The music of Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (GPGDS) flips roots reggae upside-down and shakes free traces of perceived Americana. Their sound is a derivative of island rhythms, although some listeners might, first, recognize their blues influences.
Later this month GPGDS or Panda, is releasing their first album since 2012. The album, Steady, breaks from the clinical sounds of a jam band, but the men of the band gleefully stick to archetypes of the grand genre of Jamaica—rocksteady shin-kicks, protest lyrics, and herb-smoking. Coming off their previous album Country, Tony Gallicchio, Chris O’Brian, Dan Keller, James Searl, and Dylan Savage infuse their latest with American folk motifs. Steady is an indirect study in musicology, particularly the relationship between reggae and working-class American music. They perform on Friday, September 12 at Tropicalia.
Singer-bassist James Searl took some time out of his schedule to humor me with questions ranging from re-animated dead folk singers to song title references from Steady. The album will be released on Easy Star Records, September 30. Panda, already mid-tour, continues through the US until early October.
If your music was packaged with a mission statement, what would it be?
Music is healing. Let’s rock and let’s groove to this rhythm.
Tell me how you got in cahoots with Easy Star Records?
Dub Side of the Moon was a profound recording. We used to play it as the house music before all of our shows back when we started playing out as a band that was focused on spreading reggae music to the future. One thing about reggae that we all recognized was its miraculous ability to sound ancient and futuristic all at once.
Easy Star seemed to understand how powerful of a concept that was in their reinterpretation of the classic album Dark Side of the Moon, of which Panda was familiar with every note of the Pink Floyd version. We kept doing our thing, and they kept doing their thing, and after a while, the meet up was inevitable. There have been so many natural connections that have brought us together. It feels very special. Their support has certainly given us the confidence to know that we are on the right track in our lives and that reggae music is the truth.