The arrival this weekend to Edinburgh Zoo of Tian Tian and Yang Guang led most people to point out there are now more Giant Pandas than Tory MPs in Scotland. However one lone voice, the band Free Swim, pointed out a different statistic: the UK now has three Giant Pandas. For Free Swim have adopted the titular heroine of their second EP of 2011 as their bass player.
“Yolanda The Panda” was one of this year’s unconfined and unexpected joys. A four track concept EP about a mountaineering giant panda who travels from her cage at San Diego Zoo to sail across oceans, escape incarceration by the Chinese government to then tackle the ascent of Everest in a madcap 14 minutes. Like “a neat stitching together of English eccentrics and Peel favourites: Martin Newell, Felt, I Ludicrous, Bearsuit” said I. My Band's Better Than Your Band said it better: "bloody brilliant...99 times better than most bands".
Free Swim is the brainchild of Paul Coltofeanu who also records as The Android Angel (a “more serious” musical side-project. Come on Paul – I regard Free Swim as utterly serious). Joining him live in Free Swim are band members Ryan Say, Steve Matthews and of course Yolanda the Panda. Putting questions to all of them, the band nominated Yolanda to answer on their behalf:
What I will remember most about 2011 is...
Coming to England to play bass guitar with Free Swim!
What should be forgotten about 2011…
I don’t want to forget any of it, it has been fantastic!
The best gig we played was...
Everywhere we played people were very friendly and often very drunk!
The best gig I saw was...
The new Lord Webber production of Love Never Dies!
A record from 2011 that will be still be played in 10 years time?
Yolanda the Panda by Free Swim of course!
Overlooked in 2011?
Sponsor a Panda!
Brightest hope for 2012?
I would like to keep playing bass guitar in Free Swim but I want to return to China to start a family soon.
And what can we look forward to in 2012 from Free Swim?
Free Swim is going to release two brand new EPs at the beginning of the year! Hurray!
The first Free Swim EP “Two Hands is OK” was based on the premise “a man is so busy he decides to have two extra hands grafted onto his chest”. What on earth will EPs number three and four bring next year? And maybe 2012 will also bring more promoters outside London enlightened enough to put the band on - as well as the quality of the music their bass player is a seven foot tall Giant Panda fercrisssakes!
Free Swim - I Want to be a Mountaineer! by Free Swim
Free Swim - Harmlessly English by Free Swim