Panda Bear released a brand new album, Buoys, this past week, following up his vinyl-only EP, A Day With The Homies, that dropped late last year. In a tour support the albums, he returns to San Francisco to play The Regency on Wednesday, February 20th.
Since around the time of his first album, the self-titled Panda Bear, Noah Lennox began to use that moniker; inspired by the drawing of a panda he’d made on an early tape of his material. His credits include being a founding member of the critically acclaimed band, Animal Collective. More recently, Panda Bear has transitioned to working with samples, contributing vocals, and playing a variety of instruments.
To preview his show on the 20th, we spoke with Panda Bear for a few minutes… to learn more about his songwriting, live performance elements, and favorite memories of San Francisco.
How would you describe your most common environment for songwriting?
It’s almost always the same. It’s more of an office at home at my apartment. I also share a practice space out here in Lisbon (Portugal). It’s way down in this basement. There are no windows. It’s dank and dark down there. It’s pretty unsavory, to be honest. That’s really where I’ve been writing since I moved here 15 years ago. It’s really still down there. You can hear some kind of worrying noises from the floor above. I think there’s a workshop up there. It’s super isolated and very dark, typically. That’s really my songwriting environment for the most part.
Why does family as a lyrical theme play such a significant role a lot of your music?
It’s one of the most important things to me. It kind of makes its way in there whether it’s conscious or subconscious. It’s always something I’m grasping or thinking of. I suppose it’s easy. There’s a lot going on there. It’s a very fruitful thing to think about I suppose and write about. It’s complicated. There’s a lot to draw from.
What live performance elements are you using on this tour?
I’ll be doing a similar setup that I’ve been using for six or seven years. It’s usually, I have two samplers and I’ll just mix between then. It sits in between live performance and DJ-ing, I’d wager, and I sing over the top of that. I play stems of the studio recordings most of the time. And I’ll play mostly Booey and but maybe there are a couple older songs thrown in there.
What inspired your latest material?
Sonically, it seems to reflect a lot of more contemporary stuff. I feel like this record feels more of the moment from a lot of stuff I’ve done in the past 10 years or so I guess. It’s hard to say specifics. There aren’t specific things I can point to, but it does feel like a mirror of a lot of at least on the production end more contemporary stuff.
Could you share a few of the musicians or bands you’ve been listening to recently and what has attracted you to their sound?
I get into watching a lot of producers on YouTube as they make stuff. One of my favorites is this guy Zaytoven. I think he’s from Atlanta. He’s just making stuff in his studio. Sometimes he’ll live stream it and there are YouTube videos of him making stuff. I just really enjoy seeing him put a production together. I’m not sure it’s as obvious that somebody like Zaytoven’s influence on the Buoys record. If I just sort of strip away my voice and the lyrics, I guess what I would say I bring to the table, just like the sonic kind of architecture, does feel reflective of something he might make.
What are some routines you relish when you’re not on tour?
The one that I miss most these days is walking the dog. I like to have time by myself but being with the little lady is the next best thing. I’m a real homebody though, so just being around my place and my stuff makes me feel good.
When was the last time you collaborated with someone new in the studio?
It had been so long since making something with Rusty (Santos) that our collaboration this go-round felt new to me. He and I approached the thing from disparate angles but to me that’s what’s great about collaboration. I like how working with someone else can challenge your own perspectives.
Do you have any fond memories from visiting San Francisco?
I had a great time my first time there with AC and Black Dice and the Aislers set. This would have been 2002 I think, or thereabouts. I don’t remember a whole lot beside having a great time, but I do remember there was a waterfall in the place we played at. Another fond memory I have is on a Panda Bear tour on a day off. Danny (Perez) and I went and saw Avatar together. SF reminds me so much of Lisbon; so it always feels like home.
Panda Bear with Flaccid Mojo
Presented by Goldenvoice
Wednesday, February 20th, 2019, 8:30pm
at The Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco