While driving past a billboard advertisement for a Panda Hut, Chris Connelly jokingly asked his bandmates whether the Chinese buffet chain served steaming panda bear on rice. This spawned the name Hot Panda -- an appropriately cheeky name for a cheeky indie pop group. With an admitted inability to play their instruments with skill and a love for peppy melodies, the members of the Canadian four-piece take a lo-fi approach to their music. Despite being rooted in '70s punk and Brit-pop, they sound nothing like the Buzzcocks or Television, two of their influences, and with sloppily played tambourines, glockenspiels, and accordion on their tracks, they more closely resemble Los Campesinos! or the New Pornographers fronted by Daniel Johnston.
Hot Panda were formed in January of 2006 after Connelly and Maghan Campbell returned from living abroad in Oslo, Norway, and recruited Mike Robertson and Keith Olsen. They started practicing in a garage in Edmonton, Alberta, and by 2007 had recorded their first EP, Whale Headed Girl, and begun touring in a beat-down 1977 ambulance that they affectionately named "the Pig." Over a hundred shows followed over the course of a year, including shows at CMJ, SXSW, and Pop Montreal. Ultimately, the toils of the road wore down Robertson, who was replaced by multi-instrumentalist Heath Parsons. With Parsons taking guitar, accordion, and keyboard duties -- alongside Olsen on bass, Campbell on drums, and Connelly on vocals and guitar -- Hot Panda continued gigging, eventually taking the stage at the New Music West in Vancouver. There, the band caught the attention of Mint Records and was invited to play the indie label's Christmas party. They recorded their first full-length, Volcano...Bloody Volcano, in February of 2008 with Ryan McVeigh in Winnipeg's Mid Ocean Studios. An official offer to sign to Mint followed in April, and Volcano...Bloody Volcano was released in February of 2009, at a CD release party in Edmonton on Valentine's Day. In November of that year, Olsen left that band and was replaced by Catherine Hiltz, who had been playing trumpet at some of the group's live shows. She was on board for the recording of their second album, How Come I'm Dead, which was released by Mint in October of 2010. ~ Jason Lymangrover, Rovi