Words & Interview by: Emily Ford

This past weekend I had the pleasure of sitting down with a few of Denver’s up and coming electro funk musicians; Pandasaywhat?! and Collidoscope as they prepare for their show this Saturday September 23 at Your Mom’s House A.K.A Pearls. This is no joke people; get your tickets now before they sell out and mom gets mad at you!

Jordan, AKA Pandasaywhat?! Is a self-described “deranged man-child turnt Panda Bear whose music is a journey full of groovy slap and wobble bass lines and hip hop rhythms.” He is a Boulder native now living and creating in Denver while exploring his music and experimental photography. Jordan has been producing electronic music for several years but has recently honed in his skills and put forth an immense amount of dedication and determination for his performance Saturday. This show will be his very first headlining show and he has put countless hours into creating an intimate visual and auditory experience for his lucky audience.

I was given the chance to pry into the musical mind of Pandsaywhat?! and this is what I came to learn:

Tell us about the name, Pandasaywhat?! Where / how did you come up with this?

I’ve been dubbed the nick name by a former knight of the queen who asked my last name. “Panasewicz” – Pan – uh – sev – itch .. To which the brave night replied “Panda-say-what?!” aaaand yeah it stuck.

You haven’t always gone by Pandasaywhat?!. You started out as a bedroom producer called, “Juiceboxxx”. If Pandasaywhat?! could give Juiceboxx advice, what would it be?

Experiment. With. EVERYTHING. – there is literally no limit to the capabilities involved with technology and music production now. I think I’ve done a pretty good job, but I would definitely continue to tell myself, and others, to explore those boundaries.

I imagine that song writing is a lot like storytelling, where do you start? How do you go from nothing, from complete silence, to a complex layered track?

I think about this every time I start a track, work on a track, and finish a track – where do I start? how did I get here? It’s not a simple equation. I usually try to start with something that grabs my own attention – a sample or a drum beat or even a sound with some rhythm to get into a groove. From there it’s all about feel, and trust me, not everything I feel is good. I scrap a lot more ideas than I keep, but there’s nothing more productive than finding a groove and just closing your eyes to find the feels and add onto it with some keys, a synth, the trumpet, a bass, a sample that you slice up, anything! The boundaries are limitless, and there is just so much opportunity to explore and experiment and find what sounds like it fits.

What production tools are you currently using? Which tools have you decided to axe from your setup and why?

I use Ableton to produce and perform, and for control and sound design Native Instruments is the go to for pretty much anything – I use an Ableton Push2 and the Native Instruments Keyboard, as well as a drum pad and a couple analog synths to produce. To perform I needed a more mobile set up so I use the Novation Launchpad Pro and a Launch Control XL. I haven’t really nixed much but more so expanded over the years. I still use some of the first controllers I bought, and the same software I started with. More so refining techniques and exploring in ways I hadn’t tried before. With all of these tools, it’ really is infinite!

There are a lot of talented musicians in the world and currently there’s quite a high concentration of them living here in Denver. What makes Pandasaywhat?! unique?

Great question, and another I think about a lot. On top of focusing on a Funky and Jazzy side of electronic music that is becoming more and more popular, I play the trumpet and I think that adds a lot of energy to my live shows and a lot of soul and feels to my production. I also play the EWI which I’d have to say is my biggest differentiator – it’s an Electronic Woodwind Instrument with breath control, bite control, octave rollers, touch sensitive pitch bend pads, and more… It’s basically anything I want it to be, and more, and it definitely adds a unique live element to my shows. I just try to keep it unique, I think I’ve developed a unique style over the years and am always looking to explore the possibilities of my own productions and performances.

This Saturday, you’re headlining your very first show, this is a huge deal! Give us some insight into the weeks leading up to this show. What are your priorities?

I could not be more excited. I am playing all original productions and remixes, and bringing in a plethora of extra visuals for the set up. I’ve been working like a mad panda to export stems of all my songs, prepare the live remixing aspects of the performance, set up EWI synths and bass patches, and putting together mostly all original video content for the projections. I’m working with a Denver based Lighting Designer on Projection Mapping and Lasers to make it extra special, and in the small venue that is Your Mom’s House, I expect it to be pretty spectacular.

Besides new tracks, what can your audience expect to look forward to at your show on the 23rd?

Be prepared for a lot of energy, a lot of weird, and a lot of stimulation. I am planning to make this a super special experience for those in attendance, so I mean, my cheesy answer is I guess to expect my heart and soul poured out into an audio/visual experience that I can only hope excites other people as much as it excites myself!

Performing at Your Mom’s House with Pandasaywhat?! is Collidoscope, made up of three overwhelmingly cheerful and talented men, Jakub, Hank and, James. Their music is full on get-out-of-your-seat can’t stop the boogie type of funk that is sure to leave you smiling and slightly out of breath!

Here is what they decided to dish out to me about music, creation and spirit animals:

Why “Collidoscope”? Where does this name come from, what does it mean to you/your fans?

Hank: Collidoscope is derived from a musical mission of delivering a diverse array of feels, styles, and sonic colors. I’d say our fans have come to expect our shows to be an energetic journey where they don’t really know what to expect from us.

James: It is a combination of Colliding + Kaleidoscope; the idea is that we smash together an eclectic mix of musical styles, tastes, guest performers etc. We are devout jam band fans and we are trying to bring some of that improvisational, anything-can-happen nature to the more structured EDM world.

Tell me about your personal backgrounds. Where are you from? Do you have any musical training? How long have you been playing music individually?

Jakub: I grew up in Iowa. I studied music starting at a young age. I started playing ‘drums’ on ice cream buckets when I was about 4. I couldn’t imagine life without playing music.

Hank: I’m from Austin, Texas, and while Austin is considered the live music capitol of the world, I didn’t completely immerse myself in playing and writing music until I was at UT in 2012. I’m mostly self-taught on the production side, with a few tutorials/courses of course, but I do take saxophone lessons regularly.

James: I grew up in a suburb outside Austin as well. In middle school my step-brother was an avid musician (Diamond Cuts, Resonant Frequency) so I got started just learning from him and playing his instruments. Eventually my dad put an old piano in our game room and I used to play it every day until my fingers hurt. As for musical training, I’ve always stuck with the “surround yourself with people who know more than you” approach and I’ve probably absorbed what amounts to a formal education in music.

How long have you three been playing music together? Where/when/how did you form the band?

Jakub: I met Hank in a computer coding program the summer of 2016. At the end of the program Hank invited me to jam with him and James. Three weeks later I was playing my first show with Collidoscope.

Hank: James and I have been producing and recording since 2012. When we moved up to Colorado I met Jacob at programming school, and after hearing him slay the drums we knew he was a “must have” for our band and invited him to join us on our musical journey.

For someone who has never heard your music before, how would you describe your sound?

Hank: I would describe our music to a new listener as hyper phonic electro-funk space jams.

James: Some of our big influences include The Floozies and GRiZ so our sound is somewhat in that funky instrument-driven songs with big wobbly bass drops vein, but a big goal of ours is to introduce more freedom in the music/show where we can improvise as a band such that each show has that “only happens once” quality that keeps people coming back for another unique experience.

What production tools are you using in the studio? What tools are included in your live setup?

Hank: In the studio we use Serum, Massive, the Push, Ableton Live, Ozone, and several Native Instruments plugins. For playing live we use Ableton, the Push, and to conduct our jam sections I use a Guitar Wing.

Jakub: I’m actually not too picky when I play live. Carrying drums around isn’t usually the most fun activity so I play on back lined and house kits as much as possible. My drum kit is very small. That way it is easy to set up and fit on small stages.
James: to keep it (kind of) short, my rig includes: Nord Electro 3, Dave Smith Mopho + Rocktron 2 Talk Box, and a Virus-TI that I run through a Kaos pad for live-looping. 

Do you have any irrational fears related to your music? Something trivial that doesn’t really matter but you still worry about it?

Hank: Having a miscue on a transition.

Jakub: None!! I’m fearless on stage.

James: One thing that kind of keeps me up at night is thinking about all the awesome musical ideas that I’ve written and lost/forgotten. You come up with a little melody and you’re like “Oh my god that’s awesome we really need to incorporate it into a song”, and then a month later you’re like “wait what was that thing we came up with a couple weeks ago?” It’s a natural part of the process but pour one out for all the hit songs that never were.

You all have full time jobs and dedicate any free time to making music. So, is the juice worth the squeeze? What makes all the hard work worth it to you?

Hank: The juice is worth it when you can make a difference in even one listener’s life. Providing that escape from everyday troubles is what drives us to create in the first place, and if we can share that moment with other people we’ve done our jobs. Getting thanked from random people after a set is one of the best feelings I’ve had.

Jakub: I love to play and I love to perform. So for me there just isn’t any other way to live. I enjoy my day job, but ultimately it is just to give me the money to pay bills and keep playing music.

James: The piano is my natural outlet for so many different moods, so playing it is self-fulfilling. Putting structure around it, working with booking agents and writing set lists and hauling the gear around to shows, that stuff is a headache. The only reason you do that is if you have an audience that would like to see it keep going. Otherwise, I’m in a dark room happily playing piano to myself.

How has your music evolved throughout your career as Collidoscope?

Jakub: I have never played in a band anywhere near this genre. So for me it is just getting the feel of the music and incorporating all my influences into my playing.

Hank: We founded Collidoscope on the idea that electronic music could be jammed out with improvisational sections similar to jam music, and since our inception we’ve been slowly incorporating more jam sections and solos into our sets. We aim to bridge the gap between electronic and jam music.

James: Hank said it well. We have evolved through a constant desire to do something truly unique. There are lots of EDM artists with live instruments, and there are jam bands that incorporate some womps into their set, and Colorado really loves both. We’re trying to blur the lines between them, and we know we’re not there yet so we put a lot of time and effort into “evolving”.

What are your spirit animals?

Hank: Pandu, the shamanic pandroid master

Jakub: Meshuggah [Swedish extreme metal band]

James: The band affectionately calls me “The Squid” because of the way my “tentacles” dance across the keys…

You’re all transplants, what is your favorite part of being in CO?

Hank: The vibe.

Jakub: I had a lot of things in my life change when I moved to CO. So I really love everything CO has given me.

James: I love the way that Colorado supports local bands. There’s a reason so many legendary acts have been born here, and it’s because there is a vibrant grassroots community helping underground artists get their start. When we moved from Austin we were a little nervous about building a following but we’ve already met so many awesome people and made great connections, it’s a really good feeling.