[UNCHAINED MELODIES] The idolization of handsome young male musicians is not the sole province of Beatlemania, Tiger Beat magazine or the Jonas family. Lockett Pundt, Lotus Plaza's frontman and a songwriting member of the revered indie-rock outfit Deerhunter, is the namesake of an enthusiastic Tumblr page, Fuckyeahlockettpundt, which posts candid photos of the recently engaged, baby-faced multi-instrumentalist with captions like "mmmmmm" and "I just found a photo of Lockett sleeping. My life is pretty much complete."
"Oh man, the Internet," writes Pundt, who lost his voice en route to Memphis, Tenn., on Lotus Plaza's tour and is conducting our interview entirely via iPhone from his tour van. "I never look at things on the Internet about me."
Were Pundt to Google himself, he'd find a bumper crop of fawning articles about Deerhunter and mixed reviews of his lo-fi debut solo record, The Floodlight Collective, released in 2009. The disc, a collection of alternating floaty and muddy tunes with obscured vocals and dizzying pedal effects, was markedly more restrained than Deerhunter's choppy rock assault, but it failed to provide listeners with an intimate portrait of that band's second-in-command. Instead, the Kranky Records-released disc—like a lot of the label's other releases—felt experimental and slippery in nature.
Spooky Action at a Distance, Lotus Plaza's sophomore effort, is day to the first album's night. Pundt still plays all the instruments on the record, but leaving his Atlanta bedroom for a studio in Detroit had a profound effect on his songs' presentation. Beach Boys harmonies jet out from behind big, Phil Spector-esque percussion; clear and moving melodies emerge; one can even hear what Pundt is saying. "I wanted this one to be different and step into the light a little more," Pundt writes. "I feel like the songs on the first record suffered a bit by my insecurities and I wanted to jump into this one even if I felt a little wary at times."
The humility isn't entirely unwarranted—peeling back the fuzz of Pundt's first record reveals a songwriter in progress whose songs would fizzle as solo acoustic numbers. But Pundt's numerous gifts—his innate sense of melody, his knack for brilliant sonic collage and his vulnerability as a vocalist—can completely overwhelm on Spooky Action. The soaring "Out of Touch" has the churchy majesty of Grizzly Bear's best songs without the stilted formality; "Monoliths" is a closing credits-worthy cut that reimagines John Lennon's "Imagine" as a snotty, self-centered drug anthem: "There's no world/ And no God/ And no fun/ And no faith/ And no God/ It's just me/ Getting high."
Pundt's live band replicates the new album's most breathtaking moments with startling accuracy—but won't stay like that forever. "I really want to go weird next," Pundt says, pointing to a new, nine-minute song called "Come Back" as a hint of things to come. "I like the structure of it, since it's so free for improvisational moments and you can take it where you want to at any point."
The same could be said of Pundt's career. Whether it's his music or his looks (he does have an Edward Furlong/River Phoenix thing going on), the guy clearly has a following. "It would be interesting to see if anyone cared if I wasn't already in another band," Pundt writes. "But that's for another universe."