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Punk Band Chiodos Donning Panda Suits

If you’re ever in some dingy watering hole and a lad wearing a panda costume walks in and sits down at the bar, don’t be alarmed. He might not be just some wacko, and he might not pose any kind of real threat. In fact, there’s a good chance he’s just a bored member of post-hardcore six-piece Chiodos, trying to abolish the ennui that comes with life on the road.

“Every single day something ridiculous happens out here,” frontman Craig Owens explained. “We’ll dress someone up to go to a bar in a panda suit, and we’re always playing jokes on the other bands we’re on tour with. We try to have as much fun as possible on the road, and that’s hard, because we’re bored almost all of the time. But boredom can bring out creativity. It opens up your mind, I think.”

With the Everett, Washington, launch of the 2007 installment of the Taste of Chaos Tour just a month and change away – it kicks off February 15 and runs through April 8 in Vancouver, British Columbia – the Davison, Michigan, outfit’s going to have a great deal of time on its hands these next few months. And while that means the panda suit may very well be making appearances in bars all across the country this spring, Owens is looking forward to some of the more tedious aspects of being a road dog. He’s hoping the time on the road will help shape the band’s forthcoming LP, which it hopes to have out in the fall.

Chiodos have written about five songs for the effort and plan to keep writing through Taste of Chaos. They’ll be touring in a bus fitted with recording equipment so they can take care of the preproduction in between Chaos dates. Once the tour’s over, Chiodos will hit the studio to track the outing, which is the follow-up to 2005’s All’s Well That Ends Well. The latter LP, an expanded version of which was issued in October, has sold 112,300 copies in the U.S.

But Owens – who is also a member of the Sound of Animals Fighting – said his band still doesn’t know who it will ask to produce the yet-untitled record. “We want someone who gets us and is going to push us to make the best record we can,” he said. “Our band is very progressive, and whoever produces this next album will have to want to understand us, and they’ll have to see us live. Anyone who will be able to capture the intensity and passion behind our live shows will be the person that’s going to be able to do our record the best.”

Chiodos have been steadily making a name for themselves since the release of All’s Well with appearances on last summer’s Warped Tour and a fall trek with Atreyu and Every Time I Die . Signed to independent label Equal Vision, the band has fielded offers from several majors and turned them down. Chiodos’ concerts are attended by a veritable who’s who of the A&R game, with reps coming in droves to check out the band’s much-lauded live set – which has obviously left a lasting effect on its growing base of fans. According to Owens, his band sold more merch than the headlining acts on the Atreyu run.

“If there’s kids in front of us, most of the time they’re going to go home thinking about us – even if they showed up to see their favorite band,” the singer said. “We make it a point to make sure they’re leaving with us in their minds. I love being the person that gives them something completely different and makes them love it.”

When it comes to their next record, Chiodos aren’t about to rush the process. Owens said he wants the writing and recording to be organic because “we’re in no rush to become the biggest band in the world. We just want to play the music we want to play, and for our fans to respect and understand that.

“As we write this next album, it’s like a well-oiled machine,” he continued. “All six of us write, so you’ve got six creative minds working at once. This next one will be a more mature record that will change the minds of the people who didn’t like us, and keep the old fans happy too. But music shouldn’t be your trying to write a record a certain way. If you don’t feel it burning from your chest and your gut, you shouldn’t be writing, period.”

Owens said he’d love it if Warped Tour mastermind Kevin Lyman invited Chiodos back for this summer’s edition but also realizes his band still needs to pay its dues. Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped Chiodos from setting lofty objectives for themselves.

“When we first started out, we had certain goals in mind, and as we continued, we had even more goals we wanted to attain,” he explained. “We’re the type of band that will work as hard as we possibly can until we get what we set out for. I’m not completely taken by surprise by the growing success of our record, or the major-label attention we’re getting, because that’s exactly where we wanted to be – where we are at this very moment. I am very, very grateful for where we’ve gone and what we’ve become, but without a lot of hard work, it wouldn’t have been possible.”

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