by Margo Guryan, the Mainstreet Records 1993-199 compilation, Space Shift by Steve Spacek, Love Deluxe by Sade, Phoenix’s Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, the Fabric 45 mix by Omar S, and a bunch of other things.
EW: Now that Animal Collective has managed to become the first band to legally clear a Grateful Dead sample, what other near-impossible things would you like to achieve?
PB: I didn’t know it was supposed to be hard, actually! I didn’t know it was going to be a thing at all, but I’m glad it happened, and I’m glad he [the Dead’s Phil Lesh] was into the track, for sure. But I’d like to think that nothing is impossible, as cheesy as that sounds.
More from EW’s Music Mix: