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Phone Home “Panda” (Influenza)

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: , .

Similar to when listening to electronic or classical music, with there being no lyrics to dissect or vocals to critique, the instrumental sound of John and Michael Vallarelli’s Phone Home leaves listeners with a vast array of ways to describe the duo’s sound. As explained by Olive Music, Phone Home is “coated with color, passion and euphoria”; To Eleven ultimately defines the group as “a logical continuation of the experimental and indie rock bands that are their NYC legacy”; and Australian “information filler” The Vine focuses on the band’s “enlightened sound” which involves “levitating keyboards that will have you pointing to the sky like E.T.” As when listening to any range of noisemakers, the definition of their sound will be unique to each and every set of new ears, but to help give a little more insight into the track’s formation this edition of Influenza focuses on the self-described “spacecore” band’s “Panda,” with Michael dissecting the progressively erupting track’s “pounding percussion” and how it contrasts with the remainder of the four-track recording.


I remember fiddling around with the verse riff for a couple of weeks, not knowing where to really take it. I really liked its similarity to “Meds,” but for some reason it sounded a bit darker. It is the black sheep brother if you will. John and I tried different rhythmic variations of the verse for quite a bit of time until he started playing this really pounding, forceful beat that I loved. The chorus just kind of came out naturally after playing it a few times. John added some pulse to it, and I knew where to hit the keys harder. Then that last part came about while I was trying to figure out a way to get out of the normal verse/chorus formula. We both felt it needed something more. I’ve always admired a composer’s ability to have a sort of musical resolution. This is what I was going for with the ending of this song. John tried that beat we recorded and actually didn’t really love it. It took a few tries for him to be content with the shift. The more we played this song, it seemed to define all of the elements we were aiming for as a band. To take the songs and make them sort of little silent films. A lot goes through my mind whenever we play this, which is the same for all our songs. However, this one sticks out for me. Ideas of escapism, romantic love, baseball, mortality, dislike for corporate ideals, space, among other things led me to calling the song “Panda.” It just seemed to make sense, at least to me. There is more to it, but I don’t want to give too much away.

When we recorded this at Vanity Sound with Matt Labozza, he inspired us to add some really interesting elements to it, like the Hammond organ and the Moog. What a treat that was. John was able to add additional pounding percussion to it which I think came across nicely as well. All in all, this song was a major accomplishment for us as a band, and as brothers. It’s usually something we like to end our shows with because it gets pretty loud, but we’re considering opening with it now as a welcome. We’ll see though, it really depends on how we’re feeling about the day.

[This post was first published by Culture Bully.]