interviews - feb 2005
As part of the Animal Collective, Panda Bear has been a part of a group of a
group who have released some of the most interesting music of recent years.
Following the death of his father he decided to step out on his own in order
to address how this huge lose in his life was effecting him. The result was
the album ĎYoung Prayerí, a sparse and emotive album rooted in mood and the
changing of atmospheres. After touring the UK with label mate Ariel Pink,
Tasty forced a few questions Panda Bear's way to find out more about this
thoughtful artist and the album in question.
"Young Prayer" is obviously very personal in that it deals with your
feelings towards the death of your father. With this in mind were you
nervous as to what peopleís reactions would be to it? Are bad reviews of
this more hurtful than of other material?
No not really at least not for me. I used to get really upset when id read
reviews where people said how what I or we were doing was really shitty.
Some people take it a little far I guess and they get personally nasty and I
feel like thatís totally uncalled for. But these days I donít care much one
way or another. I always get fired up if I read something bad but these days
I get over it after like five minutes or something. People have told me
really great things about young prayer too so I guess I choose to remember
those things if I can. Across the board I suppose I try and look on the
bright side and try to focus on whets good and helpful and not the other way
around if you know what I mean.
Prayer" can at times feel quite abstract and ethereal. Was this a
conscientious decision or did it just come about through the albums writing
and recording? Was there a certain feeling or sound you were chasing with
No I donít know that I was really trying for anything. well I did want
something that was fresh and new for me and I always want to challenge
myself and my thoughts and my mind and soul and shit. I wanted to write in a
new way or at least a different way and I wanted to sing stuff that was more
complex or harder or more intense if you know what Iím saying. I would say
that the mood of it and the sound just sort of came out and came about
because of what I was feeling and going through or whatever at the time.
Do you see
the album as a tribute/ remembrance to your father or a sort of vent for
Most definitely a tribute sort of thing for my father. I wanted to cheer him
up if I could once he got sick. He knew he was going to die within the year
or something and thatís pretty fucked up. I canít imagine what that must
have felt like. I was trying to thank him too for all the stuff he taught me
and that was a lot. if I made a record where I was like Iím so depressed and
look how bummed I am I would want to kick my own ass if you know what Iím
saying. that seems kind of silly and indulgent. I guess I know lots of
people feel thatís what young prayer is and I suppose I knew it would be
that way but it doesnít bother me much. You can only do your thing and feel
good about it and once itís out of your hands its public property as far as
Iím concerned and you can spit on it if youíd like.
Is it to be
a one off solo project for Panda bear or can we expect further offerings?
I think ill keep making jams. I have some time on my hands these days and I
canít stop making music really because its one of my favourite things to do
so Iím pretty sure ill keep making songs. I imagine some day I wonít tour
anymore and ill just make recordings. sometimes I wish I could do that right
now but everything has its time I would say. I just did a tour with Ariel
and the boys like greckles and slice and john maus and they were all super
sweet. I was playing all new songs that were more fun kind of sugary jams
and definitely Lisbon inspired songs and ill probably record those this
summer so maybe a new record this winter.
There is a
lack of traditional English language in the album and its vocals have more
of a chant like quality too them. This seems to have left it a rather open
album. Was this deliberate and do you welcome people bringing their own
meanings to it?
I do certainly welcome people bringing their own thoughts and feelings into
it. Definitely. Iím psyched on that. but there are words and I am singing
English. I know it doesnít sound like it but the foundation of the whole
thing is the words. I wrote the words first and set up everything else
according to the words. I was going to put all the words in the liner notes
at first but then I thought that was too heavy and too personal and maybe
not for everyone else so I took them out. But I set a
little melody to every line of prose and then stuck them all together and
thatís why it sounds all fragmented and meandering. I sort of like that
though. Itís not the sort of thing I imagine anyone would listen to very
often. I would hope its more like a holiday if you know what I mean. Itís
only once a year or so but it fills the spirit with special feelings that
are forgotten for various reasons the rest of the year.
You have a
UK tour coming up. Are you nervous as to what the
UK's reaction will be to the material?
Well I played all new songs and people seemed to like them ok at least most
places. There was a guy in
who I saw reviewed the show but I donít think he even listened to young
prayer because he said I played that and I definitely didnít. He also said I
used a laptop and I would never do that on stage so heís all mixed up
anyway. That was a terrible show though and I guess I apologise to anyone
there. It wasnít what I wanted it to be that night for sure. Lots of tall
pretty girls danced in Paris. They seemed to like it.
when choosing your alias, why pick the Panda Bear? Are you also aware that
Panda Bears sometimes wee up trees whilst doing a handstand to mark their
No I didnít know that but its pretty sweet. I used to draw pandas on my tape
covers when I was making eight track jams when I was 14 and 17 and 18 and
stuff. Pandas are my favourite animal. They are warm and nice and cool but
theyíll fuck you up if you mess with them. Iíd like to be like that. I can
do a pretty good handstand sometimes. I can jump through my leg too.
Thanks very much for the interview and I hope
you are doing very well. Please take good care. Noah
Ariel Pinkís Haunted Graffiti
Ariel Pinkís latest album ĎThe Doldrumísí was a lo-fi wonder, as honest as
it was sinister and with it this pop gem Ariel Pink has been brought in to
the wider public conscience. With an album that seems to encourage you to
ask a whole host of questions it seemed only natural that Tasty try and
extract some facts form the man via the power of questioning.
You are the
first person to be signed to the Paw Tracks label who isnĻt a member of the
animal collective. This must be quite a privilege? How did it come about?
Well, I gave them 2 of my CD's when I met them at their show in LA, June
2003. I only got to know them on a personal level after they wrote me to say
they were interested in putting something out.
ĎThe Doldrumsí was originally a CD-R you used to give out free to people, is
that correct? Did you ever expect it to be snapped up by a label and released proper?
Well, it wasn't exactly 'snapped' up; I proposed the doldrums for release on
paw-tracks. Probably because I NEVER expected it would ever be picked up, or
discovered in a legitimate light. They considered it for a while and
eventually gave Todd (carpark, pawtrack guy) the go ahead. Yes, I used to
give it out free to people and still do (all releases) but not necessarily-
I didn't promote doldrums so in all likelihood I sold more of those
PERSONALLY than I needed to any other release.
seems to be garnering lots of positive press. Was this a shock at all?
You kidding? Such a total shock. Never EVER expected this at all. I
suppose I have Paw-tracks to thank. Itís amazing. 5 years after the fact,
and this album is competing in the
as U2. Not sales-wise of course. Itís been getting both good and bad press,
but any press is good press, like they say.
percussive noises on the album are created with your mouth. Why choose to
create them this way rather than with traditional percussion or a drum
I never learned how to use a drum machine. I
haven't the coordination to play real drums as I hear them. Itís really a
last resort! But it actually works for me. Itís the most instinctual part
of the whole recording process actually and Iíve gotten very good at it.
Not without reservations of course - the lack of variety in tambres
frustrates me to no end. These days I do incorporate extraneous percussion
sources to vary up the songs. Back when I recorded the doldrums, I was
still more or less trouble shooting, feeling my way as I went. That goes
for all aspects of playing and Recording. I think it was seminal and
transitory; I certainly couldn't pull it off the
today, even if I were inclined.
obviously have an ear for a pop hook. Why were you drawn to almost muffling/
hiding these moments a lot of the time throughout the album instead of
embracing it and making a more accessible album?
I over-do everything, and I don't know exactly why. Overzealous lack of
control. Impatient to get results. Attention deficit disorder to the MAX.
God knows when I listen to it today I wanna completely give it a make over.
But that can happen later. Iím glad it came out in spite of it all. More
important to get something new going....
compositions often sound quite raw and almost spur of the moment. How much
planning actually goes in to the composition of a track?
Not enough planning. I have no way of scoring my songs when I hear them
initially. They are shifty amorphous approximations at every step of the
processes. Itís by no means, off the cuff or careless - quite the opposite.
it's even more tedious than normal because once I put down one track I
generally need to "jam" with it on every instrument, recording over with
every take in a sort of controlled-improvisation - it's basically a push to
find the perfect (or minimum) performance on all 8 tracks, to maximize the
urgency and vitality of a given tune. And I make so many incidentals
(better known as 'mistakes") along the way that Iím forced to consolidate
the structure and estimation of tune without much foresight. Basically Iíve
learned that what I think Iím writing or hearing never quite makes it to the
finish line in terms of what's conveyed. Something else transpires that's
beyond my control. And this precise element that always seems to escape me,
ironically, is the part that distinguishes and identifies the work as my
has a playful yet sinister element to it. Did you want this odd teaming of both
innocent and scary, like a paedophile dressed as a clown? Where do you want
to take your music from here? Are you hoping to retain the lo-fi aesthetic
of Doldrums or
embrace some Phil Spector production madness?
Again, it's funny to entertain ideas about all this, but keep in mind - it's
now almost 6 years since I recorded that album and everyone is grappling
that the few who heard it then dealt with. For better or for worse, I moved
on, with evidence to support that I still operate on within the "lo-fi
aesthetic", though Iím pained to call it that. Funny you mention Phil
Spector, as the technology was underdeveloped much the same as mine (he had
a reel to reel for one, Iíve only got 1/8" cassette) but they don't seem
mutually exclusive to me. All in all, Iíll probably go on doing the same
thing Iíve been doing - only better, hopefully.
Charlotte Hatherley might look
like the tuffest girl bassist in the world, but donít let that fool you cos
she cries in Japanese record shops, the wuss! Tasty talks to the best thing
about Ash as she releases ĎBastardoí from her very good actually debut
album, ĎGrey Will Fadeí.
based on a real-life experience of yours?
It's all true, except the guitar theft. It's based upon the universal
experience of a one night stand gone wrong.
you managed to get all those people into the video for the new single (Pegg,
Walliams, Laverne etc), and are those people particular heroes of yours?
The comedy world is very small and incestuous! I'd met David Walliams and
Simon Pegg through Edgar Wright, the video director. He'd worked with Simon
on Shaun Of The Dead and is good friends with the Walliams. A few favours
were pulled and they were in ! Edgar also hooked me up with Lucy Davis and
Julia Davis. Lauren Laverne has been a good friend, and it was great to have
her in it. I love everyone who was in it and feel like a very jammy bee-atch!
still hard for a woman to get on in the UK Music Industry. Do you think it's
still run by men for men, or have things changed at all?
I can only speak from my personal experience. I've found it quite easy to
get along in the music industry, despite being the only girl around for much
of my time with ash. I would put most of that down to being with such a cool
bunch of guys, and my inherent tomboy nature. I would LOVE to have more
female musicians and roadies to hang out with, but they are very hard to
find. Most of the women I meet as a musician are from the record companies.
Nearly all the record companies I deal with have women working in the top
jobs, and in Japan the majority of workers at our label are female. So that
makes things a little easier for me, and shows that the music industry isn't
quite as male dominated as they used to be. Thank god.
best thing about being a solo artist?
I can be a control freak and get away with it
are you of 'Grey Will Fade'?
I walked into HMV in Tokyo yesterday and completely unexpectedly found my
album. I was so proud I almost wept.
think the stuff you grew up listening to had any influence of the way you
wrote the album?
Well, I've always been a huge fan of David Bowie, and I can hear that in
some of the guitar parts. More recently I've listening to a lot of post-punk
bands like XTC and the B-52s, melodic music with experimental guitars and
arrangements, and I think they've had a bigger influence on the way the
It must be
quite odd to be the in the position you've got to now in such a short time.
Did you always think you'd make it this quickly?
I've been in bands making music for 10 years now, so it doesn't feel like
such a short time. I started in a band when I was 15 and joined Ash when I
was 18. I've never had ambitions to be a solo artist, but I've always known
that I wanted to play guitar and make music.
of things are you listening to now? And can you name me one great unsigned
band you think people should hear.
I'm going through an 80s American punk phase. I read a great book called
'Our Band Could Be You Life' about the SST, Sub-pop and Blast First labels,
and bands like Black Flag, Minor Threat, Husker Du and the Minutemen, very
inspiring!.We recently toured with a band called The Crimea, and they come
highly recommended by me.
feel any affinity at all with the Ladyfest movement? Have you ever been
asked to get involved with that, or anything similar to it?
I've never been asked to be involved but I would love to be! I would jump at
the chance to meet other female musicians, I don't get to hang out with
many. It's all boys on the road with me.
Do you hope to carry on as
both a member of Ash and a solo artist?I
see no reason why not. I love being a guitarist in Ash, and my solo project
and the boys can happily co-exist. It's the best of both worlds.
Just before they take
off on tour with Psycho Path, we caught up with TEAM's Scott West to find
out more about recording on pig farms, the East Midlands DIY music scene and
cumulative band heights.
So you recorded the ep [50 000][Dead Sharks] on a pig farm in
Leicestershire. Is it normal for farms in the East Midlands to come complete
with a recording studio and where there plenty of bacon butties available?
HAHA - No I donít think it is normal! and this one werenít a studio either!
We just took all of our stuff down to a mateís farm while his folks were on
holiday. We had two days to set about making noise and recorded the result.
We had an old 4 track and a steam powered computer there Ė hey presto a
mobile studio! No bacon butties but we did witness one of his dogs devour a
piglet which was a bit gruesome.
- My old English teacher would be
very annoyed with your use of
punctuation and you do have a penchant for strange titles. Does
[50,000][Dead Sharks] mean anything or is it just made up?
[ ] those things mean working title I think. It
gave us two song titles and looks cool when written down. Thereís nothing
worse than predictable song and album titles. We just like the sound of
interesting words and how they are put together. See how Iíve avoid
answering the question!!
- The album 'Penalyn' was put out on
the ever excellent 'Captains of Industry' label. Did you find it easier
producing the record through a label rather than the self release of the e.p.?
Being with COI meant the l.p. got proper
distribution and landing on peopleís desk from an established label. We went
about the same process for recording the l.p. as we did [50,000][DeadSharks]
and produced it all ourselves again. COI were happy with us doing what we do
and we appreciated the control they let us retain. They have an excellent
DIY ethic Ė which made sense for us to work with them. There is much mutual
respect, TEAM make the music COI put it out. It really is that simple. That
way we avoided the horror stories you hear about some labels and the way
they treat their bands. Its more of a partnership, a joint venture in this
cut throat business.
- You describe yourself as
guitarnoisepop? How would you define this and are there any other bands that
fit the bill or do you see yourselves as one of a kind?
Thatís the sound we make, guitarnoisepop.
Hopefully it kinda explains itself Ė noisey guitars playing 3 minute pop
songs. Itís always hard to describe what your band sounds like to someone.
ďwhat, heavy metal?í ďarh, like oasis?í etc etc we usually just say Ďyou
heard of nirvana? Kinda like thatí and most people are happy cos they have
heard of nirvana! I think more people should use the term, thatís our real
mission re-naming genres! I suppose TEAM are one of a kind, there arenít any
other bands that sound like us or us like them. We obviously have our
musical influences which come through in the music; we just hope people can
hear that we are on to something a bit different to the run of the mill
- There seems to be a whole bunch of
great DIY bands around in the
Midlands at the moment. Would you class yourselves as part of this scene and
do you think you suffer or benefit from being outside the gaze of the main
London A&R scene?
Yeah Ė there are some awesome bands around Leicester and the East Midlands.
The Ďpineapsterí forum is a good central point for gig swapping etc. Tired
Irie, Teen Amateur, Love Ends Disaster and Ideals Grace are some of our
favourite local bands of the moment. We benefit from being central for
gigging and stuff but like to do our own thing. London is always a great
place to play but a small band can get swallowed up in it all; we like to
think we have the best of both worlds.
- Obviously we at Tasty are all
deeply saddened and shocked by the news of Busted splitting up. Would you
have any career advice for the band members now that they are in civvy
Spend. Spend. Spend. They must have made some
cash. Enjoy it while they can. I donít think they will really know what
civvy street is like, scrapping together petrol money and recording and
gigging on no-budget.
- How did your forthcoming tour with
the Slovenian band Pyscho-Path come about? Do TEAM have a big following in
Yeah Ė massive following in the Balkans!!! Nah
- Garry from S-a-N Agency (booking agent) hooked us up with Psycho Path as
he has us both on his books. They have toured with QOTSA and Girls Against
Boys so we have a lot to live up to! Itíll be our first proper tour and itís
gonna be fun fun fun. Weíre putting Psycho Path up for the tour Ė so you
never we can go and tour the Balkans and Europe with them at some point,
which would just be awesome.
- Considering you formed less than
two years ago you've had a great deal of success. How would you like to see
the next two years pan out?
Just building on what weíve done already really. Get out and gig to as many
people as we can and progress in all aspects of being in a band. If we donít
progress it aint worth doing. We have to move on and grow to keep TEAM
alive. Itíll be interesting to see what position we are in in another two
years. Weíve already ticked off so much on what we wanted to achieve. Weíve
just got to raise the bar again and get some more ticks in more boxes. Work
has already started on the next album - due 27th September Ė
exactly a year on from the penalyn lp Ė itís almost written and will be
recorded soon. One step at a time really, but we are very excited about
committing the new songs to tape to see where that may take us.
- If you were doing an interview what
question would you like to be asked and how would you answer it?
Q: How tall would TEAM be if you all stood on
each others heads?
A: [censored until after the competition!!!]
To win a copy of the debut album 'Penalyn' simply tell us how tall you think
TEAM would be if they stood on each other's heads! The nearest guess gets
the CD posted to their door. Email answers to
TEAM Tour Dates:
Tue, Feb 8th Ė Leicester, Sumo
Wed, Feb 9th Ė Stoke, Riggers
Thu, Feb 10th Ė Leeds, Royal Cellars Park
Fri, Feb 11th Ė Lincoln, Bivouac
Sat, Feb 12th Ė Nottingham, Junktion 7
Sun, Feb 13th Ė Manchester, Retro Bar
Producing blissful pop music is a piece of Cake, for some
Ever since this subtle and seductive Sacramento based quartet whipped up a
stirring and crafted self released debut album; ĎMotorcade of Generosityí in
1994, Cake have sweetened the world with their coated and crisp music.
Singer/songwriter John McCrea has always expressed his fervent disliking for
what can be termed as the trappings of the industry; this includes working
with renowned and respected producers and exhibitionistic guitar playing.
However, what he does like and does very well is produce heartening and
captivating music that touches the soul. The guys kindly agreed to mull over
topics ranging from the role of politics in music to pop music in general.
You hail from Northern California, has where you come from
your style of music and how would you describe the Northern
scene at the moment? How well do you fit in with it?
We've always said we come from a dry and dusty place, and that might come
through in the music. We are also working out of the state's capitol,
Sacramento, which is a theater of the absurd but also sometimes a very
poetic place. The music scene in Northern California is diverse. There are
many bands, however, that understand the place that their music comes from.
In my humble opinion 'Pressure Chief' had a trickle of irony
running through it like a stream through a country village, i.e., it was
well placed. Do you think irony or dead pan wit has much of a part to play
in modern music?
Music is certainly a reflection of the way we all approach our world view or
how we behave emotionally. Although there seems to be a tendency in music to
express something pure, or untainted, there is also a place to express the
middle ground of thought. This kind of writing might actually be more honest
about the way life really feels. Sadness is often mixed with humor in real
You are about to embark on a European tour. How
does your live sound
differ from that on your records and how do you want to leave
after witnessing a live Cake show?
The live sound is different from the album because we are actually living
the music as we perform it. We might actually sound like more of a "rock"
band on stage, compared to the precise feel of a studio recording. The crowd
should go away exhilarated, confused, and satisfied that they witnessed a
You have done a cover of the diamond of the disco era hit 'I
Survive' in the past. Would you say this is your bands' motto
and how have you
kept going all these years in this turbulent music industry
From the start we have appreciated our listeners. We kept a mailing list of
people who had shown interest in us, and every month we stamped, addressed,
and sent postcards to these people. We have continued that appreciation by
providing what we believe is quality music, both in record and live
What are your views on recent attempts by musicians
voters in the US Elections? Do you think there was a lack of
conviction to some of
the attempts (mentioning no names) and it was more bandwagon
jumping than a
serious desire to bring about change? Do you think music and
politics should be
We talk politics with each other, so we feel compelled to discuss issues
with our listeners through the website (www.cakemusic.com). Everyone seems
to want to impress their point of view on others, and musicians are no
Which of your songs sum up your current mood and why?
"Wheels" is probably the song that sums up our current mood. Basically,
there is a lot of amazing things happening in the world, but still we are
destined to go through the same paces that anyone, anywhere, ever has. These
are incredibly interesting times, but we all still have the same basic needs
that we always have.
What are your aims and plans for 2005 ?
CAKE plans to tour through the summer of 2005. We have a lot of
international touring to look forward to, as well as performing at various
festivals in the states.
Finally, if you could change one thing about the
music industry what
would it be and why?
Music videos may have altered the course of popular music. To
its detriment? We will never know. There does seem to be a lot of posturing