By: Ali Owens
If you’ve spent any amount of time paying attention, chances are good you’ve caught wind of a catchy song called “On My Way,” by up-and-coming folk group Pandas & People. It’s a little bit Mumford and Sons, a little bit Lumineers, and a whole lot of rhythmically driven, foot-tapping goodness. And, incidentally, it was also written when Pandas & People’s two founding members, Joshua Scheer and Johnny Day, were playing in an alternative rock band with an entirely different sound.
“We started writing more acoustic stuff, and we got some really good feedback,” says Josh. “I’ve always loved the simplicity of folk. And around that time, I fell in love with it and haven’t let go.”
Just for fun, he and Johnny submitted “On My Way” to KTCL’s Home for the Holidays competition, not actually expecting anything to happen – and to their surprise, the song was selected as one of the top three submissions. The snag? They had to play a set in front of a live audience – a set they didn’t actually have. “We wrote the EP in a little over a week and threw a band together,” Josh laughs. “And, you know, the gig wasn’t our greatest moment. It was all just so new that we were still trying to remember the lyrics! But still, right out of the gate, we had a great response.”
Fast forward a few years, and now it’s plain to see that Pandas & People have come a long way from the haphazard, thrown-together act it started as. These days, they’ve got much more experience under their belt, including a 12-day nationwide tour through prolific places such as Chicago, New York City, Atlanta, and Nashville. “You feel like you’ve done something right when you’re out on the road and you’ve got nothing else to worry about other than playing music – it’s a pretty amazing thing,” Josh recalls. “This is everything we want to do as musicians, as songwriters. It felt like a glimpse into the future.”
In addition to touring, the band was voted “Best New Artist” by the Colorado Sound and was nominated as “Best Folk Band in Colorado” by Westword Magazine – credentials that demand the group be taken seriously. And it’s a good thing, because they’re showing no signs of slowing down. Their first full-length album is set for release in late 2017, and according to Josh, it’s a step in a new direction. “We’re exploring the genre – getting more creative with it. It’s more exciting, I think – not your typical folk songs.”
The band’s lineup has shifted over the years, with Josh and Johnny carrying the torch, but, as Josh says, “We’ve always had a kickass band behind us.” Currently, their live performances are rounded out by Adam Haag on drums and Conrad Marshall on guitar and keys.