5 bloggers, 5 questions, 1 band, hand-picked by the MWA writers. Welcome to FIVE x FIVE. This week: Chicago dream-pop quartet, Panda Riot.
Formed in Philadelphia by Brian Cook and Rebecca Scott, Panda Riot brought their blend of indie-pop and shoegaze to Chicago. In February, the group, now a quartet, released their full length LP, Northern Automatic Music. We here at MWA are big fans of the album, and Brian was kind enough to answer a few of our burning questions.
What prompted your move to Chicago? Why was the city so alluring to you in contrast to Philadelphia? | Alyssa Welch
We moved here because Rebecca started grad school. We really love Chicago and the scene here. Philly is great but there is more variety in the kinds of bands here and the city is much bigger so there’s more going on.
You took a good two years to write and record Northern Automatic Music, and the patience paid off quite well. How do you plan on following up this phenomenal record? Are you at all nervous that your next release may not live up to your latest? | Dan Jarvis
Not at all. With Northern we experimented a lot and because of that we’re in a really cool place creatively. We’ve got a couple new songs that we’re working on right now, and they feel so new yet so natural like they’ve always been there. If anything, we’re more concerned with writing more songs that are on par with these new ones.
Northern Automatic Music has yielded some incredible physical releases. On top of the 12″ vinyl LP, you’ve released a limited edition 7″ and a flexi single in support of the album. Is there a reason that the group has put a focus on physical releases over digital? Can we expect more unique releases from Panda Riot in the future? | Eric Slager
Digital releases are definitely more economical but they are more disposable and are treated as such. If someone buys a 7″ it requires a conscious decision to play it. It’s not just going to pop up on shuffle. Also, when we finish a song or an album we want to compliment it visually with the look and feel of the packaging. We spend almost as much time thinking about videos or album covers as we do with songs.
During the writing and recording of Northern Automatic Music, what records in particular would you look to in order to draw inspiration for your songwriting process. | Dan Fiorio
Generally I (Brian) end up focusing on the recordings and become so obsessive with them that I don’t really listen to a lot of other music. It’s nice to kind of get to that point where you are only thinking about and listening to the songs you are working on and being in that little world.
That being said we really like being inspired by visuals as a way to get perspective on the music. A lot of Joan Mitchell’s paintings were in my mind when we were recording these songs. The band in general draws on a lot of different references. We all listen to really different kinds of music.
How would you describe that you as a band have changed or progressed from the Far and Near EP to Northern Automatic Music? Do you think there has been any kind of a change in the sound/feel of the music or is this the same Panda Riot from 2010? | Patrick David
Northern was really the first time we started collaborating as a whole band. Before that it was mainly Brian and Rebecca doing the writing. It’s nice to bring an idea or even mostly finished song to the rest of the band and have them add things or influence it in a really unexpected way. Jose definitely brought that to Northern. And with Cory on bass now things are only going to get stronger.