Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, the boundary-pushing reggae band from Rochester, NY, will release its latest studio album, Steady, on September 30, in its first collaboration with independent reggae label Easy Star Records. A first single from the album, the title track “Steady,” has been made available at LivePanda.com for listening and free download, to give fans an early taste of what to expect from the record.
The bulk of the songs on Steady were recorded in 2013 with Craig Welsch of 10 Ft. Ganja Plant co-producing. Two other tracks were recorded after those sessions and added to the sequence - the title track was co-produced by Danny Kalb (The Green, Ben Harper), while live show favorite “Mr. Cop” was recorded with Matt Saccuccimorano (John Brown’s Body). A few of the other tracks are longtime staples of the band’s heralded live sets, like “.45″ and “Solution,” but neither has had satisfactory studio versions until now.
Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (GPGDS) is known for a very jamband-influenced approach to reggae, taking compositions in unexpected directions. In addition, the band also performs acoustic Americana music, as in their well-received Country album from 2012. Steady captures these disparate vibes with different styles, excellent instrumentation and arrangements contributing to the overall sound of the record, yet it is unmistakably a groundbreaking reggae album.
“This is without a doubt the best sounding record we’ve ever made,” says singer-bassist James Searl. “But it’s also the most consistently solid set of songwriting we’ve done to date.” This despite the fact that the band’s last reggae record, In These Times (2012), was picked as a Top 10 reggae album by iTunes. The band’s three primary singer-songwriters (Searl, singer-guitarist Dylan Savage, and singer-guitarist-banjo player Dan Keller) are each represented throughout the record. Savage, who tends to write classic-sounding reggae anthems in a ’70s vein (”Solution,” “Whatever Cost,” “Not The Fool”), is balanced by the often more experimental Searl (”Hurt Up Your Brother,” “Wolf At The Door,” “Favorite Song”) and the more romantic/pop elements of Keller’s writing (”Move,” “Home”). Drummer Chris O’Brian continues to add amazing percussion and harmony vocals, while keyboardist Aaron Lipp shines in some of his final sessions with the band (he has since been replaced by Tony Gallicchio).
As for ending up as part of the growing Easy Star family, Giant Panda couldn’t be happier to be on the label with a roster that includes The Green, Rebelution, John Brown’s Body, Cas Haley, The Black Seeds, and Easy Star All-Stars (with whom GPGDS is touring the West Coast in September). The band and the label had been friends since 2008, but the timing was never right to join up forces until now. “Sometimes it takes a while for the stars to align right,” Easy Star CEO Eric Smith says. “We always bounced around the idea of working with each other, but after hearing the growth on these latest sessions and seeing how good the band’s live set had become, we knew now was the time to finally make it happen.”
Steady will be followed in early 2015 by a sequel to Country called Bright Days, which will take the band’s Americana acoustic persona even further than before. This is also due to come out on Easy Star, along with a vinyl version of Steady. In the meantime, fans both old and new can revel in the startlingly good Steady.
U.S. Tour Dates
Aug 16: Philadelphia, PA @ Hard Rock Cafe
Aug 28: Naples, NY @ Purple Pig Music Festival
Aug 30: Roanoke, VA @ Martin’s Downtown
Aug 31: Stuart, VA @ Front Porch Fest
Sep 12: Washington, DC @ Tropicalia
Sep 13: Wilmington, NC @ California Roots The Carolina Sessions
Sep 17: Tacoma, WA @ Jazzbones *
Sep 18: Vancouver, BC @ Venue *
Sep 19: Portland, OR @ Wonder Ballroom *
Sep 20: San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s *
Sep 21: Sacramento, CA @ Ace Of Spades *
Sep 24: Las Vegas, NV @ House Of Blues *
Sep 26: Solana Beach, CA @ Belly Up Tavern *
Sep 27: Los Angeles, CA @ House Of Blues *
Sep 28: San Juan Capistrano, CA @ The Coach House *
* with Easy Star All-Stars