Published Oct 19, 2010The album may be called How Come I'm Dead?, but Hot Panda aren't lifeless, not even close. On this, their second full-length, the Edmonton, AB foursome sound restless, never sticking to any one sound or style for long. The album's 14 tracks range from gut-busting garage ("Fuck Shit Up/Hell Hey Hex") to eerie drone ("Membership Fees (Intro)") to hyper-caffeinated circus punk ("1995"), all tied together by yelping vocals and manic keyboards. Making the mix even more unpredictable is the fact that several of the tracks consist of pieced together song fragments. "Start Making Sense" begins as gloriously ascending cinematic rock before suddenly transforming into a "Lust for Life"-style stomper, while the searing guitars of "The Ghost" eventually give way to a horn-laden spaghetti western march. This eclectic collection was captured by the Vancouver, BC production team of David Carswell and John Collins (the New Pornographers, Destroyer), who recorded the entire 48-minute collection in less than a week. The speedy genesis resulted in an in-your-face sound that can be a little exhausting in large doses, but this tirelessness is what makes the band so entertaining. If they had toned down the madness, the results wouldn't have been nearly as much fun.
Why did you go to Vancouver to record during the Olympics?
Guitarist/vocalist Chris Connelly: We got there, actually, the last day of the Olympics. So we were there in that break between the Olympics and the Paralympics. We went there because we really wanted to record at JC/DC with David and John. They're really great guys and I like a lot of the records they've made, and they were available at that time to do a record.
What was your experience like being in the city at that crazy time?
It was kind of cool. We got there and Canada won the hockey [gold], so we got in there and we dropped our stuff off and went right downtown just to see the craziness. It was kind of neat being there when that was going on. We were only there for maybe 15 minutes, but it was neat to see the pandemonium.
Did that atmosphere have any impact on the recording?
I think that, recording at JC/DC, right downtown, there was a sense of stuff happening all around you all the time. It was easy to step out and grab a coffee or take a walk, and there was lots of stuff to look at. There was a busy sense while recording, because there was a lot going on around us, which I've never really done before. That was kind of neat; I think there was a good energy around making it there.
Why did you decide to call it How Come I'm Dead?
The actual title came from a book that we saw in a store window ― a used bookstore. It was a cover of this really old guy with How Come I'm Dead? in big letters written on it. It was a hilarious image and a phrase to go on that image and we just kind of liked it a lot. A lot of the album is about being away from home. I have a girlfriend that lives in Toronto, and we were on tour a lot in the last couple of years, and then I'm in Edmonton a lot of the time. It really felt like there's this sense I'm not in one place for a long time. I lost a lot of connections with friends and family because I don't really see them too much. But I still do kind of see stuff on Facebook, or you see people's photos and what they're up to. And there's really this feeling like you're a ghost, like you were dead. You see life go on without you while you're going everywhere but not really going anywhere. That phrase kind of started to ring true: How Come I'm Dead?
Have you gotten any complaints about the non-stop swearing in "Fuck Shit Up"?
No, we haven't had any complaints yet; I'm waiting for that though. Maybe some people will complain; it's kind of meant to be funny, I guess. I don't know why people would complain; I can see it maybe offending some people. That'd be cool if it did; I would like to offend some kind of Christian organization. That would be pretty fun.
On "Clever Fox," you sing that people "need to see things more black and white." What do you mean by that?
I was kind of being sarcastic with saying that. I grew up in Alberta, and my family like a lot of that Fox News, rightwing American politics, and they watch a lot of that. That song is poking fun at that attitude that they have there: that people need to see things more black and white. It's not more complicated; it's simple: it's right and wrong. Which I can agree with, but the song's poking fun at that kind of way of thinking.
What was the band's writing process throughout putting together this album?
Catherine [Hiltz, bass] joined our band about a year ago and she wasn't in the band very long before we wrote this. We just started jamming and a bunch of songs started coming up really fast. The writing process was really, really quick on this record; it only took about a month to write all these songs. And a lot of it was done right at the last minute before we went in to record, which is kind of neat 'cause our last record had a lot of things that were really well rehearsed and really well thought out, which is good on a level, but I like that on this one the songs still felt so fresh. We were still so excited by them because we weren't bored of them yet. (Mint)