Australian trio Panama have recently released their sophomore EP, Always, which has been described as “hopeful house” music. And according to what frontman Jarrah McCleary had to say about the music when we sat down with him, that seems like the perfect description. Check out our interview below, where we discuss SXSW, Australia crowds vs. Texas crowds, and what he thinks about having success in the US music market.
How is SXSW so far?
It has been really busy and hectic. The hardest part is probably just adjusting to the time zone here, actually because Australia is quite a bit ahead in time. We had a great show yesterday with people singing along to the words, which was surprising. I haven’t had enough time to see any shows of the artists I like. I’ve just been trying to get as much sleep as I can try rest the voice, especially for those high notes.
How would you say the Texas crowd differs from the Australian crowd?
I think they’re quite similar in that they’re very friendly. I wasn’t expecting such a warm response. Sydney is quite similar, and the music taste is actually similar, too. I was listening to the radio here as I came in, and a lot of the popular music here is also popular in Sydney. It might be a social media thing now with Soundcloud and stuff like that. Music travels so fast.
How would you describe the sound on your new Always EP compared to your first EP?
A little more intimate. It’s coming more from a personal viewpoint compared to the first EP which had some more concepts of dance music within it. The Always EP can be performed a little bit more acoustic and is about using that particular style of writing and then coming in through a personal standpoint and addressing some things that I needed to address and haven’t addressed in a while. You look back on something and you’re like, “Oh! Now I know what that was about.” It’s kind of like a realization for me. Always is really just a realization for me of things I’ve done repeatedly in the past and pull from. It’s definitely a little deeper – not that the first one wasn’t, but it was just an experimentation.
Your music has been described as “hopeful house” music. In a few words, how would you describe your music to a naked ear?
The music comes from an emotional place. That’s the first thing I would say about it. If I were to describe it, I would say that if you feel something from it, and if it provokes something inside you that means something to you – that’s what I’m going for. It does come from a positive place. I guess I do a lot of writing when I have extreme downs, but I also have extreme ups where I feel good all the time, and my music kind of appeals to those emotions.
You just signed with a new US label. Could you tell us more about that?
Yeah! It’s called 300 Entertainment, and I’m really excited. They decided to step in and release the Always EP. It’s a really, really exciting time to see what’s going to happen. We just got to meet some of the people from 300 in the past couple days, and it’s really fun to have a team in a whole different country. So, at this point in time, it’s just really exciting.
You’ve had a lot of radio success overseas and in Australia. Do you think it’s harder to break out in the US, and if so, why?
Well, the US is a massive country with an incredibly diverse culture. I find that each state is almost like a different country. Say, California and Oregon. It’s different! So I can only imagine how hard it is to reach so many different personalities. Just to get the positive response we have gotten in the states so far is really surprising and positive, because I wouldn’t think about that if I was just in the studio at home, on the piano, writing. It all just happens to bloom out like it does. So, for me it’s all a bonus.
You’ve performed with acts like London Grammar and Solange, who have both broken out in the Pop/Indie world within the past year. Would you say artists like these are examples of where you want to go?
Not really. I don’t know if I want to go anywhere. I just want to find what works for me. I just want to be comfortable with what I’m trying to do personally. What other acts do is what works for them, and I guess I’m not that good at adapting to other styles. I’m best at expressing myself and my feelings and being as talented as I’d like to keep myself! Haha!
Since we are Indie Houston, who are some of your favorite indie artists?
I listen to a lot of old records, actually, so I don’t really listen to a lot of newer stuff. I just like to listen to things that are inspirational and things that I could get some ideas and learn from. I’m into a lot of 1980’s new wave artists, always have been into new wave bands. “Destroyer” from the latest Always EP is kind of a homage to the new wave bands I’ve always been into. I used to play in a new wave band back in the day, too, so I just have a lot of inspiration from that particular genre.
Panama’s Always EP is available now!