Pixel Panda’s Burial Suite is one sweet step in a hyperactive trajectory.

Sugar Rush 

Pixel Panda’s Burial Suite is one sweet step in a hyperactive trajectory.

The members of Pixel Panda just can't seem to sit still.

That's not some trite observation of the band's career aspirations. On this Thursday night at McCoy's in Westport, the four bandmates — singer Do-Yun Kim, keyboardist Alicia Solombrino, bassist Luis Arana and his brother, guitarist Jorge Arana — won't stop squirming in the seats of their oversized booth.

Some of them are a little more out of control than others. Jorge and Do-Yun, for example, are slightly — slightly — more reserved. But Luis, decked out in a hoodie emblazoned with the words "Hecho en Mexico" (a reference to his and his brother's childhood home, near Juarez, Mexico), and Alicia, an oversized shock of bleached-white and jet-black hair framing her waiflike face, are both turned up to 11.

"Mine smelled so bad," Alicia says with a mischievous smirk as she shifts in her seat. She's describing what it was like the first time she strapped one of the band's signature panda masks to her face at a Record Bar show late last year, a few months after she joined the band. The masks, purchased from the Halloween department at Target in 2003, haven't held up well to multiple washings over the years.

Apparently, they don't hold up to sweat and hot stage lights, either. By the end of the story, the giggles from all sides of the table pretty much drown out the conversation.

Really, these antics aren't surprising. Anyone who has listened to either of the band's full-lengths (the Pavementesque The Nation of Symmetry, released in April 2004, or the more frenzied Burial Suite, which arrived November 3) knows that a truckload of Adderall couldn't help these four concentrate for more than a few seconds.

It might be tricky for interviewers, but when it comes to the music, that's not a bad thing. Every Panda song is like a trip down the post-hardcore rabbit hole, careering and colliding through some spooky, cacophonic universe where time signatures and melodies don't hang around for long.

"There are a lot of people who just don't get it," Luis says, trying to explain the band's constantly shifting sound.

"At times, we're not punk enough for the punk fans and not hardcore enough for the hardcore fans," Jorge adds.
Listen to "To Happy Hunting Ground" from Pixel Panda's Burial Suite:

Although Burial Suite, which was well-received by fans and critics, hasn't even been out for three months yet, it's practically a distant memory. The foursome — three of whom met at Lee's Summit High School in an English-as-a-second-language class (Do-Yun is originally from Seoul, South Korea) and started making music together almost immediately — are already working on an EP that will be featured on a soon-to-be-announced tour.

Because they're desperately in need of a full-time drummer (Dan Bottemuller of the now-defunct James Dean Trio fills in for now), they're taking just a few songs from Symmetry and Burial Suite with them.

"It's hard when you're writing a lot of songs and then it takes a couple of years to put it out," Jorge says. "That's why we try to change with every album. The EP is definitely going to be very different."

The conversation makes a sudden turn from music to video games — something for which all four share a passion. Like any self-respecting gamer, the Pandas already have the latest consoles. One invested in a PlayStation 3 shortly after it came out. Another purchased a Nintendo Wii. Without encouragement, they talk animatedly about both.

"We're the new generation of people who grew up playing video games," Do-Yun says. "We just like technology. We're the Nintendo era."

Suddenly, it's starting to make sense. All these abrupt changes in conversation — and song structure, for that matter — aren't accidental. They're the result of a generation that has embraced MySpace, YouTube and the other engines of entertainment that have shortened the collective attention span from half-hour segments to 30-second streaming clips. This generation doesn't complain that MTV never shows videos. As far as they know, MTV has never shown videos.

If Pixel Panda's latest album has a stamped-on shelf life of less than six months, there's no telling how long an EP might last. Or, for that matter, what the band will do after that.

"After the EP, Pixel Panda might turn into a dance music band," Jorge says. "Or maybe a mariachi band."

"Or maybe the Spice Girls," Alicia chimes in.

That last comment sends the group into another laughter-filled tangent.

But that doesn't mean it won't happen.

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