The original interview appears on Grimy Goods. The introduction is reprinted in part below. The conversation that follows is a continuation of that article.
After establishing her own rhythms, Pander Sera is ready to shake everything up again. Last spring, the Los Angeles noise artist, also known as Swan, released Bothy, a raucous explosion of percussion and wit. The sound of that record was unified and relentless—ambitious enough to leave a distinct mark, though not quite the breadth of musicality that Pander Sera is capable of. On Errant, she rights the ship by sinking it.
Read the original interview. Continue reading for more.
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Did you make the art for this record? Tell me about it.
SWAN: Yes! … I started ashing in my painting and smearing it around. …
SWAN: Yeah, it’s like tobacco and ash and a very small amount of brown and black paint splattered against it. And there’s a bit of my hair in there too.
That’s so cool. I guess I assumed it was black paint. Have you put white paint over it or did you scratch out the eyes and mouth? The exposed canvas at the top also feels like a nod to Bothy’s corrugated cardboard texture.
SWAN: The eyes and mouth were white paint I believe. Yeah, I’m looking at it right now. They are three-dimensionally protruding from the canvas so yeah I think it’s white paint. As for the unfinished corners, I was in a rush to try to expressively finish [the painting], but I really like that you can see the corners of the canvas and…everything seems to have some sort of inherent connection. Even if I didn’t realize it at the time, it connects with a lot of the songs and the feel of that album. I very much like drawing awareness to the medium. Which is a funny cuz some critic could look at it and say it’s unfinished or it’s amateur. But not if it was intentional! But yeah in this case, I can assure you, it’s not an excuse.
You have described Errant as “an album about veering from a course.” Are you referencing a specific course that you have veered from?
SWAN: Several specific ones! … Bothy had an intention from the get-go. We had been building a studio downtown and I suddenly found myself with access to these more professional resources. So we thought, “let’s make a pop album! Let’s do it every step of the way the way that a pop album would be produced and released.” To me, it became this sort of performance art that only I was aware of after awhile because the process ended up taking years. [laughs] I would not recommend such a foolhardy endeavor without better proper planning and things like that.
I was so inundated by the sound of Bothy that I wanted to do a completely different thing. I think “Con Past Young” was one of the first songs that came to fruition in that way. It came into my head and I thought OK, I want to try to see what I can do with this instrument that is so ubiquitous. I don’t necessarily think I do anything impressive with the guitar on the album but I really enjoyed using it as a texture and as like a new paintbrush. Shoot I’ve gone off course. I’ve erred! [laughs]
[about the flow and structure of Errant]
SWAN: There’s this very intense early early childhood memory I have of the first time I was introduced to a narrative structure that seemed to have no end, like an infinite story. It terrified me. I read Wind in the Willows before I would go to sleep and all of these beautiful stories intertwined, but it didn’t really seem to have a beginning, middle, and end. It was just this continuous cycle and that really intrigued me. After I got over the initial existential dread of there being no form, I mean, look at me now: as an adult who does not abide by binaries and loves noise music and so forth. I really enjoyed the freedom of that fluidity of this infinite story being told, and you can find that in a lot of old errant stories. They’re called knight-errant like old King Arthur type shit. That’s all well and good, the Lancelot stuff, but I prefer different forms of those legends.
You describe how Bothy had this particular sound, which differed from what you were doing before that record. So in a way do you think that on Errant you’ve returned back to what you were doing in the pre-Bothy era?
SWAN: In some ways yes and some ways no. … [Yes] in the sense that this was an album that came from more personal wanderings and meanderings. It is a return to when I was living in Santa Cruz and I would just record some bird in the forest and go back and suddenly I’d have a trip hop beat. Day to day, and I believe I’m not the only one who experiences this: you just wake up almost a different person. My interests are so varied in terms of the kind of art that I want to make that sometimes that can be paralyzing, you can get frozen and go, oh shoot there’s too many options, I’m drowning in options! But if you can sit down and say, ok I woke up with this song stuck in my head today that I’ve been working on so I’ll work on that.
I can relate to the art paralysis. I like to paint, I’m trying to learn how to be a better photographer, I like to write (though that is now its own burden), and I’m trying to learn the drums. But then I worry that I’m spreading myself too thin, and why am I pursuing any of them? But I also just enjoy it whenever I can.
SWAN: It’s unfortunate in a lot of ways because, in the creative field, you’re almost expected to be able to do it all. Or to at least produce it all. If you cant make your own art then you can find someone who can do art for you and you better be able to pay them. Oh, also! I’m really excited that you’re learning to play the drums! It’s a very healthy, cathartic activity.
Yes, the catharsis has been great! Just smacking shit, it’s so fun.
SWAN: Yeah! And then eventually learning oh, if I smack it a little softer then I can make a different sound.
Yeah, well, I have an electric set and I think there’s a short in one of the cables. But it’s almost its own fun challenge. Because when you learn something some way, then when you hear it a different way, it’s uncharted territory.
SWAN: Like a happy accident?
Yes, exactly. When something different happens it’s not a bad thing. I’m trying not to think of it as wrong as much as it’s just not the way that it always is.
SWAN: Exactly! What you just described, that’s the theme of Errant. [laughs] Or at least one of the arms of the tree of Errant.