We speak to the man behind Lotus Plaza ahead of his performances in Spain this week, about self-sabotage, theoretical physics and how he is no longer “intensely bummed”.
I speak to Lockett Pundt on November 1st, the morning after a heavy night before. “The days kind of blurred together, I forgot it was Halloween” he tells me, “we just wandered around. We ended up on a boat. I don’t even know what happened. It was pretty wild.”
One might more readily expect such antics from Bradford Cox – his dress-wearing, fake blood-smearing co-conspirator in Deerhunter – than the shy guitarist currently touring his solo work as Lotus Plaza. But Pundt is willing to venture out of his comfort zone. In fact, it is one of his most appealing features. Accordingly, during the course of our conversation, Pundt tests words on the fringes of his vocabulary ( “I might be misusing that word, I’m not sure!”) and explains that he named his most recent album, “ Spooky Action At A Distance”, after a phrase sourced from a book on theoretical physics (before modestly adding that rather than the “really heavy stuff” he tends to read “the watered down stuff”).
It is Pundt’s reasoning behind his affection for Japan, however, that proves to be the most succinct example of his quietly adventurous nature. “ I love, love, love, love it. It’s one of those places that I just feel completely different in” he tells me; whilst many would praise a place where they felt instantly at home, he’s interested in a place that makes him feel different.
How is the tour going? I understand you have suffered from stage fright in the past. Is that something that still affects you?
I’m feeling a lot better about it. I would say that first tour in April, the first twenty shows were extremely difficult! [Laughs] I quite enjoy it now, but it took me quite a while. I feel confident enough now in what I am doing. It was never the others, the guys in the band always did a really great job, it was just constant fear on my part. I was really aware of how I looked … but I don’t think about that stuff anymore. Not as much anyway.
"I think it is actually better live than it is on the album, for me personally anyway"
Do you feel more vulnerable playing your solo work live, than playing in Deerhunter?
Yeah. I am more the focal point, being the singer. Whereas in Deerhunter – even though I sing a few songs here and there – I am rarely the focal point for more than three or four minutes. It’s not so stressful then.
Although on record as Lotus Plaza you play all the instruments, I understand that live you have a band?
Yeah I thought about doing it solo. I wrote all the songs on the album kind of wanting it to be a band. It’s just more fun to play in a band than by yourself I think. I mean I could do it, but not this time around.
In regards to working with other people, to what extent do you see Lotus Plaza as a collaborative project? Live do you try to recreate the recorded version, or are the tracks altered by the musicians playing them?
We try to stay fairly close to what the song is, but it’s definitely different in ways. I think it is actually better live than it is on the album, for me personally anyway.
Why do you think that is?
I guess there is just more energy to it. The songs sort of take a life of their own when played live. It’s different. I mean I did it just me, recording each part over and over and over again. Playing it all at once is a different energy I guess.
And how does the audience affect that? Is it an exchange when you play live, do the audience have a palpable effect of the performance?
Yeah I think so. That’s still a part of the show that I’m really aware of. If people don’t seem all that interested it does affect how I play. It’s unfortunate but I still haven’t been doing it quite long enough to be free of that yet, you know? But this trip’s been great. Every show has been really fun.
How do you find touring generally? Does the opportunity to travel influence you creatively?
That’s the best part of it. I’m very spoiled I think [laughs]. I get to go to so many cool places and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it at all. It’s really amazing. Even the states for example - I’ll joke that that’s the most boring place to tour, because I have been there so many times - but at the same time I am very happy to go there even. It’s just to have a way to be able to see so much of everything.
Do you have any places that you have been to that really stood out to you, which you really connected with?
Japan was one. I love, love, love, love it. It’s one of those places that I just feel completely different in. I think the whole band, just as soon as we got off the plane at the airport, we were like, wow. The shows were amazing; everyone is so excited to have you, so appreciative and so kind. It’s so different. It’s a very unique place and I think we all would say it as one of favourite places to go. We’ve only been twice, but it’s incredible.
Do you see your sound as being particularly rooted to Georgia, or could you see yourself working and living in other places?
I’d love to. But now Georgia is where I want to be, or Atlanta. My brother had a daughter a while ago, I want to be there while she is growing up, all my family is there. A few years ago I really wanted to live somewhere else, but now I am just more in tune with family and being happy where I am at. But ideally I’d love to live somewhere else at some point. I’m not sure where, there are a lot of places I’d like to go.
Moving onto your recorded work. Your most recent album is called “Spooky Action At A Distance”, which I understand was a phrase used by Einstein. Can you tell us a bit about why you chose it, what connotations it holds for you?
It was mainly that I really liked the name. I used to read a lot of books on theoretical physics. Not really heavy stuff, just the watered down stuff, and I ran across that phrase a few times. I read it in a book called “Entanglement”. That book is a little past my knowledge, it’s too far! It’s basically when two particles are interconnected even over vast distances – or short, or whatever – if you change anything about either one of them it affects the other one. It’s the quickest form of communication. It doesn’t matter how far away it communicates instantly. It’s pretty bizarre. I didn’t exactly have any goal in mind with picking the name; I just really liked the name.
Do you think it reflects your music, resonates with it?
I think it does. I don’t exactly know how. I’ve had people tell me a few things and it’s pretty interesting to hear their take on it. But it wasn’t my goal with that.
"On this record I wanted to have everything so you could see it in the mix, it wasn’t overly murky"
This release seems more lyrically focused. Is that something you particularly concentrated on?
Yeah. I think I took more time with them this time. I think in the past they weren’t always such a big deal for me. When I heard songs I wasn’t always trying to understand what the singers were saying. Sometimes I wouldn’t even think about it. It was more about the melodies. I just liked the feelings of songs rather than the content. And now I like that section as much, so I try to sort of go that way with my music as well.
The use of loops in your recorded work is interesting, is it an important tool in your process?
Oh yeah, that’s a huge song-writing thing for me. Generally, I’d say probably 50% of the songs I write start that way. I’ve sort of got out of it now, I write more with chords, but definitely I like having an ostinato or something. Like a repeating thing that happens – I might be misusing that word, I’m not sure!
The album has a cleaner sound to that of your debut, was that a conscious decision?
Oh yeah. I didn’t want to repeat what I had done last time. I like the songs on the last record and I kind of wish … it has a feeling of its own. I wouldn’t change anything about it but I also somewhat sabotaged some of it with over affecting things. This time around I just wanted to be cleaner, able to pick out things. In the last album, the first one, I had things like a cool piano piece that I did and I can hear it in the song but I’m not sure other people can. It’s just so reverbed and delayed out; other layers can’t really shine through. On this record I wanted to have everything so you could see it in the mix, it wasn’t overly murky.
What do you think your motivation was behind that on the first album? Was it that you liked that sonic aesthetic, or was it in a sense shielding the music a little bit?
I definitely liked that effect. I still do, but not to the extent that I did. And it was probably also insecurity as well. I was like. .. I don’t know, it was a weird time for me when I was writing that first album. I was intensely bummed, if I can say that. I guess that sort of came out. I wanted this to be completely different.
Are you less intensely bummed nowadays?
Yeah, it’s good. I am in a different place and I wanted to reflect that. I’m much better now [laughs].