Panda Bear Talks the Sonics of Tomboy
Published Apr 11, 2011Aside from his work with Animal Collective, Noah Lennox has enjoyed major acclaim for his solo work under the Panda Bear moniker. In 2007, the project exploded with the release of the sampler-infused Person Pitch LP. Tomboy, his long-awaited third album, has been in the works for three years and finally sees release this week.
Speaking with Exclaim!, Lennox explains that he went to great lengths to avoid repeating himself. "I had gotten sort of tired of using the sampler set-up and I just felt like maybe if I kept writing songs like that it would just kind of not be that interesting," he says. "I just felt like it was kind of the lame thing to do, just keep doing that. The very first thing I thought about was the kind of equipment set-up I would use for the songs. So that was the very first step for sure."
With that in mind, Lennox started toying with new audio configurations. "I was into the idea of using a guitar to trigger a synthesizer of some sort, or a sequencer," he recalls. "I'm not really a good enough guitar player because you've got to be really precise with just the way that whole thing works. It wasn't really going so well, or I wasn't really producing the results that were really any good. And then I saw -- I sort of just got psyched about using the guitar just normally but feeding it through -- like I wanted everything to go through this one sort of brain and that ended up being this sequencer box... The foundation of almost every song, and this was by design, was drums sequenced on the machine, the guitar being filtered through effects in the machine and then vocals. I thought of it as a triangle or a pyramid. That's how, sonically, I wanted all the songs to be."
Another key element in developing Tomboy's sound was the addition of Spacemen 3 member Sonic Boom (aka Peter Kember). After becoming friends over email, Kember was enrolled to mix the album as a matter of circumstance. "Originally, I intended to mix the album with Dave and Josh from Animal Collective [but] because I sort of took so long to finish everything those plans fell through," Lennox recalls. "When I finally knew that that wasn't going to happen anymore, the very next day Sonic wrote to me about ATP, I think it was, and it just kind of suddenly seemed like the most natural thing, so I asked him if he would do it and he was down."
From there, Kember's role in the album deepened. "We spent the next couple of weeks talking about the songs and about the album," Lennox says. "He really wanted to know everything, like all the lyrics, he wanted to hear every mix I'd ever done of every song and we really went really deep before we even started mixing stuff... I think it was kind of like: 'Are you cool if I do whatever I want with it?' Or like: 'Is it cool if I hear little things and I add stuff?' And I was like, 'Yeah, whatever is best for the song.'"
Tomboy will be released tomorrow (April 12) via Paw Tracks. Starting tomorrow, you can also stream the album here on Exclaim.ca.