The best way to describe Giant Panda is that this LA trio makes hiphop for hiphop's sake. Flying under my radar for some time now, along with their terribly underrated (and local) labelmates Lightheaded, Giant Panda are the type of hiphop group that so fervently sweats for the genre it's remarkable that they can even clutch a mic. Newman (one of the group's emcees and producers) answers questions about the band's bravado and the importance of staying out on the road.
Giant Panda perform at the Doug Fir Lounge on Tues Jan 24
So your bio mentions that Giant Panda was originally the name for a "fake rock band" you were going to start. What was the story behind that?
A long time ago, Maanumental and myself were sitting around with his brother [Sir] Kado trying to come up with band names. Kado said "Giant Panda" and we all just started cracking up. It seemed like a really good name for a rock band, so we joked around about starting one. Years later, it worked as a name for our group...
You guys were originally a five-piece and are now a trio. Has slimming down the lineup made the process any different?
Not too much. Even when we were a five-piece, it was mostly the three of us (me, Maanumental, and Chikaramanga). The other two guys (Sir Kado and Superbrush) are like our brothers [Kado and Maanumental are brothers], so it's not like we had an ugly breakup or anything. They are still part of the team.
One thing I noticed about Giant Panda is that as far as lyrics go, you guys are confident, but still relatively modest. Was there a deliberate effort to get away from the traditional bravado of hiphop emceeing?
I feel like we talk too much shit sometimes, so it wasn't a deliberate effort. We just try to be honest and represent who we are as best as we can. Bravado is part of hiphop and something that we celebrate, but we as people aren't so one dimensional, so hopefully our art isn't either.
Generally hiphop groups seldom log the miles of touring that traditional indie bands do, but it seems like that's starting to change. As an independent group, how important is it for Giant Panda to constantly be touring?
For us, it's important. We hope to tour a lot more this year. We enjoy it and feel like it's a great way to connect with people. Music is so over-saturated that you have to give people as many reasons as possible to actually check you out. As independent artists that don't have billboards and videos, live shows are like the musical equivalent of going door to door to get votes.