1883 Magazine
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You could say Aussie band Panama are free-spirited, and that’s not just because of their musical style. After two highly successful years as The Dirty Secrets, Jarrah McCleary and Cam Edwards jet-setted to L.A. for inspiration. What they wanted was material for the next Dirty Secrets album, but instead returned with an entirely new sound and band name in the process. The guys spent most of their Cali days soaking up the sun and strolling along the promenades alongside rollerbladers in bikinis. With this sort of inspiration, it’s no surprise that the Venice Beach in the 80’s-tinged sound of Panama emerged. Now, with a new EP produced by Eric Broucek in tow, the band is geared and ready to make summer last all year long.

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Jarrah you and Cam started out in the band The Dirty Secrets. How come you decided to move away from that? 

I think we all just got older? What was so great about Dirty Secrets was how collaborative it all was.  Everything was done together and we were the best of friends, we’d always party together!  With Panama on the other hand, everything is wrote by me in a little room in my house, and not so much partying these days and that sucks!

Why do you think your new band Panama has such a different sound?

Because the music comes from my own head. I wrote the music not worrying about what genre or sound I needed to stick to, I also tried to avoid some of the cliché’s but it’s hard when you write pop music you know? Panama came about as I was watching a lot of film and I do see images as I write songs, so that would be my inspiration.

Lots of people say you have an 80’s sound. Who would you list as your musical influences?

Absolutely, there is a lot of great music in this time period.  I grew up in the 80’s so maybe revisiting my youth this way helps me when approaching a song.  Maybe it keeps me honest if I trick myself into thinking I’m a boy again.

These are all just assumptions I’m making by the way J

You were recently signed to Future Classic, a record label based in Sydney. How come you decided to go with them?

I think the first time I heard from ‘Future Classic’ was via our soundcloud page.  It went something like: Label: “Hi Jarrah and Cam, we really like your music.  When is your next show? ….Future Classic’.

I think my head grew exponentially after reading this.

Seriously, Cam and I were both aware ‘Future Classic’ and really liked the records they were putting out.  It made a lot of sense to us to be apart of the ‘Future Classic’ family. 

How was it working with DFA producer Erik Broucek? Was this an influential collaboration for you?

Eric is wonderful to work with.  He’s a great listener and organizer, which I think is wonderful when you have a thousand ideas bouncing around the control room.  Eric’s music taste is eclectic. He’s a vinyl collector, obscure African instrument collector, and a great communicator.   I have certainly been influenced a lot by his approach to songs, he believes the song comes first and I totally get that.

You shot the video for It’s Not Over in Berlin. It was directed by Fabian Rottger and Vivien Weyrauch who have now been nominated for best new director at the UK music video awards...

Shit? Really? I didn’t know that, wow amazing!

It is a video with an interesting narrative, who came up with the concept?

Fabian and Vivien came up with the narrative.

When I first got the video I was very impressed with how well the visuals tied in with the music.  It fused so well.  The song is very somber and does touch on some very personal things of mine, it felt reassuring knowing Fabian and Vivien understood where I was coming from on an emotional level.

How important do you think a music video is in helping to portray your image as an artist? 

These days I think it’s probably the one of the most important things you can do.  It’s also one of the hardest things to get right. 

You have had a range of other artists play on this record including Jim (guest drummer for Hot Chip) and Morgan (on synth from Midnight Magic). How did you find working with them?

Amazing.  Jim and Morgan are both very down to earth people.  Very approachable and great to have a beer with too! 

If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be?

I’ve been thinking about this a bit lately.  At the moment probably ‘Flume’ in Australia, Trevor (our guitarist/percussionist) has been singing his praises all through our photo shoot.  I’d also love to be able to work with Philippe Zdar one day, the work he did on the Kindness record blew my mind. 

Your track Magic was remixed by the likes of Midnight Magic and Gavin Russom, and your new EP will be accompanied by remixes by Kölsch, Ejeca and Dave DK / Ewan Pearson. How do you find the experience of people remixing your tracks?

I really love it.  It’s amazing how some people can take one section of a song and turn it into something completely new and different.  I feel very humbled by it all to be honest, to think that people of such high caliber would want to be involved at all.

You’ve had support from Triple J, great supporters of the Australian music scene. Have they had an impact on how your music has been received?

The support from Triple J has been fantastic.  We were adopted early by then which was a surprise.  It’s amazing having that kind of support, because praise doesn’t come along too often in music I think you need to stop and give yourself a pat on the back when something good happens.

You are from Sydney. Do you think the Australian music scene is growing? What do you think the general feel for Australian music currently is worldwide?

I think Australia has a very healthy music scene in general for its population size.  After spending a fair amount of time abroad I do feel Australia has an amazing standard of living, it makes me feel proud.

I think there has always been a niche in Sydney and Melbourne (or at least as long as I can remember) for electronic dance music.  Right now is a really exciting time to be apart of it and a great time to be an Australian artist.

EP It’s Not Over out now via Australian dance label Future Classic (Flume)

Words by Chloe Smith and Elizabeth Vogt

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