Hot new Panda
by Sarah Kitteringham
The four members of Edmonton psych-pop-rock act Hot Panda are stuck in traffic between Toronto and Montreal. Despite this temporary setback, the quartet is in high spirits: the band is starting fresh with a new member replacing another and their resulting new album How Come I’m Dead?— to be released on Oct. 12 — calls to be more fun than its predecessor.
One day while walking the streets of Vancouver, the foursome stumbled upon a box of revelatory free books. “There was this book sitting right on top called How Come I’m Dead,” says drummer Maghan Campbell with a laugh.
“It had this hilarious picture of an old man on the front, so we picked it up and it turned out it was about this Vancouver coroner from way back in the day. It looked so funny that we grabbed it and kept joking we should call our record that.”
The album cover features a photo of vocalist and guitarist Chris Connelly’s mother on a camel in Greece in 1970. Although the cover art for How Come I’m Dead? is at odds with the title, the lyrics fit a similar theme and are awash with undercurrents of sadness. “We are gone so much it feels like we don’t really have a home,” says Campbell, explaining the cover choice.
The instrumentation for How Come I’m Dead? in no way mirrors this moroseness. Instead, it reflects the band’s mantra of “have lots of fun, be nice, and keep it light!” From chaotic fuzzed-out guitar work alongside vocal harmonies, to country-infused ballads with gloomy keyboards, to dreamy noise with an electro dance and pop punk influence, How Come I’m Dead? is good plain fun born from the addition of Catherine Hiltz — an old friend who joined Hot Panda after the departure of bassist Keith Olsen. Keyboardist Heath Parsons rounds out the band’s quartet. Olsen’s departure left the band in a fragile state not knowing whether or not it could keep going. But thanks to Hiltz, Hot Panda is reliving its debut as a band.
“I was really happy to get back to that place again because it’s how we felt when we started our band,” says Campbell.