Austin Talks: Pandit

March 21, 2011

Vic and Dave veered off the festival path for their last post from Austin, and had a real meal with dream pop professional and Texas local Lance Smith aka Pandit.

We met up with Lance as the sun was entering that transitional gold between day party and night event. Already far from downtown, the three of us wandered into a little Mexican restaurant after deciding that its barred windows offered some character. Our broken Spanish got us through ordering. Then Lance brought us on an Eternity Spin through Texas, creative process and beyond:

Being from Lumberton [a five hour drive east of Austin], had you been coming here before as a fan?

Last year was my first year. I actually had just talked to the label the week before, I was pretty nervous and didn’t really see many shows; I just came to meet them. I wrote about two more songs after that, and they signed me. In this town I’m from, music isn’t really relevant, it’s all Bible Belt tradition you know. So to work with a label and get my stuff heard outside of here, I jumped at the chance.

Rachel Levy of Kiss Kiss Fantastic sent me your page last summer; I immediately shot you a message on Facebook, and ended up posting something on the blog. It was great to watch “Artichoke” take off, and then to see you wait after that, take your time, and craft this full album months later.

Yeah, exactly, it’s been almost a year. It was supposed to be an EP, but then we turned it into an LP. It was getting to that point, it just seemed like a lot better way to go.

Your sound has evolved from some of the songs that first appeared on that page. Eternity Spin has a few distinct styles: strum-y emotional ones like “Pack Your Bags” and “Kodiak” and then more pulsing, upbeat tracks—it still works as an album. Is there a favored direction moving forward?

I think the new direction will be a little bit more semi-cohesive. Up to this point I’ve always written things that’s not as much a concept as it is what I think sounds good. But I think with the 4th song on the record, “Kathryn, My Love”—it’s a little bit more soulful in a way, with some balls to it, that’s the type of style I’m looking forward to—more Motown meets dream pop meets 70s-ish rock stuff. I don’t plan on taking on those types of vocal styles though, that would be impossible, I can’t sing that way, but definitely looking at it instrumentally.

You’re a good example of someone who is a modern “bedroom project” but also a person who people go to for production; I see your name come up a lot in other folk’s credits and collaborations…

It’s been nice. I don’t care at all about the exposure side of that, I just love doing music, even if I never make a real name for myself, I just want to be in a position to help others reach that level.

You studied audio engineering, right?

Well I first got my BA in Political Science, that took about two and a half years, and I had planned to go on to law school but decided to do what I really wanted to do. I knew it was music, but didn’t want to teach it, so it was audio engineering. Finished up almost two years ago, and now I’m making albums with friends, it’s fun.

What were you doing musically before Pandit?

I was really into the folk movement that was going on for a few years, so my stuff sounded sort of like that. I was in and out of a band with some friends from high school, it was this political pop music in a way, and it just fell apart because we were all writers, and no one was really dedicated to giving their life to make music, you know. That’s when I decided to do this on my own, and I’d been recording for 5 or 6 years beforehand too, so I just started piecing stuff together. It’s amazing now, with the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve been able to have, and it’s all due to people like y’all.

Had you been playing locally?

Yeah I’ve done some acoustic shows here and there, there’s not many options where I live. It’s a few miles outside of this little town called Beaumont; lots of famous jazz musicians came from there during the 60s and 70s, it was at one time thriving with music, but things slowed down years ago. It’s picked up a little bit, but still pretty bad.

Do you think you’d leave where you live now for a more musical city?

Y’all are in Brooklyn right? I was there a few years ago working as a roadie for a band. It was great but when we crossed the bridge to Manhattan to play Bowery Ballroom, all these people were freaking out on us for blocking traffic… I didn’t understand what was happening. I don’t know, guess I just enjoy being able to walk out my backdoor and pee outside. I love people, but separation is a big for me, I like a place away from chaos. But at the same time, I should get out there and be involved with what’s going on…

Playing this week, has your live setup changed since you started?

Definitely. I’ve always wanted to do something kind of “epic”, but I didn’t know how I’d do that just by myself. I always looked for people to come out and play but couldn’t really get anything going consistently with a band. Luckily, my friend whipped up this setup for me; he’s such a technical genius. It’s crazy, but actually pretty easy to use. There’s a lot going on from an electronic standpoint.

You mix the two really well [acoustic and electronic], which makes you somewhat hard to peg. Are you looping things?

Yeah, looping, using guitar, pedals…I do it to where it’s all in front of me, but you can’t really see what I’m doing. It keeps some mystery.

[Dave eats a pepper that was much hotter than expected] WOW, this interview may hit a wall here.

Haha, this is definitely authentic.


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