Hello Panda Su. Would you like to introduce yourself to my readers? I know I had a little trouble working out who I might actually be speaking to when you begged to be on my blog as you share your name with Panda Su Lin, the giant panda cub captured in 1936 and brought to America by the explorer Ruth Harkness. I guess it’s a logical mistake to make. Although if this is Panda Su Lin and you are emailing me from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago where you are (I presume) stuffed then I’m not sure I feel at all comfortable with this…?
Well, it appears to be the longest question ever. Sorry to disappoint, but I am not the legendary Panda Su Lin; the giant panda cub captured in 1936 and brought to America by the explorer Ruth Harkness. I am simply Panda Su; the half Portuguese/half Scottish Ailuropoda Melanoleuca who likes to write songs on her guitar about the sea and land.
So this Monday (18th April 2011) marks the official release of your 2nd EP, I Begin, out on Peter Panda Records/Jagged Roots. Tell me a little about the songs included on the record and what my readers can expect whether they are already familiar with your sound or are virgins?
The songs on this record are a little more experimental than the songs on the first EP. Sticks and Bricks had a very simplistic approach; the four songs that featured on that EP were four of the first songs that I had ever written and I will always be immensely proud of what was achieved, but ‘I Begin’ represents a slight move in direction for me musically. As an artist, I always want to push myself creatively and the songs on the new record allowed me to experiment with new sounds and different ways of doing things.
You have also toured the EP in the run up to its release, playing a number of preview shows. How did that go? Visit any nice places, eat any nice dishes, and meet any fans who overstepped social boundaries with you… stuff like that…?
When you're hauled up in the studio you almost forget that there's a whole world out there. The preview tour was great for me as it allowed me to get back into the right mind set. We visited some places we'd never played in before, like Stornoway and Birmingham, and ate some delicious food almost everywhere we went. Sadly, no fans overstepped the social boundaries but it's only April, so we're still hopeful.
One of the songs on your EP is called The Alphabet Song. So I’d like to know which is your favourite letter in the alphabet and why? I’d also welcome you to spell some of your favourite words with your favourite letter…
My favourite letter of the alphabet is 'S'. My favourite word beginning with this letter is 'sandwich'. My favourite pass-time activity is saying 'She sells seashells on the seashore' over and over again.
Sh-sh-sh-shi, I’d also like to clear up five Panda Su rumours if that’s okay with you; 1. Is it true that you were born in Wick? (And how was that for an experience? Do you think you’ll ever go back there to die?) 2. When you were a little girl you spent most of your days at the village football pitch and used to slick your hair back like some sort of latina jailbird? 3. Your song ‘Eric is Dead’ (from your first EP, Sticks and Bricks) wasn’t really about an Eric at all? (GASP!) 4. Portis Wasp appears on Eric is Dead – and kind of steals the show? 5. You are actually Panda Su Lin emailing me from the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago? TELL THE TRUTH SU LIN!
Okay... Number 1 is most definitely true - I was born in Wick. I've not been back since that day, but I hear it's really beautiful. I'll probably visit one day, but I'm not ready yet. Number 2 is also true; I was a little boy when I was a little girl. I wanted to be a professional footballer and used to borrow my brother's football boots all the time. It was more of a trade really; I took his boots, he stole my barbies. I can't confirm or deny Number 3 I'm afraid, my lyrics are far too personal for questions like that! Number 4 is also true - Portis Wasp does appear on Eric is Dead. Originally, we had Dick Van Dyke in place but sadly he didn't make the final cut. Portis Wasp did an excellent Dick Van Dyke impression though. Kudos to you! Number 5? Sadly, no.
I was really good wasn’t I. Hmmm. Anyways, last year ‘Eric is Dead’ was featured on the Skins finale, which is of course all kinds of cool and no doubt prompted all dem bitchy girls who bullied you in high school to want to poke you on facebook and the like. How did it feel when you first heard your song play on that thing a number of us call the TELEVISION? And did you poke any of those girls back?
I've definitely been the receiver of lots more pokes since ‘Eric is Dead’ was featured on Skins. It felt great to hear my music on that thing called television. It felt especially great when I found out that it was the script writer for the show was the one that found my music and recommended me. I wonder if he'll cast me in the next series? I could be Linda, the reincarnation of Panda Su Lin; the giant panda cub captured in 1936 and brought to America by the explorer Ruth Harkness.
Oh I think that would be am-az-ing! But… if your Skins audition doesn’t work out for you and you have to stick with the music which show would you like to jazz up with an ‘I Begin’ track this year? Seeing as you’re now at the point in your career where you can just pick and choose and people jump!
I'd like to jazz up Helen Mirren's next film. Have you seen her new advert for Wii? It is positively dire.
As I mentioned earlier your new EP is called I Begin. Does that mean that, like, you were in a cocoon when you released Sticks and Bricks, and now a year later you have become a butterfly and I Begin is your butterfly, and you’re no longer in a cocoon? Or was there no thought given to the title whatsoever and you just thought it sounded pretty and obscure and stuff?
Actually, that's exactly what it means. Sticks and Bricks was a cocoon, I Begin is a butterfly. I'm hopeful that the metaphorical butterfly will get to see some of the world before some metaphorical snotty little kid catches it and tries to eat it.
If you had to pick a girl crush, ya know, a feisty young singer working in the music industry who you admire (secretly wannabe), might marry one day and share your facepaints with yada yada, who would you choose and why? (FYI I’d choose Zooey Deschanel. No wait… I think I want to be Zooey Deschanel so I would choose Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiia.)
Oh, I agree with Zooey Deschanel. I want to be her AND marry her. Sadly, she's already taken by my other celebrity crush, Benjamin Gibbard. If I ever found my self in a room with both of them at the same time I think my head would implode.
And the Panda Su facepaints… have they been retired from your gigs? I actually didn’t like your face painted to be honest. It looked all kinds of ghetto. But from what I’ve read there are a few people out there who aren’t appreciating your face sans black and white makeup. Should you be offended? Should I be offended even for bucking the trend? Is the world to reliant on gimmicks??!
My face needed a rest, and I was sick of being booked as a Kiss tribute band. The face paint was great, but it was almost impossible to drink on stage without using a straw. How uncool was that? I'm 23 now… and I have a mortgage. Sadly, it's time to grow up. (No offense, Gene Simmons)
Which do you prefer; the making of new music or the playing of your music to a live audience? (I can’t imagine anyone would enjoy playing to an audience of dead people)
This is a good question. When I'm in the studio, I never want to leave. It's such a creative space and it makes my head happy - but when I'm on the road, I never want to go home. I love playing my music to a room-full of people who are as excited about it as I am. Hmm, this is tough. Next question…
In five years from now where would you like to be? And in five minutes from now where would you hope to be?
In five years, I'd like to be doing what I'm doing now. I think it's important to be self-sufficient and if I'm still playing my music and making a living from it in five year's time, then I'd say I was pretty successful. I'd like to be in bed in five minutes from now. Judging by the length of your questions so far, it's probably not going to happen.
No not quite yet SU LIN. Would you like to ask me a question?
Yes please. Have you ever been stung by a wasp? AND if you were really a wasp, who would you sting and why? I think I'd sting Sam Ronson. Not only has she completely broken Lindsay Lohan's heart, but she was also caught riding her BMX without wearing a helmet in LA the other day. That girl deserves to feel some pain!
Don’t get me started on Sam Ronson! I went and saw Herbie: Fully Loaded at the cinema for god sakes so clearly, I am devastated by Lindsay’s downward spiral at the (man) hands of Sam Ronson. But I wouldn’t sting the girl, no. She doesn’t deserve my venom. And I’d be kind of worried that if I did sting her she’d turn me lesbian for all of a second; my mother would start leaking stories to the press, I’d start stealing from my local M&S and I’d be forced to set up my own product placement paparazzi shots! – Actually, that sounds kind of amazing, doesn’t it!
So I’d sting Sam Ronson for the 'experience' and for what she did to Lindsay, but I’d also sting Lauren from The Only Way is Essex – right on the nose so she’d be forced to go in for even more surgery on it. Then I’d wait outside the doors to the hospital where she’s getting her nose fixed, in the bushes or something, just waiting. Then when she’s ready to go home after her 2nd op and steps outside I’ll pounce on her and sting her again on the nose! She’ll be forced to turn back and have a 3rd operation, and so it will continue. Until her nose falls off. Je déteste Lauren!
Back to you again Su for one final question. To close this momentous occasion (your first Interview on My Portis Wasp says), please tell me, who would win in a fight to the death do you think; Panda Su or Panda Bear!!! You’ve both got the music chops(ticks) but when the paws come up, who falls down?
Panda Bear would probably win. I'm a lover, not a fighter.
Thanks Su! You better get off to bed now, another long day of striking poses at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago awaits you!!!
All images of Panda Su © Portis Wasp