Musical Introspection

With Lotus Plaza, Deerhunter's Lockett Pundt steps into the spotlight

Strong though they may be, family ties often confine us to certain roles and rules, and it's natural to seek fresh stimuli elsewhere, but without abandoning connections to the social unit in which you developed.

That's kind of how Lockett Pundt, guitarist for the indie-rock band Deerhunter, distinguishes that group from his side project, Lotus Plaza.

"Deerhunter is basically family. We have a great musical bond that has been honed over the years, and it is always fun and effortless to play shows with those guys. With Lotus Plaza, it has been really fun to ... experience things in a new light," Pundt said in a recent email interview.

Lotus Plaza "has rekindled some enthusiasm for touring that can get lost after doing it over and over. I also feel like doing Lotus Plaza is pushing personal barriers for me, and I think it's good to do that. It has been daunting to me, and it has been nice to step outside of my comfort zone and do something I wasn't sure I could do."

Pundt will bring Lotus Plaza to Tucson for a gig this Saturday night, May 12, at Plush. Also on the bill will be opening acts George Sarah, an electronic musician and composer from Los Angeles, and Frankie Broyles. Broyles doubles as the drummer for Lotus Plaza, which also includes guitarist Dan Wakefield, keyboards player Allen Taylor and bassist T.J. Blake.

Formed in 2001 and fronted by theatrical lead singer Bradford Cox, the Atlanta-based Deerhunter plays an experimental mixture of noise pop, art rock and post-punk.

With Lotus Plaza, Pundt builds a sound distinct from but complementary to his work in Deerhunter, indulging in a form of musical introspection that might be called a combination of chillwave and shoegaze. It's both blissfully hypnotic and viscerally engaging, with an attractive undercurrent of melancholy.

Pundt has made two Lotus Plaza albums: The Floodlight Collective, a lo-fi, bedroom recording released in 2009, and the more-lush-sounding Spooky Action at a Distance, released about a month ago by the indie label Kranky Records.

Growing up in Marietta, Ga., Pundt viewed music as a hobby, and did not then consider it a viable means for making a living. "I started playing when I was 11, when I got my first guitar. I'd get tabs, or play (along) to Nirvana songs to learn stuff before I eventually got a few guitar lessons."

Pundt also has cited musical influences such as Stereolab, My Bloody Valentine, Roxy Music and Sonic Youth.

It wasn't until high school that he found similar-minded musicians to play with. That circle included Deerhunter singer Cox—they became fast friends. "I eventually met Brad. He turned me on to a lot of music I'd never heard of, and we started to play together. I think it was then that I realized I really had more of a passion for music other than just playing guitar."

Pundt joined Deerhunter in 2005, and his first album with the group was its sophomore release, Cryptograms. After playing nonstop with the band for a few years, Pundt discovered songs percolating inside of him that weren't necessarily right for Deerhunter. He began to capture them on four-track tape, singing and playing all of the instruments.

"I never really had any ambitions to make a solo album initially, until the opportunity came up from Kranky. I had some songs that I had been working on, which would eventually become my first record, and began to flesh them out for an official release. I would have never had an opportunity to do this on my own without Deerhunter."

He still creates the music on Lotus Plaza albums himself, although he conscripts musician pals to help bring it alive during concert tours.

"It was just an outlet to write songs, I suppose. I'm not sure if it would ever turn into a full band where we all write the songs or not," he said. "It's nice to have something of a musical identity that is all your own. ... It's fun to record and conceptualize the music all by yourself. You have total freedom, and you can go wherever you want to with the music."

But he also finds being the onstage focal point to be disconcerting.

"In the live setting, it rattles me a good bit and is definitely the biggest point of departure from Deerhunter for me. It's somewhat stressful since it is new to me, being the 'frontman,' but I have been getting into it a lot more. I can open up in areas I don't as much with Deerhunter, but at the same time, I get really nervous when I'm up there."

Pundt modestly admits he is still evolving as a musician and composer, with and without Deerhunter. And Lotus Plaza, especially, offers much room for growth. In fact, he's moved forward since recording his most recent album.

"I'm already slightly detached from the new album since it's nearly a year since I recorded it, and some of those songs are two years old or so. I was in different places during the making of each album, and so they sound very different from each other. Even now, I'm in a different place than when I made Spooky Action."

There's a sound, a vibe, he's looking to capture, but he's not quite there. Yet.

"I feel like I'm still growing as a songwriter, and I have a way to go until I find what I'm looking for. I get closer and further simultaneously all the time, and to figure out my path would be one of the greatest things for me."

Even as he pursues personal growth and expression, Pundt is earnest about wanting to please the audience.

"But even if I never do find what I'm meant to do, and I've inspired others and made people happy along the way, that would be the greatest thing that I could accomplish," he said.