“If anything, I would like people to think, whether they like our music or not, that it’s our own thing. We’re not trying to be another band, we’re our own band.”
This is Chris Connelly, singer and guitarist of Hot Panda, explaining how he wants people to remember his music.
“We don’t have a formula or a manifesto for how our band works,” he said by phone last week, before leaving for a show in Victoria, B.C. “I think as long as we keep that playfulness to it and don’t take ourselves seriously, we’ll be OK.”
It’s a philosophy that has sparked a whirlwind of a career so far for the Edmonton-based quartet. Their track Chinatown Bus has garnered acclaim in Rolling Stone magazine, they’ve toured extensively, and have played many high profile music festivals like South by Southwest.
As the band begins yet another 28-date tour across Canada this fall, Connelly reflects on the band’s tumultuous struggle to regain their form after losing a founding member last November.
“We almost broke up. We weren’t sure if we were going to keep going,” he said. “Then (bassist) Catherine (Hiltz) joined the band and it got fun again. It felt like how the band first started. It was fun to play shows. Sometimes it just takes a change in the dynamic to make things click again.
“So much of our show going good relies on our energy – being in good spirits and giving it. We lost it, but we have that back now.”
Watch Hot Panda perform at the Lo Pub on Friday, Sept. 24. Visit www.myspace.com/hotttpanda.
I hadn’t expected Matt Flegel to be so chipper when he answered the phone late last week.
I tried to get in touch with the bassist and vocalist of Women earlier but the band wasn’t back from their whirlwind four weeks in Europe and the UK with Kentucky savant composer Idiot Glee.
I expected our conversation to be somewhat overshadowed by jetlag, but Flegel quickly assumed a comfortable position talking with me that belied his band’s eccentricities that put his releases on the radar of Sonic Youth and Velvet Underground fans.
Mid-fi production (courtesy of Sub-Pop’s Chad VanGaalen) mixes simple melodies with layers of feedback and atmosphere. I tell him with all of my musical experience, I am hard pressed to find a touchstone.
“I like that you have no reference, it’s kind of what we were going for,” Flegel said.
Winnipeg fans, though, have had no problem picking this up and running with it.
“We have played there six or seven times. We love coming back for the Fort Garry Dark Ale,” he says matter-of-factly about his band, which includes his brother Patrick (vocals and guitar), Chris Reimer (guitar and vocals) and Michael Wallace (drums).
Besides being threatened by an Icelandic guy with a sword, their last tour in Europe was relatively uneventful (although that story is best related in person).
The band is currently on tour with the likes of DD/MM/YYYY and Liars to support their latest release, Public Strain, out Tuesday, Sept. 28 in this market.
Catch Women perform during their Winnipeg stop at the Royal Albert Arms Saturday, Sept. 25. Visit www.myspace.com/womenmusic.
It wasn’t exactly the three-country, two-continent tour kick off K’Naan hoped for.
Shortly after performing in Stradbally, Ireland, at the Electric Picnic Festival Sept. 4, the Toronto hip hop artist took to his Twitter feed, and in almost a dozen 140 character snippets, expressed frustrations over his performance.
“In all my years of touring, today marks the 1st time I’ve played an entire concert w/out feeling a thing. Just going through the motions,” he posted to his 47,000 followers.
It’s not surprising – the Juno-winning Somali-Canadian musician is living the peak of his career right now. In the lead up to the summer’s World Cup in South Africa, where his song Wavin’ Flag served as the official anthem, K’Naan toured over 80 countries.
“It could B b/c ive done ovr 80 countries ths year, could B spiritual & physical fatigue, it could B that I need 2 get out new songs,” he posted. “All I know is, I feel sickly ever having to play these songs of personal redemption with an insincere stage presence.
“I dont know wht 2 do abt all ths but thank U so much 4 reading. I hope U understand that I’ll do anything 2 preserve my love 4 music.”
Poor English aside, K’Naan’s tweets read like a pretty strong testament and personal commitment to redeem himself as he tours across Canada and the U.S. this fall.
See K’Naan perform at the Burton Cummings Theatre Wednesday, Sept. 29. Visit www.myspace.com/knaanmusic.
Published in Volume 65, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 23, 2010)