Interview with Jarrah McCleary from Panama

Panama Releases Always EP In The U.S. Via 300 Entertainment & Shares New Track, "Strange Feeling". Panama will play this year's SXSW Fest in Austin, TX.

Northern Transmissions chatted with Jarrah McCleary from the band Panama.

NT: Your background is in classical music, so when and how did you become interested in electronica?

It started when I purchased my firs Jarrah McClearyt copy of Pro Tools around 2005. A lot of amazing music was coming out at the time, groups like LCD Soundsystem, M83, and The Rapture. I was also into a lot of new wave, discovering bands like Television and Chameleons for the first time. Prior to then, I’d never used software to write music, so this was a whole different experience. I was able to use effects, samples and synths, which revolutionised the way I approached writing and in turn changed the type of music I was making.

NT: Were you surprised at how fast the track ‘Always’ took off in Australia and the UK?

I’m always genuinely surprised with the response that I get from the songs that I release. I’ve been writing songs for a long time now, so I have no idea how people are going to respond or connect with it until it’s released. In particular, I wasn’t sure how people were going to respond to ‘Always’, because it’s a very personal song that evolved a lot over the last few years. There is little more satisfying than writing honestly and for that to connect with fans – I’m so grateful for the support. Having the track played on BBC Radio 1 and 2 was definitely a career highlight thus far. Being all the way over in Australia and somewhat isolated from the rest of the world can make me feel a little disconnected from what music is doing internationally. That being said, the traction we’ve had worldwide online is mind-blowing.

NT: The “Always” EP is coming out in North America on 300 Entertainment, but was previously released on Future Classic in Australia. Are you going to be working with both labels?

Yes, it’s going to be a great collaboration – Future Classic have been my label home for a while, so we’re kind of amplifying everything by teaming up with 300 Entertainment.  We only just announced the signing, but they have already shown a lot of support. The project has received a lot of love from US fans, so it’s exciting to be exploring that territory – SXSW is going to be a great starting point for that. Fingers crossed we’ll be spending a bit of time there this year, having just brought on Billions as our agent too. It’s such an exciting time.

NT: How Did working with Eric Broucek (!!!, Holy Ghost!, Classixx) shape the sound of the EP?

Working with Eric over the past two EP’s has really helped to shape the sound of Panama. He’s a total guru when it comes to analog synths so a lot of the really cool and interesting sounds in ‘Strange Feeling’ and the other tracks (e.g. the Juno synth/LFO sounds) were hugely facilitated by Eric’s ideas. I’m hoping to get the chance to work with him again – we work really well together.

NT: Can we expect any new tracks or different mixes on the North American release?

We’ve just released a bonus track called ‘Strange Feeling’ which will appear on the US release of the ‘Always’ EP.  It’s also available as a standalone track worldwide.  I’m actually really glad it made the cut as it’s one of my favourite tracks to play live and is an obvious crowd favourite.

NT: You grew up near Perth, Australia. What was the music scene like?

I actually spent my formative years in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia, which was vastly different than living in Perth or Sydney. The music scene in Perth was fantastic to be a part of, though. I still have a lot of friends in Perth that are musicians or work in the music industry. I do love Perth as a city, but my musical aspirations were much better suited to the East Coast. It’s made touring cheaper and easier and I feel that we’ve been able to get more industry support purely due to proximity. The music scene in Perth is thriving though – it’s an exciting time for WA.

NT: From what I’ve read, the house you grew up in was surrounded by quite a bit of wildlife. Did you ever have any close calls with nature, or bond with any of the animals?

[laughs] That’s not entirely true, but living in Darwin was definitely more close to the Australian outback than anywhere else I’ve lived. My family loved to go on long car trips, so I saw a lot of the Northern Territory/Western Australian/Northern Queensland outback growing up. I did see my fair share of crocodiles and dingoes, which was pretty cool.  No ‘close call’ encounters with any dangerous animals that I can report though.

NT: Which three albums are influencing you these days?

Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth

Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe

Icehouse – Primitive Man

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