Interview by: Amanda Macchia
It was a music festival that gave the indie-pop rockers of Hot Panda an unexpected but helpful push in their musical career, and as the four-piece plays Rancho Relaxo this Friday as part of a CMW showcase, there is no telling what may materialize.
Since forming four years ago in Edmonton, Alberta, Hot Panda have released an EP and two full-length records, all the while maintaining their signature sound (which frontman Chris Connelly describes as "outside-of-the-box pop music") with a few changes in their original line-up.
"It's hard being a musician and touring," Connelly said. "And some people can't take it for that long. They want to change it up and do other things."
But for Connelly, Hot Panda was never just a hobby.
"We started it up being pretty serious about it, but we didn't realize it was actually going to be something that we'd still be doing now," Connelly said. "I don't like flirting with doing things."
His play-hard attitude is possibly the reason that Hot Panda have made it this far, taking their fresh art-pop sound across the U.S. after Canadian Music Week, including shows at South by Southwest. But the definition of success for Connelly requires a bit more financial satisfaction.
"It would be great just to be able to get to a point where you can live comfortably playing music," Connelly said. "Tour when you want to tour and be able to make enough from that to have a comfortable little life."
Nonetheless, it was their set at New Music West in Vancouver which launched Hot Panda to new heights, including a signing to Mint Records.
"Now in retrospect I look at New Music West and it's a really bad festival," Connelly said. "But Mint was at that show and that's how we got in touch with them and we got a record contract from that," he continues. "It seemingly seemed like it was going to be a waste of time and money and then something really great came out of it."
And although he's on the fence about the idea of festivals, they may act as a tool for developing bands and potentially bring them a bit of good fortune.
"I know there's definitely a sense that these things are kind of bullshit," Connelly said. "But if you do a lot of them you're really increasing your chances of eventually having something go right."
Hot Panda plays Rancho Relaxo as part of Canadian Music Week on Friday March 11, 2011 at 11:00pm.