We had the privilege of chatting with Peter Kirk, frontman for one of our favorite bands of late, Panama Wedding. Peter gave us insight into his Into Focus EP, plans for a debut full-length and more. Check it all out below, and if you’re in DC this Friday make sure to check the band out at Rock and Roll Hotel. We also happen to be giving away some tickets to the show.
So you’re based out of NYC, is that where you’re from or where you moved to make the dream happen?
I actually grew up in New York, on Long Island, on the North Shore area and now reside on the Upper West Side. I’m New York all the way.
Your last EP Parallel Play came out about a year and a half ago, and the new EP Into Focus came out at the beginning of November. What did that transition time look like between the two? Was it spent writing or was is Into Focus an offshoot of material you already had?
With Parallel Play, we started touring, and we went through the States, and then the UK with Smallpools and Magic Man, there was a lot of motion behind it, we did TV and Jimmy Kimmel and it was just a length of time. There was a bit of talk about putting out a full-length record and how we wanted to do it and what exact songs we wanted. I sat down with my manager and the head of our label, and we thought “let’s put out something significant, let’s not be so narrow-minded about worrying about the full-length, and being strategic about a campaign around that. We just really wanted to put out music in the moment.”
Do you have an LP in the works right now?
Yes, definitely in 2016 there will be a full-length. It’s not completely done yet, but as soon as we get off this short tour, I will be working on it…quite a lot. There is a plan to put out a record, I don’t have the exact timeline right now, but we will [be releasing one].
Who is inspiring you right now? You have a very heavy synth influence in your music, it’s upbeat. “Younger Love” and “Infinite High” give off that ’80s vibe, so where do you draw your influence?
To answer your first question about what I listen to these days, the truth is that I spend so much time writing and making music that I don’t honestly listen to a lot of new music. Occasionally we’ll check out the music of some of the bands we’re friends with have put out, but really I’m not a big consumer of new music by virtue of the fact that I’m so busy working on music.
The other thing: I’ve been influenced in the past, it’s such a broad range of things, but some of those feel-good 80s vibes influenced this EP, whether its Steve Winwood, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Genesis, INXS is a very big reference, they definitely influenced the production. Nothing very specific set of influences, it’s a very broad range.
This album seems different from Parallel Play in the sense that the lyrics are introspective, and talk about what you may want outside of the touring life (specifically, having a dog named Bear).
I will say the difference between the two, I definitely spent more time on the lyrics on Into Focus. Not to say I didn’t on Parallel Play, but certain songs were written quickly. I think the song “Trust” – I wrote in a day – compared to a song like “Brand New Life,” I had specific ideas and concepts to write about growing older. I just spent more time, and I’m glad that some people are picking up on that. Certainly a song like “Brand New Life” has very colorful lyrics (and the dog named Bear). I think my goal was going in with things I wanted to do and accomplish and I think I was really able to do that with this EP, whereas the last one was just a random assortment of songs I had written in the past.
The last album, it had “All of the People,” and it’s the happiest, most upbeat song you could possibly write, so I tried to switch it up. I think this time around say with the song Into Focus, it starts off slow, it’s really down-tempo and mellow, and we haven’t had a song like that before.
Is there anything specific you want to say about Into Focus?
I don’t have anything specific. I think it’s important that fans are hearing your songs and they have a better understanding of what Panama Wedding is, and what the sound is all about. It’s really about bridging Parallel Play to our next release which will be the full-length record. We toured a lot last year, and there were things I saw other bands do that I wanted to integrate into Panama Wedding’s music. “Brand New Life” starts off with heavy toms, and I knew I wanted to write a song with that, because at a live show it will sound really good. In the past I never thought about that, I never thought about the live show. Now I think more about themes and structure of the songs, I go into the writing process with a higher level of intent. In the past it was random, playing around in ProTools to come up with something cool.
How long were you working on Parallel Play before it broke through?
The thing was, I was putting out music under my own name for many years, maybe…four years? I had already written most of them. “Uma” was released to my small fan base, which was basically my Gmail mailing list of about 20 people. I put out over time about twenty songs, almost two-albums worth. I even put out “All Of The People” under my own name, and it wasn’t until I started the Panama Wedding project and we got better mixes and got it into the right hands like Neon Gold and you guys at All Things Go that it started to really take off.
Our focus next is after this is to finish a lot of new music and then make plans for the spring to go touring, which we’re doing that now and hopefully we’re gonna lock that down.