Veranda Panda will be live this year at the 27th annual, Splashy Fen. The festival has a soft spot for both pandas , Liam and Jane so we decided to catch up with these Splashy vets ahead of the fest next month and got chatting on all things Splashy, side projects, the KZN scene and their new track – Chocolate Mermaid.
MCBN: Since this is our first time interviewing you guys, tell us a bit more about this rad duo, how did you both meet and how did Veranda Panda come to life?
(Liam) Hi! My name is Liam and this; (Points in the appropriate direction) is Jane. And we are Veranda Panda. An odd hybrid of one part classical musician, and one part beastie-boy-beat-junkie, Wu-Tang lover. There are a few theories as to how we met. My personal favourite is when we both won fought in the liberation army of ‘UmKitHuur’ (A planet 90 lights years from here). But some historians have suggested it was a fashion show in 2010. Whatever the origin, the journey has been quite a trip! It began with casual jamming in clubs, Jane free-styling over my DJ’ing and progressed to some tracks, then EP’s, and now this!
More than anything, though, it was born and nurtured through an uncanny alignment of personality and love for music.
MCBN: Jane you’re incredibly talented, we know you are involved with a lot musically but for those of our readers who don’t know, tell us a bit more about what you have achieved and what you are currently working on/involved with outside of Veranda Panda?
(Jane) Haha gosh, you guys! (Takes a bow). I think that it’s often the case when you’re a musician; you don’t have a 9 to 5 job, but you end up involved in a whole bunch of cool different stuff in different musical spaces as you make your living which kind of adds up to that and even more. Currently outside of Veranda Panda, I’m a full-time violinist in the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, have an amazing string quartet called Quattro Femmes (“four ladies” in Italian. I wonder how we came up with that one?), a live keys/violin/vocals/loop station duo with singer and dear friend Chloe Clark called Loop Street, and a whole bunch of violin teaching programmes. It sounds hectic and crazy and it sometimes is, but because it’s all linked in and driven by my passion, it makes it that much easier and worthwhile.
MCBN: You’re performing this year at Splashy Fen, how many Splashy Fens have you played to date and what’s your favourite thing about South Africa’s longest standing music festival?
(Liam) I must admit to being a complete Splashy addict. This year will be my 17th in a row! It was Splashy Fen that sparked my love for outdoor festivals and I haven’t looked back since. I think my first performance was in 2003 with my university comedy band; ‘The Neon Anthems’. Then I performed with my three-white-guy-rap-trio (Lol) called; ‘Spitmunky’. Veranda Panda has been playing Splashy in some capacity since 2012. This year will be Jane’s 6th attendance at the festival and we both hold the experience very close to our furry hearts. It isn’t just a music festival. It’s an experience. The setting, the people, the energy, it’s unique. Maybe it’s because I have fostered so many memories across every corner of the grounds, but going to Splashy always feels like going home.
MCBN: Since you are both from the surrounds we must assume you’ve been partying at Splashy long before you started playing there, how old were you when you both attended your first Splashy and what’s your fondest moment?
(Liam) Whoops I think I almost answered that already! So I think I was 16? My friends get annoyed with me when I launch into my ‘Splashy Stories’. But you guys asked, so yay! Here are some highlights..(Because I just can’t name one, sorry)
- Sitting in the grass with Waddy Jones (Known today as Ninja) after his performance with Max Normal, sharing a beer.
- Telling the drummer from Tweak he couldn’t have any of my Beer, cause he was like 12.
- Singing the national anthem on my mates old Corolla in the rain.
- Our first main stage performance as Veranda Panda.
- Watching my dad sing a blues song on stage with boys he taught.
MCBN: You dropped a new track not too long ago, Chocolate Mermaid. Tell us more about the inspiration behind that song.
(Jane) We wrote Chocolate Mermaid when we were going through a bit of a mini-identity crisis. A lot of music that was being made and doing well, was sounding all the same. So we starting wondering if our weird sound is even relevant or fits in anymore. Like, in the beginning, people are excited by you, being this exotic new sound like a “Chocolate Mermaid”, but then as you go on, it becomes a struggle to stick to your guns, and you often feel alone. It was a cool lesson for us though because the song did really well, so we are obviously doing something right, so we’ll keep on pushing our sound. It was also the first song of ours that I did all the vocals, and we’re super proud of how it turned out.
MCBN: Liam, tell a bit more about your history with music, how old were you when you first started showing a real interest in making music and are there any starter projects under the rug we never knew about?
(Liam) I have my parents to thank for raising me on a truly vast landscape of music. I grew up in a beautiful suburb called Kloof, which basically had a soundtrack. From Blues to Rock, Dave Matthews Band, R.E.M., Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Michelle Shocked…The list is endless. My mother had this habit of blasting music through the valley at 1 am, and I have her to thank for being able to sleep through a hurricane. When I fell in love with Wu-Tang and broken beats, I can’t say they understood, but they sure as hell supported me. I still remember my mother saying; “I bought you this Wu-Thing CD. I listened to it, there is a lot of swearing and they say nasty things about woman, and I hope you realise the difference between their reality and yours.” GO MOM!
I come from a theatre background, so I’ve performed in musicals, Shakespeare’s etc. I also had a theatre company with my oldest friend, and we performed our two man shows around the country for years. Music was always an escape for me because I took acting so seriously. After shows I would go DJ and that was a brilliant release from the stress of stage performance. I fell in love with live-electronic shows after watching ‘The Real Estate Agents’ and then basically began teaching myself production, sampling, turntable-ism from around the age of 20. It was sort of a few years of obsessive learning, late into the night. Anyway! I have a creative messaging agency called ‘The Nine To Fives’ as well. We produce creative content for corporates, from anthems to on hold messages, to live plays, scripts, videos, comic books, basically anything in the creative space. I also have a brand new music project under wraps called ‘Black Pineapples’…Stay tuned ekse.
MCBN: Who would you say your biggest musical influences and inspirations were as teens?
(Jane) That’s such a hard question! I’ve always found that musical experiences have been more influential to me than actual artists that I’ve latched on to. So playing in youth orchestras and different bands (come on, we all tried to start at least one band in high school) I think pushed me the most creatively, as well as people I worked with and learnt from. I was lucky to be exposed to a wide range of music, from the obvious nerdy classical stuff to a punk phase where we all used to dress up like Avril Lavigne and draw squares on our Pep all stars, to angsty girl stuff like Kate Nash and Alanis Morissette, to old school stuff of my parents’ era, to amazing stuff like the Cat Empire which I would play over and over again until I knew albums by heart.
(Liam) Wu-Tang, Real Estate Agents, Sibot, Max Normal, The Dandy Warholes, Bump 1 – Bump 5 (Don’t judge) and then way to much stuff from my parent’s collection to mention!
MCBN: What’s your current take on the status quo of the KZN electronic music and events scene?
(Liam) Well, it’s come a long way that’s for sure! When I started to DJ, it was NOT the cool thing to do. You were considered a kind of weirdo, eccentric. Electronic music has expanded exponentially and the DJ is now integral to popular culture. Since technological advances it has opened up a massive hole in the wall, and allot of kids are doing it for the wrong reasons. But that being said, it does make it harder to stand out, so the ones who do, REALLY are good. KZN has risen from obscurity on Radio to standing at the forefront of production on a national level. One only has to look at a lad like Sketchy Bongo! A serious concern though is a lack of variety, which is why festivals like Splashy Fen are SO important. The Electronic Stage is not just twenty Techno DJ’s and forty deep house DJ’s. It’s a blend of genres and styles, and I think that’s something a lot of promoters (Not only in Durban) But in SA, should take note of.
MCBN: Describe KZN in 3 words
(Jane) Sea. Berg. Home.
(Liam) Sweat. Green. Love.
MCBN: Describe your sound in 3 words.
(Liam) Original. Jump. Bass.
(Jane) Violin. Whump. Hopping.
MCBN: What local artists are currently on your playlist?
(Liam) Sibot’s new EP, Jeremy Loops, Hawkword, Johnny Clegg, Kyle Watson
MCBN: What has been your most memorable show/moment to date and why?
(Jane) I think it’s a draw between our first Splashy Fen main stage show and our show at Sakifo in Reunion Islands. Splashy is just so close to our hearts, and being on that stage in front of so many friends and people, was just overwhelming. Our Reunion show was just such a massive challenge. It was our first show overseas, where we were almost completely unknown. We started with a crowd of about ten and ended with over 2 thousand. Afterwards, we were so drained we didn’t talk for about 30 minutes.
MCBN: Lastly what do you have to say to fans who plan on watching Veranda Panda live at Splashy this year?
(Liam) We have worked so hard on our live set, as well as our commitment to playing OUR music. In our early years, we were essentially a DJ act. Playing other people’s music, mixing it with originals and some live instrumentation. Our stage show are now about OUR music. We’ve added Saxophone, Synths and loads of tricks up our furry sleeves. Expect loads of energy, jumping, switching, rapping, jamming, violin-swinging, machine bashing radness. We have also added a VJ who is gonna bring some weird and wild visuals to the party. See you in the mountains!!!!