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I Like It Raw

By Kate Peterson

Raw Panda Records, is just a bunch of dudes—with a bunch of talent. They are a homegrown recording company, producing high quality results by recording in homes, recording studios and any other place they can set up recording equipment.

What they are doing with music in this town cannot be put in any one classification. The members, the genres, the projects and locations all vary like the periodic table of elements.

Raw Panda Records will be putting on a showcase of four bands at Vinyl Music Hall: Paloma, Pioneers! O Pioneers, Kent Stanton and Ashmen. Now, when we say four bands, we mean four bands made of a revolving band of musicians, who all play in each other’s bands. As an example, there is Aaron Finlay, who plays drums for Paloma, drums and guitar with Kent Stanton and plays percussion with Damien Louviere. And keep in mind, all of these bands have a distinct sound.

You would think that combining so much talent among so many different bands and still creating distinctly different music could get difficult, but for this group of friends it’s a natural process.

“It is natural, nothing forced,” said Sean Peterson, who plays and records music for all the band members’ different projects. “We do not play beyond our scope. All of us are friends with similar tastes. It is a collective; everyone brings new stuff to the table. We keep an open mind. Being inspired and fresh is key.”

The name, Raw Panda, is somewhat of a funny story. It started as an inside joke between Damien Louviere and others; mainly that there were so many panda-named labels and bands. Add that with the idea that what the guys were developing was a raw music project, and the name Raw Panda was born.

“We are a do-it-yourself music crew, we shoot from the hip,” Peterson said. “All of us have different backgrounds. We love all things music.”

Peterson got his start as a bassist in college, playing frat parties and local bars. He has played all over Pensacola, the beach and in town, playing mostly cover music.

“It was a great way to perfect my craft,” he said.

Peterson chose bass by accident. In sixth grade, he played the upright bass. He liked a girl who played bass and it seemed like a good idea at the time. Really, he wanted to play drums. Since drums were not available, the bass stuck.

“It was fate for sure,” he said. “I absolutely love it. And, look at where it has taken me.”

In 2002, he signed on with Colonel Bruce Hampton and the Codetalkers. He toured with them, and played the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn. during his tenure. Peterson has been fortunate enough to strike a balance between playing normal gigs around town, playing with songwriters and still being involved in the creative process of recording.

Speaking of recording, he and others just recorded Timberhawk’s new 11-song album in their home—using every room in the house. This unique approach achieved the desired results.

“I am a big fan and follower of some notable recording companies, such as Blue Note,” said Peterson. “They have defined sounds and the personification of sound. We have taken advantage of what we have, as long as it sounds good, and other noises don’t get in the way, we will record anywhere.”

With Raw Panda Records being such a collaborative effort, it’s not surprising that Peterson will play multiple parts in the upcoming showcase. In fact, all of the members of all the bands will be on stage, sitting in with each act.

“We have all played together; all have done different things under the umbrella of Raw Panda Records,” said Peterson. “Having a showcase show made a lot of sense. We are excited about this event at Vinyl.”

RAW PANDA RECORDS SHOWCASE
WHAT: Raw Panda Records Showcase with Paloma, Pioneers! O Pioneers, Kent Stanton and Ashmen
WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 11
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox
COST: $5; $10 for under 21
DETAILS: vinylmusichall.com