By Olivia Fonti
Long Island’s own folk band, Pandafan, has very quickly gained momentum in the local music scene and demonstrates the drive and talent needed to hit the big leagues. They’re new to the scene, but old souls, and you’d think they’d spent half their lives in and out of acoustic gigs and coffeehouses. Pandafan is self-described as “sometimes indie, sometimes folk, sometimes indie-folk.”
The three members, Grace DeNatale, Delaney Hafener, and Joe Mineo, are all multi-instrumentalists and natural vocalists. The trio brings to Long Island a unique sound, influenced by groups such as First Aid Kit, Fleet Foxes, The Carter Family, Beach Boys and Pink Floyd. Since conception, Pandafan has written over thirty songs and played gigs throughout Long Island, Queens, and Brooklyn. They regularly perform at Crazy Beans in Miller Place and Tend Coffee in Shirley.
The band came together in October 2012, when Delaney and Joe decided to bring together a new pop band. Just a few days before superstorm Sandy hit, met for rehearsal. None of the other band members showed up, but their mutual friend Grace did. The three found common ground while playing melodies from ‘Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?’ and later that night they wrote their first hit, “I’ve Been Waiting.” After the storm hit, schools were closed for a week and the trio spent their time using music performance and composition as a way to be constructive and hopeful through such destruction. By the end of the week, Pandafan had been born.
In September, Joe will be attending SUNY Purchase College, and so Pandafan’s next endeavor is to take college-aged audiences by storm. A CD is set to release sometime before the anniversary of their first gig in December. Catch them at the BOOM BBQ August 16th 6PM at Five Towns College!
How long had you all been playing music before coming together as Pandafan?
D: Well I’ve actually been playing for a long time, I’ve been playing at open mics since I was fourteen. And then Grace & I started playing together when she started playing the mandolin and violin. And this past October, the magic happened! And we all started playing together.
And you attended William Floyd High School together?
D: Yeah. We still are
J: Well the two of them are, I’m not.
D: Yeah, we’re gonna be seniors this coming fall.
How long have you guys been playing your respective instruments?
G: Well I’ve been playing the violin since the fifth grade, in school, and then I started playing with the band in October. And then the mandolin about a year and a half.
D: I’ve been playing guitar since I was twelve or thirteen. And the bass I’ve been playing just a little longer than guitar, but I don’t really play it live as much.
So how did you get into folk music?
G: I started playing classical violin, because that’s what they teach in school, but I grew up listening to lots of different genres, and one of my favorites has always been folk.
J: I mean, we saw Oh Brother Where Art Thou, and said, ‘Let’s start a band!’ [laughs]
How has your experience on Long Island been as an up and coming group?
D: Back and forth, roller-coaster-y.
J: Lately, we’ve been experiencing a lot with really cool coffee houses.
G: Yeah we’ve been playing a lot of coffee houses. We are often at Tend, or Crazy Beans. There is an open mic at Roast in Patchogue. But we want to try to play there as Pandafan, and not just at open mics.
D: The only downside is that we don’t meet too many bands our age and our genre around here. Lately we’ve met a few, but we usually don’t meet that many bands that are younger and play the same music that we do.
J: For most people our age, if you wanna start a band, you start a rock band. But we like the older stuff.
G: We have older taste.
So do you think it would be easier to get into the scene if you were more into the rock genre?
D: I think things have been going perfectly. I can’t think of any other path that we could be on that would be more perfect.
G: There aren’t as many people that do the same thing that we do, so I guess that helps, it makes us more unique.
Could you tell me a little known fun fact about Pandafan?
G: Two of us dated the other one, but you have to guess who is who! [laughs] We used to both date Joe, he even wrote songs about us and we play them.
D: Yeah, that was a long time ago
J: Really, we’re all best friends now, and we legitimately all hang out with each other when we’re not doing music. So you know it’s not unnatural.
What is your favorite venue that you’ve played on LI?
G: That’s tough to say because we’re playing at 89 North on Thursday, and that’s gonna be really cool. That might be one of our favorites.
G: The Great South Bay was pretty cool. I love playing at Tend, also Crazy Beans.
D: When we play at the coffee shops we do acoustic, totally unplugged, so that’s really fun. We really like to do that.
J: We have probably like 35 songs, we write songs pretty fast, so we like to try out our new songs at the stripped down gigs to see how people like them.
If you could open up or headline for any musical act, dead or alive, who would it be?
D & G: First Aid Kit!
D: Fleet Foxes
G: Mumford & Sons
G & D: Little Green Cars
G: We can’t open for Greenday!
J: We could so open for Greenday.
In only a few words cans you give me your best description of a Pandafan live show
D: Interactive. Energetic!
J: Red-haired. Spastic.
Have you felt a following within your community, or among your peers?
G: Our friends are really supportive, and those who can drive, drive out to miller place to tend to see us all the time.
D: The problem is that we’re still in high school, so not everyone has the freedom that they’d have if we were just a few years older.
J: One of the things I’ve noticed especially lately, that once we actually get people to actually hear us, and pay attention, they seem to like us. People ask us for CDs at Great South Bay [music festival] and some people ask for stickers..
G: I remember this one experience when we were playing at Tend, and I saw this guy walk in and sit at the bar. I overheard the barista say, ‘do you want a coffee?’ And he said, ‘no I’m just here for the music.’ I had no idea who he was, and it was great because I’d realized we had begun to attract fans.