Under the musical guise of The Panda Resistance, members Andrew Bones, Bo Hallford and Clay Welch have found something that was previously unavailable to them as artists and musicians--the potential for complete musical expression.
The members' names might seem familiar to some. The list of bands and musical projects that the three have participated in is lengthy and reads like a partial who's who of Tulsa music: Paul Benjamin Band, Doldrums, Jesse Aycock, Cecada, Lindsay Neal, Stone Trio, Callupsie and Gogo Plumbay.
Let's add The Panda Resistance to that list, a trio of incredibly talented musicians who are pushing the envelope as artists and as what the Tulsa music scene is able to enjoy, embrace and welcome to the fold.
Like the back-story to many bands, Panda Resistance formed because of another band, which shouldn't be that big of a surprise based on the many parties involved with band mates.
When local musician Chris Combs was asked to join Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey on tour in late 2008, the rhythm section for his project Stone Trio--Bones on drums and Hallford on bass--found themselves one-man short for performances. They approached Welch to fill in on guitar duties, and the trio began practicing. Fortunately, Combs nixed the idea of having a replacement, so Welch, Hallford and Bones were left to their own devices. They enjoyed playing together enough to start a whole new entity.
Welch attributes the band's inception to the desire to play the music in their heads that did not have another outlet. Bones confirmed, "For me, there was a whole different kind of music I wanted to make."
In February of 2009, The Panda Resistance was born.
The band is relatively young, but the musicians involved have traversed the music scene of Tulsa extensively. Subsequently The Resistance is on the fast track to being productive and prominent. The trio has played outside of town as far as Lawrence, Kan. and Fayetteville, Ark., and recently the band opened for Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey. Also, with less than a year under their belt as a group, the band will release their self-titled debut album, a 40-plus minute, seven-track affair at the Soundpony, 409 N. Main, on Friday, Dec. 18 at 10pm.
"Every song took us all summer to write," Welch said mentioning the band's method of meticulous analysis and sampling of a variety of keys, tempos and arrangements for every song. "It's pretty collective," he said of the band's songwriting process. "Nothing is ever fully done until we are all in there working on it together. Everybody has a say."
Bones noted that the flexibility and ability for expression is something not readily available to the trio in their other projects, and that's why they formed The Panda Resistance in the first place. Hallford added that in the band they can play "whatever we want to," whereas in other outfits they often find themselves "interpreting the songs and ideas" of others.
Describing the sound of The Panda Resistance songs is a more difficult task. Like any band, they shy away from genres to the point of expressing contempt for pigeonholing. They love all kinds of music, so why should they say they play just one?
Perhaps Bones had the best defense saying that it was too early in the catalog of the songs to start labeling things.
It is, however, simple to recognize and identify some music that has had an impression on the way The Resistance composes its music.
As one listens, hues of influence blossom and rise above the mix of the songs: the funky backbeat of Al Green, the repetition of minimalist music, the lush layering of Grizzly Bear, the jazz fusion of Tortoise and the psychological guitar explorations of Mogwai. But these are just words and references.
In reality The Panda Resistance deals largely in tones and emotions. It makes often hypnotizing, arresting, occasionally cerebral, often danceable music or any combination thereof and does so with such conviction to the point of contagiousness. It means what it plays, and it certainly plays what it wants.
With a debut album to perform, plans for a music video for the song "Gopher the Golden" in the works and a fan base to conquer, The Panda Resistance has much to look forward to next year. But their optimism and anticipation for the New Year radiates well beyond the band itself and onto the scene in general.
"A lot of stuff is about to come out and unfold," Hallford said. "All of our friends are putting out records [next year]."
And it's true. Bands like Callupsie, Cecada, Paul Benjamin Band, Dead Sea Choir and Lindsay Neal are currently releasing or recording material for release next year. "Everyone has been on the verge for a long time," said Bones of the musical momentum that is building for 2010. And preemptively leading that charge with banner in hand is The Panda Resistance.
It is really no surprise. The Panda Resistance is about intersections and change. Its songs teeter between the playful and introspective, the overwrought and heartfelt. The band's membership is a nexus between the jazz and rock scenes in Tulsa. It is the result of a fusion and cross-pollination that has slowly been happening between the different scenes here for years.
"There didn't use to be this huge community that's building right now," Welch said. "We're listening to each other's bands and each other's albums. We can't slack either, we're pushing each other. We're trying to make music that our friends will enjoy."
Bones said, "It's like at art school--that healthy competitiveness."
Perhaps there is a revolution behind the resistance after all. The Panda Resistance hosts its CD release show Dec. 18 at Soundpony. The show starts at 10pm, and there's no ticket or cover charge.
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