Pandacorn: furry proof that opposites attract
by Gregory Beatty
with The Fortunate Isles
Gimmicks are always a dicey proposition for bands: on one hand, they offer a way to get noticed in a crowded musical landscape. On the other, they can easily get a group branded as a novelty act without the chops to make it on the strength of their music alone.
Moose Jaw-based PandaCorn has walked that tightrope since Brodie Mohninger and Megan Nash formed the band in 2012. Ever since they started playing together, they’ve worn animal headdresses: panda (Mohninger) and unicorn (Nash). Pretty easy to see why they picked their name now, isn’t it?
“When we started PandaCorn, we were both firmly established in music,” says Mohninger. “Megan had her solo project, and I was playing in a band called Brain Sauce. It was an easy way to create an image that was separate from that and to emphasize that the music was different than what we’d done before.”
Obviously, the headdresses created an instant impression — so that’s step one in making your mark as a band covered. But step two is making sure you’ve got solid songs.
How’s PandaCorn doing on that front?
Audiences can decide for themselves when the band launches their debut CD The Synthesis of Opposites with a trio of shows — Nov. 15 in Saskatoon (Vangelis Tavern), Nov. 16 in Regina (Lancaster Taphouse) and Nov. 17 in Moose Jaw (Chiller’s Brew Pub).
The album’s title was inspired by a radio program Mohninger heard on the 19th century German philosopher Hegel, he says.
“The theory is that you take two opposing philosophies, and by combining them and reconciling them, you come up with something that’s closer to the middle.”
That’s a concept that PandaCorn embodies on multiple levels. Their name combines a mythical creature and a real-life animal (at least for now: pandas are endangered, you know). Then there’s Mohninger and Nash themselves.
“Megan was raised on a farm, while I’m a city kid,” says Mohninger. “She comes from a country, singer-songwriter background, and I’ve played in jazz groups, rock ’n’ roll, fusion, that kind of thing. It’s definitely two different worlds, and there’s a compromise going on because we’re both heavily involved in the songwriting process.”
The album’s seven songs, says Mohninger, “are drawn more from personal experience than an existential thing where we’re singing about bigger concepts. ‘Velveteen Daddy’, for example, is about raising kids and all of the challenges. You get Megan’s perspective as a woman and my perspective as a man. ‘Forgotten Machines’ is the same idea, but split up where she’s more familiar with a rural upbringing, and I’m more experienced in an urban upbringing.”
During the recording process, PandaCorn added a third voice to the mix in the form of drummer Ryan Schnell.
“When we started we didn’t have a permanent drummer,” says Mohninger. “What I was doing was recording drums. Now we have a drummer we work with regularly. Since we’ve been playing with him, the songs have evolved live, and we’ve done those versions in studio. It’s a little more raw and stripped-down.”
Mohninger also gave a shout-out to Dagmara Genda, who did the cover art for Synthesis.
“We found her through a friend. What we wanted was a collage — something that had some depth and layers to it. One of the pitfalls of wearing costumes is that people write you off as one-dimensional, or think of it as a gimmick. I’m totally fine with that. But the cover was another example of how we can interpret the idea of PandaCorn.”