Land of Panda drops debut album just in time for summer

by Jarett Theberge

After two years of playing shows and coming up with material, local kids Land of Panda have released their self-titled debut album filled with funk breakdowns, proper beats, catchy guitar riffs and psychedelic solos just in time for the summer.

Breighton Jones, lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, says the four-piece band wanted to bring the experience of their live performances to their debut affair.  Each member draws on different genres, from jazz to reggae to pop punk to psych rock, to create an album that’s dying to be played loud poolside.

Land of Panda didn’t track each song individually. They performed the album live in a studio in Hartford, CT the whole way through, as if they were playing a show from a set list more so than a track list.

In the album’s second track, “Divided,” Land of Panda pulls a sound straight out of the late ‘90s SoCal ska scene, standing out from the overall funk atmosphere without straying away from their style.

“Mashup” is just that: a combination of two different songs with rapid-fire dual guitars and percussion that slows down into a seven-minute odyssey.

One song they haven’t played live yet, “Papa Legba,” is based on the story of Robert Johnson at the crossroads selling his soul to the devil, who is referred to as Papa Legba in voodoo traditions in Louisiana. Whatever soul was being traded seems to have ended up in Breighton, as his vocals and storytelling shine in this track.

The band started out just jamming, so they had to adjust to the work flow of cutting an album for the first time.

“It’s a lot of mental work as opposed to just jamming,” Breighton says.

Lead guitarist Michael Brown says there were aspects of the band’s prior EP that could have been improved and that this album was a chance to do it again.

“We wanted to pick the songs that best represented us. Earlier on [the EP] there were songs that didn’t capture our true characteristics,” Michael says.

Behind Breighton and Michael are Kevin Billups on bass and Joshua Leslie on drums. Both pull the band’s influences together to establish a cohesive backbone for the album. The percusion is one of the finest elements of the album, as Joshua hits and fills at just the right time almost every time.

After two years of playing venues and DIY shows, Land of Panda finally has a record to send home with people. They are eager to get the show on the road.

Land of Panda’s self-titled debut album is out now on music streaming services.

Catch Land of Panda at one of their four album release parties: June 14 at Buzzbin in Canton, July 5 at Stella’s Music Club in Cleveland, July 18 at Musica in Akron, and Columbus TBA.

Jarett Theberge is a journalism student at Kent State University. Image used with permission from Land of Panda.