Music Feeds had the opportunity to ask The Panics a few questions in the lead up to their long awaited and eagerly anticipated fourth record, the first since 2007’s j award winning Cruel Guards. Having just hopped off the bus from their national tour, the lush fields of Woodfordia awaited the band on the eve of the release of their new album Rain On The Humming Wire. It’s out now but Jae Laffer wanted to tell you about it and what they’ve been getting up to.
Music Feeds: Where are you at the moment Jae.
Jae Laffer: Back in Melbourne at the minute, just got back from a round-the-country stint showing off the new album; just finished up in Perth and have got that really nice post-tour feeling and then off to Splendour tomorrow, so it’s all good!
MF: So what have The Panics been getting up to individually and collectively? It’s been what seems like four very long years since we had the pleasure of listening to Cruel Guards for the first time.
JL: Yeah, it has been a quieter time compared to all those years where we were really busy playing all over the country and recording all the time. We’ve had ten years of kind of hardcore creativity and this time we’ve just managed to spend some time overseas and just working hard on this record, it just took that little bit longer. We just wanted to take time with the album, and fuck it, you know it took longer, but it needed to because we have been thinking about the future of the group and things are looking good, so it’s been worth it. A year after we released Cruel Guards at home, we were touring overseas and entered into another year of touring and found ourselves living in Manchester. So it was a lot of tough work again and basically spent half a year living there. It was a really nice period where we were playing songs to people for the first time and working on building a name for ourselves. But it was great to do that with the experience of having done it all before, you know, we had a kind of confidence behind us. Then we came back to Australia and started preparation for the new record and finished it late last year, and now we’re really excited to be releasing it.
MF: There’s something profoundly Australian about the music you write. Earlier on in the noughties, you’d be hard pressed not to come across The Panics popping up on a film or a TV soundtrack or playing countless shows on massive national tours. What was it like recording this album somewhere other than Australia?
JL: Yeah, it’s interesting, though I guess if you look at the great guitar groups, ones that we’ve always loved, you look at those ground breaking records and most of them were done away from Australia. The Go Betweens, The Church and Midnight Oil were created in places overseas. I think being away from home gives you a certain perspective on things writing wise, and also occasionally I’ll talk to people about what is an Australian sound and it’s very hard to kind of put your finger on it. I think it comes through using a little bit of that Aussie language and I like to write about the environment and about where I come from, so that’s what I probably consider to be our reason for being thought of as a real Australian band, but I mean, hopefully we don’t sound too much like anyone else. I always just hope that people see our music as sincere and not just some hark back to other bands that have come before us.
MF: Rain On The Humming Wire will be with us later this month. Tell us about this record, who you recorded it with and where it fits in the greater scheme of things. Is this an album The Panics have been wanting to write for a while a now?
JL: We hooked up with an Irish guy called Jonno Marney who’s been living in New York for about eleven years working with a lot of different people. So we got in touch with him because we loved the stuff he’d been doing, and it was pretty diverse; there was Lauren Hill and more recently he’d mixed Coldplay’s Viva La Vida. So we thought it’d be a really great idea to to get a guy who can go to those extremes if we need him to, and let’s face it, that kinda thing is highly regarded, albeit more commercial; it’s the kind of massive sound that’s really challenging to produce and mix. And he loved bands that we’ve had a great affinity with like Sonic Youth and guitar groups that we love. So we went out to America and found ourselves in a church in upstate New York near Woodstock and we spent a month up there where we’d built a studio inside the church with no phone reception and no car. It was autumn time and the trees were just these gorgeous shades of orange inside this tiny white church. Luckily enough, out of the isolation and the strange working environment of being out there, we had the reward of mixing the record back down in Greenwich Village at Electric Lady Lounge Studio. As a musician and music fan, it was amazing for us to get inside this place where there’s all these trippy Hendrix paintings hanging from the walls, and just to be able to feed off that was great.
MF: Is it a good feeling having your music back on the j’s?
JL: Yeah, I mean the j’s have done so much for us. picking up the j Award in 2007 for Cruel Guards is one of the most obvious things they’ve done, but having just supported our band and played our music has been the biggest thing and it’s great that they’ve supported this record in making it the feature album. For a Perth band, it was a massive thing for triple j to be playing our stuff cause, I mean, we may not ever have got out of Perth, so for the whole country to be hearing our stuff was massive.
MF: When was the last time you played Splendour?
JL: Oh god, it’s been a while; when the last record came out I think, and it’s really good to be heading back I gotta say. It was a great gig last time, it’s definitely one of the best gigs to play in Oz, and what perfect timing we’ve been feature record on triple j this week and everyone’s headed up and it just feels like a really exciting time cause we’re so confident and full of beans. We’re actually staying for the whole festival, which is really exciting, so we’ll be able to catch some bands and just have a great time.
MF: You moved to Melbourne a number of years ago; how does Perth influence your music now? Is it a distant memory or a place you return to for inspiration?
JL: It’s not specifically, but I do often return there retrospectively. There’s a handful of songs on each record which kind of hark back to my childhood and teenage years and it was just such a magical time. It might bore the shit out of other people, but it’s a certain place in my mind when I’m writing about someone or something in my youth; it just seems like I’m picturing them in that Perth environment, you know, in the hills picking fruit and those long summers. We don’t get back to Perth as much as we would like, but I love going back.
MF: And the rest of the year?
JL: Well, we’ve booked a couple of tours and with any spare time we’ll be trying to write songs for a new record, cause we want it to happen as quickly as possible. If we end up with a few cents in the pocket at the end of the year, we’ll head overseas again and get some shows happening. There’s a million things to do but really looking forward to just playing as many shows in Oz as we can!
Rain On The Humming Wire is out now through Dew Process