The Panics

Elise Pitt | 15 July 2011

The Panics frontman, Jae Laffer, tells us who he wants to sing the soundtrack to his life (Richie Benaud), what he did when he ran out of petrol during peak hour (knocked back a beer on the bonnet) and why he thinks LCD Soundsystem got New York all wrong. Oh, and there’s some stuff about his band’s new album (Rain on the Humming Wire), as well.

Hey Jae. We hear you’re on tour at the moment.

Yeah, we just got to Sydney. Just done Adelaide, which was awesome! It’s great to be back on the road.

Your music is often described as quintessentially Australian. How do you think Rain on the Humming Wire has evolved from the last album?

In some small ways and some big ways. This is our fourth album and things have just gradually gone in a certain direction. The last album was very like that, very Australiana in the lyrics. This one is perhaps a bit more personal. Each song, to me, has a relationship or a person or a place in mind. It’s about different personal situations and trials; things we’ve seen and things we’ve been through in the past few years and that’s involved a lot of travel through England and America. A lot of it was made and written overseas so it’s probably not as entrenchment in Australian subject matter as previous records.

Rain on the Humming Wire, for me, instantly conjures up powerful imagery of humid Australian summers and afternoon thunderstorms. What memories does it conjure up for you?

I’m so glad that it conjures that up for you. It’s taken from the lyrics of ‘Creatures’ off the album. It’s all based around the place I grew up in the hills of Perth and that thunderstorm feeling when you hear the whole place humming, but you also just hear silence. It was this strange thing. It was just a very beautiful place, and sometimes when I‘m just thinking or writing I go back to this area of my youth. I like the fact that [the album title] came from a place close to my heart and from my childhood.

Your last album Cruel Guards was mixed in New York and you went back there to record again. Many people have a love hate relationship with New York, the whole “New York I love you but you’re bringing me down” attitude. What do you love and hate about it?

There’s not much to hate. It was my fourth trip to New York; I just find it such a buzzing place. When it came time to think about places to record this album, it came up on the list and we were like “we gotta make that happen”. I’d been there a couple of times the year before; I’d go over there and write music – just check into a hotel on my own and walk around and write and take in the city. I just love the energy of the place. So it’s all good to me. It’s one of the few places where just taking a walk, you can justify doing that with your day, because something always comes out of it.

Speaking of New York, you also spent some time recording in Woodstock, just upstate. Seven guys in one small house for a month. You must have had a bit of cabin fever.

We had a self-sufficient place there. There was no car, no phone reception and we weren’t within walking distance of anywhere. It was an around the clock kind of deal. You’d wake up, and who ever woke up first would find something to do on the record and a month of that is a lot. Our idea of a night out was just having a bon-fire on the weekend. You just go crazy because you stop speaking English and the jokes are ridiculous and everyone is a pack of zombies. When you got a bit spacey you’d just have to walk off into the forest and get lost. But we also knew that as soon as the month was over and we got some good work done, we were going to get to go to Manhattan and mix it. So it was this shining beacon at the end of the calendar, the fact that we could go down and continue working in New York; which is the polar opposite of course.

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