Panama’s debut EP, ‘Hope For Something’ is a essentially a summer highlight reel released in mid-winter. The beautiful undertones we have come to expect from Panama are evident yet it is beautiful to see the development in the personal sound through more dance based tracks. Don’t let the upbeat dance backing and the ever-present feeling of nostalgia fool you, this EP is an open gateway into the heart and soul of Panama, with lyrics telling of some incredibly personal times. We spoke with the artist behind, ‘Hope For Something’ to see what exactly went into this release.
First of all congratulations on the release, how does it feel to have released your third EP?
Thanks very much! It’s been a combination of both joy and anxiety! Joy because it’s great to get music out in the world again and anxiety provoking because you never know how it’s going to be received. Releases can be like rollercoasters if you let them. These days I try to find a good distraction like the tv series ‘Atlanta’. Have you seen it yet? I like it!
Your single ‘Always’ went huge a couple of years ago now, would you say that success changed the ‘sound’ of Panama and what you were putting together for the latest EP?
I think it’s been a good thing. It’s given me the confidence to stand back and write more personal songs that mean something to me. It’s easy sometimes to focus on what’s cool rather than what’s emotional resonant. Also, there were some drawbacks to it all as well. Such as second guessing myself when it came to the songwriting part. Thankfully I got over that in time. As far as the ‘sound’ of Panama changing with the success of ‘Always’ I don’t think that happened but I certainly felt like I knew which parts were the strongest off the last record. For example, I love big powerful piano chords. I’ve used them in ‘Always’ and also in ‘Undertow’. It’s not something I try to do on every song but to me it is one of the signature Panama sounds. I’m also big on vocal syncopation. That just seems to be the way I sing but it has become integral in the Panama sound. An example of this is in the ‘Hope for something’ chorus vocals.
To me it seems that this latest release explores more of the dance side of the electronic genre, was that something you’ve been playing around with or is it just a natural progression?
I’m glad you said that. I was certainly trying to push it in that direction. It took me a little while to work it out, to find a happy medium between both the electronic/ dance world and the songwriting world. It’s a delicate dance. I guess you’d call it a natural progression because it felt like the right thing to do at the time. Each record has been a small step forward in some way I think. Now I’m just starting to play with the idea of where to go next. It’s exciting!
You’ve spoken before of the ‘high’s and low’s’ that went into making this record, can you fill me in on what some of those were?
Well sure. The record is the most personal one I’ve done so in saying that I chose to write about things that occurred to me in that window of time.
Almost like a diary if you will, sometimes embellished in poetry, other times I would hear sentences from other people that would resonate with me so much I’d write them down. I was aiming for emotional resonance for this record so I kept an ear to the ground each time I sensed something could be used or adapted to suit the context of the song. When I talk about the ‘highs’ in the record I believe I’m coming from a nostalgic looking back kind of place. Once a certain amount of time passes we tend to romanticise certain things. I chose to write about this. Also, for the ‘Lows’ the song ‘Undertow’ touches on this. It talks about the feeling of loss, being alone and trying to talk to a loved one that is no longer there. It’s a very difficult song for me to listen to sometimes.
Just reading through some of your lyrics, they are pretty powerful and seem very personal, is there any certain events/people that inspired the music behind ‘Hope for Something’?
I think ‘Hope for something’ really tied the EP together. I didn’t really have a strong sense of direction until that song was written and then it all seemed to come together quite quickly. That song really was the answer to ‘Always’ in a lot of ways. I talk about self-doubt and my own experience with anxiety and depression. It’s an extremely optimistic track despite the dark undertones and that’s what I wanted the record to be about -optimism despite the chaos of life and how it can go from good to bad so quickly and without reason.
You’ve been doing a fair amount of shows in the weeks leading into the release of the EP, can we expect a broader nation-wide tour in the near future?
Yeah, I think so. At the moment, I’ve been putting together a new kind of live show for Panama. In the studio, I’ve always played all the instruments so I’m trying to incorporate the same vibe for live. It’s been frustrating and fun at the same time! Frustrating because doing things with both hands independently and singing in syncopation is not easy at all. Fun because I guess I like the pain. haha.
Be sure to catch Panama on tour…
23/08 – Beach Road Hotel – Bondi
2/09 – Metro Theatre – Sydney
9/09 – Thredbo Village – Sydney
16/09 – Uno DanceClub – Melbourne
11/11 – Serupa Music, Bandung, Indonesia
You can follow Panama on…