PANIK FLOWER is a female fronted Brooklyn based dream pop band with the heaviness brought to you by grunge. They've just released their brand new single "Pretty Face" which they've described as a "third person narrative that explores the discontents of modern dating. Its honest lyricism, coupled with addictively catchy guitar hooks and heavy instrumentals, pays homage to the likes of The Cranberries, Chastity Belt and Twen." I got to talking with Sage and Jordan about their new track, their formation, and so much more.
Hello! Thanks so much for answering my questions, how are you?
Sage & Jordan: Hey Melody! Thanks so much for having us, we’re super stoked to be here!
How did you guys form PANIK FLOWER?
Sage Leopold: I had a solo project before PF and was really looking to start a band. Mila (guitar/vocals) & I grew up together and had both always written music, but we never explored doing it together. I asked if she wanted to join as a co-collaborator back in November 2021 and we started scouting out additional members early February. I had met Jordan (guitar) at a party back in September of last year where we had expressed interest in jamming together but it was only after he came to see a show that Mila & I were playing when we started chatting again. Within a few days we met up to jam and there was a ton of synergy.
A friend of Mila’s heard we were looking for a drummer and referred us over to Lucas (drums). Mila & I met up with Lucas to play a few tunes we were working on and immediately hit it off. At that point, the only missing piece was a bassist, so we did what many of us do when looking for something… we turned to Craigslist. Max (bass) responded to our post with samples of his music and we were immediately drawn to his sound. We got the group together for our first full band rehearsal and it just clicked. When you know, you know.
How did you come up with the name PANIK FLOWER?
Leopold: My mom’s boyfriend actually came up with the name! He’s a super creative, quirky guy and kind of took it upon himself to think of band names when I told him I was starting a band. There were a few he ran by me that I wasn’t sold on, but when he came to me with ‘Panic Flower,’ my interest piqued. He claimed a “panic flower” is a flower that when in mid-bloom, suddenly dies. I looked up the name and it was nowhere to be found on Google, which was a huge green flag for me. We ultimately changed the C to a K in the word “panik” because it suits the chaos of the name (plus makes us more easily searchable on the web and on streaming platforms).
You’ve recently released your debut single “Pretty Face” can you talk more about the inspiration behind this track? What was the creative and writing process like with “Pretty Face”?
Leopold: Yes! “Pretty Face” is our debut single so it’s really exciting for us! I wrote the skeleton of the song last year after getting out of a short-lived relationship. I was feeling pretty disenchanted by dating and love in general and wanted to express these feelings of discontent in a third-person narrative. When I initially brought it to Mila, we knew we wanted the verses to have more of a sway to contrast a punchier chorus that resolves the song both musically and lyrically. The song really came to life when we brought it to the rest of the band back in February and started fleshing out parts.
Jordan Buzzell: The best part about collaborating on Pretty Face was that each band member had complete ownership over writing their part. Once we had the skeleton of the song together, there was so much room for creative freedom for each of us. When we regrouped after our first initial writing session, we created a master list of notes where everyone could provide thoughts on the song as a cohesive piece. Sage is an amazing leader in that she allows each person to feel that ownership over the music and provides an avenue for each person to have their voice heard.
My favorite thing about you guys is how your sound is mixed with dream pop, and the heaviness of grunge. What made you want to mesh the two genres together?
Buzzell: When we first started playing together in February, we found that our sound was leaning towards the classic alt rock of the 90s, but with undertones of ethereal and soft sonic moments. It’s definitely tricky to label ourselves given that there’s so much that influences us, but we landed on dream pop because it felt like the perfect convergence of those two sounds. We’re a 5-piece band, and each member brings their own set of musical experiences and interests to the table. We wanted to capture everyone’s individual influences on our music while being careful not to tether ourselves to one specific genre. Dream pop feels like the perfect space for us to continue growing and experimenting.
What was the recording process like for “Pretty Face”?
Leopold: We recorded most of the track at Spin Studios in Queens, NY. We originally went in with the intention of tracking the entire song there in one day, but when we got the initial studio mix back, we realized there were elements missing from the song. We decided to take some time to re-evaluate and re-work it. This is when Jordan wrote the guitar hook that you hear in the beginning of the song and in the choruses, which he tracked at his home studio. We then overdubbed a few of Mila’s guitar parts at our fantastic mixer’s home studio (Nicky Young). The song is only 2:48s long, but it really does have marks of so many different people and places within it.
What was your favorite part about creating “Pretty Face”?
Buzzell: Well first off, the song is just extremely catchy. I remember hearing the skeleton from Sage and Mila early on and being instantly reminded of earlier Mac Demarco albums, like 2 and Salad Days. So from the start, the foundation was extremely solid! The joy of building the song up with additional parts created this snowball effect where Max then found a fun, yet driving bassline, and Lucas composed an explosive chorus beat (as he always does). One (tipsy) night, we all got together at Sage’s apartment and the music gods blessed us with the catchy guitar riff that you can hear in the beginning – it just sort of came out as we were all vibing together! Then once we dialed in some emphasizing hits, it was game over! Building these parts up over time and then having them come together and continually breathe new life into the song was such a rewarding experience.
When creating a song, what comes first? Music, or lyrics?
Leopold: It really depends on the song! For example, with “Pretty Face” I had a lyrical concept in mind before writing the initial rhythm guitar part and bringing it to the rest of the band. This is how a lot of our discography up until this point has begun, but as we’ve started writing more as a group, these processes have definitely shifted. Jordan is basically a walking bank of song concept ideas so the two of us have started writing together a lot. He’ll usually send me song structure ideas then I’ll write a vocal melody and what I call “scratch lyrics” – basically just placeholder lyrics until I can fully flesh out the story I want to tell. It’s been really fun to mess around with different methods of songwriting within our group and exchange ideas and experiences with one another. We like to keep things really open & flexible in order to cultivate a safe space of creative expression and collaboration.
What inspires you the most when writing lyrics/making music?
Leopold: From a lyrical perspective, I write about what I know. I find that writing about my personal life experiences helps me to best tell stories that people can hopefully relate to.
Buzzell: From the perspective of instrumental composition, most of my inspiration comes from finding those magical moments where everyone in the band reaches a mutual catharsis. I almost imagine all of us on stage, playing the song and just looking around at each other smiling because we just like the song and to us, it’s a banger. It’s the most freeing feeling in the world when that happens, and you could say the composition process is just a way of chasing that dragon.
You guys are based in Brooklyn, has the New York music scene inspired you as a band at all? If so, which bands have made an impact on your music?
Leopold: Totally! There is so much good music in this city and it definitely feels like the music scene has only flourished more since the re-opening of venues. There’s a hunger for live instrumentation, which I think is partially why we’ve seen an explosion of genres like post-punk and experimental rock. In addition to obviously living through a pandemic which has exacerbated all of the horrible realities of the world we live in. People are finding solace in music that tends to address these realities head on both instrumentally and lyrically. I could go on but I’m getting off track here… All this to say, the energy and support around live music in the city is pretty infectious and it’s hard not to be inspired by what we’re hearing around us.
Buzzell: Like Sage said, there’s so much incredible music in this city and I’m a pretty avid concert-goer, especially when it comes to local bands. Some of my recent inspirations are Thick, TVOD, Gym Shorts, Tilden, Grand Army Reapers, Dropper, Fish House, Kierst, Aux Blood, Sub*T, Quarters, Full Bleed, My Son the Doctor, Nevva, Ok Cowgirl and Native Sun. I’m sure I’m missing some but that just goes to show how many talented and inspirational musicians there are in this city.
You’ve done a few live performances so far, which is always so fun! What has been your favorite part of performing live?
Leopold: Yes! We’ve played quite a few live shows at venues in the city since getting our start back in February. For me, I’ve really loved getting to interact with our audience and see how people respond to the music. It’s really helped us to grow and cultivate our sound, which we are constantly refining. From a group perspective, it’s been really cool to watch how our unspoken methods of communication on stage have strengthened and developed over time, which makes for really strong camaraderie and support for one another.
Besides releasing your debut single, what else can we expect from you guys before the year ends?
Leopold: We’re continuing to refine our sound as we work out our discography and are planning to get back into the studio in the upcoming months to record our debut EP. We’re also in the midst of planning some shows outside of NYC. Keep your eyes peeled!
Last question, we’re all about discovering new music! Who should we be listening to right now?
Leopold & Buzzell: PANIK FLOWER!!! Just kidding (kind of) – we’d give a listen to Paper Lady, Wet Leg, Twen, Fontaines D.C., Wombo, SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE and then any and all of our local faves as previously mentioned.
Keep up with PANIK FLOWER
Listen to "Pretty Face" here
Words by Melody