Noah Lennox of Panda Bear and Animal Collective fame was nice enough to answer a couple questions for us by email. Below the fold, he touches on a new family life in Lisbon, the success of Person Pitch, and his thoughts on the music industry. Josh wrote an introductory post here. Thanks, Noah!
Loaded question, but how’s Portugal treating you? And the married life, and fatherhood? It’s a big lifestyle change…
portugal is treating me very well i should say and i really like it here. i love my wife and i love my daughter, but as with anything really worthwhile they’re not without their challenges and difficult parts and i mean that in the best way. the little differences add up here i would say, but its not like everything is different if you know what i mean. i was in new york the last week or so and it was pretty crazy noticing just how i felt day to day there compared to here.
Person Pitch has an entirely different sound than Young Prayer, and I know that trying to make it a more positive album was a conscious thing, but was there any particular inspiration for that? Do you think this was a product of living in Lisbon and/or the family life?
yes i would say so, but its kind of hard to trace, and hard to quantify if you know what i mean. trying to be more positive on the simplest level and on the smallest scale is something i’ve been concerned with for a bit. i suppose living here in lisbon helped out with the process and my wife for sure too, but i think i started a while ago like before portugal. i guess i just want to say that i don’t think of portugal as an end to everyones problems.
I read somewhere that Person Pitch was the first album you did entirely electronically. What was the creative process like? Is it something you’d like to try again?
my process was the same for every song and it involved a lot of testing and trial and error and tinkering and listening maybe most of all. i listened to the repetitions of the song parts over and over again until the singing parts began to appear inside me if you know what i mean. i was always working on the jams in animal collective breaks and i would never work on something unless i felt like it and i think that had a positive effect on the sounds for sure. if i started to play music and didn’t do anything i liked then i’d stop and do something else. that was pretty often i should say, and the good times for music making for me go in waves so i’ll do nothing i like for a while like a week or so, and then i’ll have three days or so where i like my ideas about things almost every day.
There’s been a lot of comparison by critics with your vocals and the textured… psychedelia to Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. Is that likeness something intentional? How do you feel about the comparison?
it wasn’t anything intentional and i’d like to always be doing things in my own way if i can, and i don’t have any desire to copy or mimic if you know what i mean. you could say it’s impossible not to steal somehow, but thats a long conversation for sure. hearing the comparisons a lot (its happened a bunch with animal collective as well) only makes me feel disappointed in myself mostly and makes me want to try harder the next time.
You sang in a choir as a teenager, which comes through in your ethereal yet angelic harmonies. What was that like, and what kind of impact does it have on your music?
i had a lot of fun singing in the choir, even though it was difficult sometimes. it was an after school thing and it wasn’t just students, sometimes it was just people in town as well who were psyched on choir singing. it’s hard to put my finger on the influence but it think i safely can say that it made me think about combinations of melodies and harmonies and just about the way things fit together in new ways.
I’d imagine 2007 was a huge year; Person Pitch and Strawberry Jam are both huge successes and I’m sure breakthrough for you. Is that critical acclaim and the expectations that come with it stressful?
sometimes i guess, but i feel more stress and pressure to provide for my family more than anything else and that comes just from me. i don’t mean to make it sound like my wife or daughter hassles me about it, but that pressure guides a lot of my decisions i should say, and the way i approach things. for example i think i worked quite a bit harder on the person pitch jams and was far more willing to spend lots of time touring as a direct result of the pressure i’m talking about. things balance out too–i’d imagine lots of people will blast the next one if i do one and thats ok.
Anything new in the works?
i’ve been doing a lot of thinking about making new songs, but haven’t really put any of it into action. i’ve got titles and i know pretty much the setup ill use and i think thats a really good start, and i’m excited i should say.
Another loaded question, but what do you think about music blogs sharing a couple tracks, the music industry as a whole, and about Radiohead and Trent Reznor/Niggy Tardust’s sales and distribution model? Is it something you think could work with smaller, but equally dedicated audiences? Is it something you’d like to try?
it is something i’d be psyched to try, and i’ve thought about trying to set up something where if i make a song or an album then someone can buy it cheaply from me directly as soon as i’m done it. i don’t like all the waiting and strategy and all of that, although i understand why its important for labels and distributors and that kind of thing. i’m excited about new models and new ways of sharing and releasing music, and i’d imagine that sooner or later someone will come up with a new system and a new way of releasing music that will become the standard (because it seems like the traditional method is breaking down all over the place). i suppose time will only tell if the radiohead and trent reznor jams will be the new way or not but perhaps.
Anything in particular that you’ve you’ve been listening to much of recently?
i really like black dices load blown album, it make me feel intense and charged if you know what i mean.
thanks very much for the interview and i hope you are very good today.