Tuesday 21 November 2017

Q&A: Animal Collective's Panda Bear

On drugs, going solo and growing up in america's murder capital

Ed Power

Ed Power

Your music is often described as psychedelic. Are you a fan of mind-altering substances?

I was never much of a psychedelic warrior myself.

So you don't load up on crazy pills before heading to the studio?

I have had experiences in my life without drugs that had a very similar feel to a psychedelic episode. I don't think it's something you can only have via a drug. I do find that state of mind very interesting and profound.

You're on sabbatical from Animal Collective. Is it liberating not to have to listen to other peoples' opinions for once?

The main difference is that, when I'm playing by myself, there are no formative rules. When I'm writing songs for the band, I've got to make sure there is space for three other guys to put themselves in there.

Critics practically ruptured themselves in their rush to praise Animal Collective's last record, Merriweather Post Pavilion. Did all of the hyperbole go to your heads?

Well, definitely it felt good. Ultimately, I concluded it was as dangerous to read too much into that kind of thing. Or even to think about it too much.

And anyway, it's not as if anyone cares about what critics think any more. Another hyped-to-the-heavens band in 2009 were Dirty Projectors. And yet their album shifted a measly 50,000 copies...

Somebody told me that our album is selling more now than when it came out, so I think it helps. But, for a band like us, I don't know if it makes a massive difference.

There was storm in cyberspace when members of the group Grizzly Bear posted the first track off Merriweather on their blog, not realising it had been illegally leaked. Is internet piracy the bane of your professional life?

The truth of it is that the issue isn't black or white. There are things about the whole file-sharing culture that have been really positive for us and have played into the successes we have had. You can't say it has only been negative.

You live in Lisbon with your wife and daughter. As a go-getting indie rocker, does the relaxed pace of life agree with you?

They take their time doing stuff in Portugal andthat can be a good thing. People eat proper meals here. When you go to a meeting, you get to hang out for a while. At the same time, when you need something done, it can be a pain...

Things don't always happen as quickly as you'd like?

Yeah, stuff can go really slowly. With equipment, I can be really specific about something I want. And I learned pretty quickly that this kind of attitude doesn't really work here. In the US, you have these massive guitar centres, musical instrument supermarkets where you can get everything. In Lisbon, it's small shops and what you see is pretty much what you get.

As a father, do you feel a responsibility to sell records and support your family?

Having a daughter absolutely changed me, for sure. I don't want to say I felt I had to make commercial music or something. That would be really weird. Definitely I felt I had to be smart about the decisions I was making and the way I handled my business. There was no wiggle room, no space for error.

Having grown up in Baltimore, Maryland, what are your thoughts on its portrayal as murder central on TV shows like The Wire?

Well, there is quite a bit of truth to something like The Wire. Baltimore is a pretty gnarly place in spots. I wouldn't describe it as a happy city. I didn't grow up in the neighbourhood where The Wire takes place. But of course, you always felt that vibe. There is a heaviness and darkness to the city. I can't love it because I'm from there. However, it's not a place I recommend people to go to for a vacation.

Panda Bear play Vicar Street, Dublin tonight

Irish Independent

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