Panda Punk!

You've been misinformed if you think Peelander Z is from Japan. They're not from Japan, despite speaking (and being) Japanese—well, perhaps at some point, they were from Japan, but they put the band together in New York City. Except, um, they didn't.

"We came from another planet! Peelander planet!" says vocalist/guitarist Kengoswee, calling from a snowy parking lot somewhere in Salt Lake City. "So we never met in New York City! We have to live on Earth, and we picked New York City, and that's why we're living there now."

Okay. So the three guys in Peelander Z—three guys who seizure across the stage in these thrift-store-damaged outfits, churning out surrealist punk examinations of food and magic panda bears, balancing floppy rubber wigs on their heads and later frankly explaining their recent trip to the moon to members of the press—are actually aliens. Somehow, that makes more sense than anything.

"Planet Peelander?" Kengo is saying, homesickness coarsening his voice. "We cannot hear another music. Only punk rock. The whole planet—water, fire, cars—everything is punk rock."

So why Earth, you ask? Peelander sounds like it has a pretty good scene, particularly when it comes to base elements.

"I got the news that Joey Ramone was gone," Kengo says, "and the Earth people need new punk rock."

And this new punk is . . . Peelander Z?

"YESSSSSS!" roars Kengo, loud enough to make the cell phone—sorry, he calls it a "translator machine"—fuzz out for a second.

It's enthusiasm like that that has served the Peelanders well, as it did such extraterrestrial predecessors as the Coneheads or Alf. (Alf's solo seven-inch EP sounds uncannily like Stiv Bators—seriously.) It's all in their intensely overpowering live show, reminiscent of, say, Teengenerate covering that one episode of Pokmon that put all those child epileptics in seizures on the living-room carpet.

And it got them on Comedy Central's late, lamented Upright Citizens Brigade: "They are looking for some Japanese bands," says Kengo, unfortunately slipping out of character a bit, "and someone say, 'I know very crazy Japanese band!'" And it got them into CBGB's Japunk Panic Jamboree (which they organized) and New York's "Art Frenzy" festival, both of which, thanks in part to a megadose of Peelander Z, were just as panicked and/or frenzied as the names might imply.

But perhaps—like us—you know the Peelanders only from the handful of recordings (such as the split seven-inch they did on Laguna's GC Records) they've promulgated across our home planet. "We are looking to release our CD on the Earth," notes Kengo. "Please try to call me." Maybe you've only watched them tearing around the streets of NYC like lunatics in a video called Panda Punk (obviously about, explains Kengo, that magic punk rock Panda from China), and you've got a lot of questions. Like: Why does Kengo always dress up in a yellow peanut M&M costume?

"Don't call [them] 'costumes'!" he warns. "That's our skin! 'Costumes' means 'clothes'—it's not clothes."

Somewhere in the background, the other Peelanders—Antonio Kazuki, the blue Peelander drummer, and K.O., the red Peelander bassist (all the Peelanders are color-coded, like the wires you have to cut to disarm a time bomb, or the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers)—are laughing hysterically.

"Blue drummer, he has a job and cannot buy blue drums—that's why he has green drums," adds Kengo. "Peelander Red, he never talks. He's telepathic everything. ESP. Sometimes he has hot pepper and apple. Sometimes he's red from miso soup."

As an interview with Peelander Z quickly demonstrates, food is the real universal language (Fuck art; let's eat?). So what are Peelander's songs about?

"Okay, this is very important," says Kengo. "First, we went to China because we thought it was New York City, and then we went to Japan. That's why we kind of have Japanese everything. And we really love the sushi. And when we move to New York, we couldn't find a good sushi restaurant. Everything is expensive. And that's why we choose steak. New York steak. We order medium-rare. That's very good for us. And I want to say to Earth people, 'If you have your choice, get medium rare.' That's why we have the song 'S-T-E-A-K.' And always I ask before song, 'How you like steak?' And everyone say, 'MEDIUM-RAAAAAARE!'"

After the phone fuzzes back in, Kengo explains some of the other songs—such as "Rocket Gold Star," about the punk scene on the moon, which, if you're wondering, is pretty dead—and how he can't wait to eat some big, tasty California oranges. So how has the tour of Earth been going?

"Very hard," sighs Kengo. "We can fly; we can go anywhere. But our booking agent says we have to go by bus. It very hard to drive—I didn't have driver's license in America. And now I got driver's license."

Were you wearing your, um, skin for your driver's license photo? we ask.

"Yes," says Kengo matter-of-factly. "We made ourselves from noodles."

And in the background, everybody's laughing again.

Peelander Z perform with the Lipstick Pickups, This Is Revenge, the Martyrs and the (No) Apologies Project at the Liquid Den, 5061 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach, (714) 377-7964; Sat., 9 p.m. $6. 21+.


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