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Minus the bear

Big developments afoot for Vegas’ Pandas

Spencer Patterson

 

Las Vegas, get ready to say goodbye to The Pandas.

No, the psychedelic-rock foursome isn’t leaving town. Frontman Bobby Martinez has simply decided on a new name for the group: Weapons of Love.

“It just hit me one day that I didn’t want us to be called that anymore,” Martinez says. “It’s not the same band as when me and [bassist] Louise [Le Hir] started it five years ago. We have different members now. Plus, when we originally thought of it I didn’t know one other band that had Pandas in the name. Now there’s The Panda Band, Panda Bear ... like four pages of Panda URLs on MySpace.”

Martinez’s inspiration for Weapons of Love? A song of the same name by New York-based outfit The Soft Explosions, whom Martinez calls “probably my favorite band. ‘Weapons of Love’ is basically just a long jam. It’s just a neat song for me.”

The name switchover won’t become official until sometime this spring, since The Pandas are booked, as-is, for three upcoming West Coast dates: February 27 at Los Angeles’ Three Clubs, March 1 at the Bunkhouse (with Spindrift) and March 2 at San Francisco’s Café du Nord (with The Dilettantes).

Martinez also hopes to complete work on the band’s first full-length album soon, with an eye toward making Weapons of Love’s live debut a CD-release party. New T-shirt designs and a Weapons of Love MySpace launch are also in the works.

The Pandas began work on the disc soon after returning from South by Southwest last March—recording four finished tracks at Vinnie Castaldo’s Tone Factory—before postponing further sessions. “I was a little dissatisfied with the overall thing,” Martinez says. “We were sounding sorta weak to me, like maybe we should play some shows and get tough and then record again.”

Since then, Martinez, Le Hir and guitarist Erik Smith have added a new drummer—19-year-old Joseph Renfroe of the Ambry Underground—and beefed up their live repertoire considerably. Martinez says newish tunes like “Move,” “The Sharks Below” and “Turn Me Back” will join retooled versions of earlier holdovers such as “The Church,” “Alone,” “Crystal Highway,” “High Birds” and “If You Still Love Me” on the upcoming album, which is likely to be self-released.

“I’m hoping it’ll be done by mid-April,” Martinez says. “It’s been a long time coming, and we wanna catch up as fast as we can.”

(myspace.com/thepandas)

Pandas photo by Erik Siemens

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