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THE RETURN OF PANTY LIONS
Panty Lions began several years ago as a quiet reprieve for Ashod Simonian and Ariana Murray from their primary (and quite noisy) band, Earlimart. In 2002, the band released their debut CD, "So Dang Rad", on Amazing Grease Records, an independent label operated by Scott Kannberg of Pavement/Preston School of Industry fame.
Shortly after, Panty Lions were asked to support Daniel Johnston on a national tour but Murray was unable to participate due to previous engagements with Earlimart. Simonian scrambled to pull a full band together but the tour was cancelled when Daniel Johnston came down with food poisoning. Not wanting to put their practice to waste, the new line-up took over The Ship, a recording studio co-owned by Simonian, and began work on what would become their second full-length, "Do Luv."
Over the course of the next several months musicians/friends came and went and added their talent to the recordings. Among these were members of The Ship collective bands Earlimart, Irving, Let's Go Sailing, Pine Marten, Seawolf and Silversun Pickups, as well as members of Grandaddy and Elliott Smith's band.
An official release date is still pending while the band searches for a new label but limited edition pre-release copies have been pressed.
Famous: How did you get started playing music?
Simonian: Um, I started playing guitar in high school because that's what the cool kids did. I wasn't very good (still ain't) but then I saw Sonic Youth and I was all, I can do that!
Famous: Who do you think has been the biggest influence on your musical development?
Simonian: I pick stuff up everywhere, always. I even rip off bands I hate - take something awful and try to make it good, make it my own. And I often rip off stuff I love that isn't so well known. Like I absolutely love Leon Redbone. And Elastica. But I find my biggest influences are my closest friends, those at The Ship and Fresno bands I grew up with like Plague Mosaic and Pomegranate. I'm also very influenced by non-musical life experiences like pool parties and make-out sessions.
Famous: When and where did you get your first guitar? How much was it?
Simonian: It was maybe junior year of high school, my folks bought me a Peavy Predator for like a hundred bux from Charlie Daniel's which was down the street from our house. I later covered it with Bazooka Joe comics and sold it to Blake Hansen of Pomegranate. My next guitar was an Ibanez, total metal shredder.
Famous: Of all your performances, which do you think was your best?
Simonian: I think my favorites are usually technically the worst. I tend to have way more fun when stuff gets chaotic. In February we played a friend's seventh birthday party (on leap day) and for some reason there was an exercise machine in the room so we convinced someone in the crowd to ride it while we played and soon there were folks on stage doing interpretive dance and percussion on their beer bottles and the birthday girl was singing all my words and it was pretty amazing. I always enjoy the Modesto barn parties, too.
Famous: How did you end up in LA?
Simonian: I left Fresno, and a rad girlfriend, to follow my dreams in the big city in 1995. I graduated from UCLA in 1997 and started The Ship that same summer.
Famous: How did The Ship get started?
Simonian: Ariana and I met at UCLA and shared a mutual hatred of academia. We always talked about starting some sort of utopian creative community. Back in Fresno, I had similar discussions with Aaron Espinoza who ended up moving down that summer. A few other Fresnans soon followed and we were spending a lot of time with the Irving kids and the Silversun Pickups and it all came together really organically and not forced at all. Over time our roots grew and our branches grew and stuff is kind of big now, which is pretty cool.
Famous: Has the membership changed over the years?
Simonian: There's no membership. You're either around or you're not. The more around you are the more you're a part. People have gone away for long periods of time and have come back to find that we're all still there with open arms.
Famous: Are you guys going to have an anniversary dinner soon?
Simonian: We do thanksgiving every year, so in that sense, yes. We're also just now getting to the point where we can do big tours together and we often cross paths in strange cities and that's always an amazing feeling, to be somewhere far away and to see so many people that you're close to and comfortable around.
Famous: Your first solo album, So Dang Rad, was recorded in 2002, how do you feel about that album now? How have the Panty Lions changed much?
Simonian: It was released in 2002 but recorded 2000-2001. When we started that one, I had never recorded a thing. Not even on 4-track or nothing. It was a learning process. I'm still learning how to get the most out of my voice, which is pretty lousy, and how to write songs that people want to hear and to record them in ways that are aurally entertaining so in that sense, every song has been better than the last. There is some potentially embarrassing stuff on that first record, but I'm still pretty happy with it. And people seemed to like it so I'm happy about that. The new stuff is a little bigger and I worked harder on it so hopefully folks will appreciate that.
Famous: When did you begin recording the new record?
Simonian: In May of 2003. We were on tour with Daniel Johnston and he got sick and cancelled the whole thing so we just went into the studio instead.
Famous: I've heard rumors of a tour this year ... what's the story? Are you planning a tour to support the album?
Simonian: It looks like we're doing a little slipshod tour in December with our friends Fuck and Built Like Alaska. Once the record comes out I'm hoping we can do some hardcore vancationing.
Famous: Are you looking forward to playing this Pre-Thanksgiving Show in Fresno?
Simonian: I think so. I never play solo so I'm a little scared. Especially cuz Tokyo has the tendency to get raucous. Like I said, though, chaos generally makes things fun so I think it'll be good times. Playing quiet songs to loud drunks kind of sucks so I'm hoping people are cool.
Famous: When was the last time you played in Fresno?
Simonian: I played an all-cover set by myself as a going away present for my then-bass player Ronald Dzerigian who moved to New York summer before last. And just prior to that I came thru with the full band. It's been awhile. I have a lot of new friends there, which makes it all the more nerve-wracking.
Famous: I hear lots of stories about the Fulton Bar scene, when was that going on, and who exactly was a part of it?
Simonian: I didn't really start going until after I left town. Around 1995. I would come back on the weekends and basically spend the whole time there. This guy Joe ran the place and he was an angel. Aaron Espinoza (then of 406) and Mike Kennedy (of Plague Mosaic and Cholo-a-Gogo) tended bar and made sure I always had a beer in my hand. Nearly everyone was a regular, D.T.L.s, downtown lushes. There was a little bit of a pub feel in that there was lots of chants and singing and drunken fist fights. Joe brought some amazing bands thru. We had some great late-nite heart to hearts and laughfests and stuff like that. I would often pass out on the couch only to be let out in the morning when Joe's dad came to clean the place. It was just pure magicalness, all the time. Nobody I know ever paid for a beer there which is probably why it didn't last long.