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Animal Collective's Panda Bear

Panda Bear encapsulates the blissful sound of summer with this latest offering and brings to mind the softer side of surf-pop

Noah Lennox is a household name in leftfield experimentalism and arguably one of the most significant musical protagonists of our generation. A leading light in contemporary psychedelic pop, he is to us what Syd Barrett and Brian Eno were to those before us, an understated genius who has garnered praise both as a solo artist and as an integral member of Animal Collective. His musical heritage has its roots in electronic artists, an influence which becomes apparent on listening to records like ‘Person Pitch’. Although there is also a sense of delicate melancholia which resonates throughout his work, demonstrated best by his 2004 album ‘Young Prayer’. Like Primal Scream and Radiohead, Lennox bridges the gap between electronics and guitars, uniting the two seemingly disparate worlds using both synthetic and authentic instrumentation. In his prolific career he has released some four LPs under the Panda Bear moniker and eight albums with Animal Collective. Mixed with Pete Kember of Spectrum/Spaceman 3, this fourth solo album is a subtle nod to 60s psych-pop, bursting with gorgeous choral harmonies, shimmering electronics and beachy samples.

Dazed Digital: What mindset were in when writing ‘Tomboy’?
Noah Lennox:
I feel like I was in between a lot of things and not quite sure which way to go. I still kind of feel that way to be honest.

DD: How do you feel that the album compares sonically to Person Pitch?

Noah Lennox: It’s similar in some ways but it sounds a lot more focused and condensed to me. The mood of ‘Tomboy’ is way different too.

DD: Have you got a preferred piece of equipment?    
Noah Lennox: I do usually but it’s changing all the time too. I haven’t really figured out what the new thing will be yet.

DD: Where do you source your samples from and have you got a most treasured find?
Noah Lennox: I get a lot of things just from looking around on the internet. Some songs though have just stayed in my mind for a long time as things that would be good for sampling. Or little parts of songs will stick in my mind as good passages to sample.

DD: How do you think that your sound has changed since the beginning?
Noah Lennox: It’s gone a little bit all over. Singing wise I don’t know that things have changed all that much although I’ve got into different ways of singing. I used to sing a lot lower and then I got into more whispery high singing and now I guess I’m somewhere in between.

DD: Who designed your single artwork and how much emphasis do you place on covermounts?
Noah Lennox: I care a lot about artwork.  A lot of the time it’s the first impression of the music if you know what I mean. My friend Scott Mou did all the artwork for tomboy and the singles. I make music with Scott in a band called Jane.

DD: You set up Paw Tracks. Can you offer any advice about running your own record label?
Noah Lennox: Just stay psyched about what you’re working on and with. I’d say the skill of understanding people and managing personalities (including your own) is a very important skill in any trade.

DD: Are there artists at the moment that you’re keen to release on the label?
Noah Lennox: Not that I can think of but of course they’re there somewhere. Typically we’ll only work with people who we’ve had some personal contact with though I should say.

DD: What do you make of the ‘hypnagogic’ pop tag that has been banded about?
Noah Lennox: I’ve seen the word but I’m not really sure what it means. I understand the point of labelling and I understand how it can be exciting to categorize but I don’t like to mess with that kind of thing much.

DD: What was the first record you ever bought?
Noah Lennox: I think it was ‘Flood’ by They Might Be Giants.

NL: What is your musical vision and what do you hope to achieve with your music?
Noah Lennox: I’d like to make something that means something to me in the hopes that it might mean something to someone else.

DD: Finally...If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
Noah Lennox: I feel like I’ve already been really lucky to make music with great people. Collaboration makes me nervous too but I think that’s more an issue of confidence on my end.

Photo by Brian DeRan