One to watch: The new artist making musical waves

We’re well into our lockdown routine now, many of us looking forward to those days when we can feed our sourdough starter or take the bins out for a little bit of fresh air and something to do. It’s safe to say this time is a little uninspiring for everyone but for those who rely on creativity to fuel their soul, it’s a time to reconnect and seek inspiration in the mundane. 

Remix talked to up and coming artist Jack Panther about finding inspiration in lockdown, how it feels to be a queer artist in New Zealand, his favourite homegrown fashion brands and the fuel behind his new single If I Was, set to release this Friday. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself, 3 things you can't live without? 

I’d say Sky Ferreira, Carbs and Beach Brains

Your new song If I Was comes out this Friday, what was the inspiration behind it? 

At the time I wrote it I had just finished Uni and was working in hospitality. I got pretty drained, sometimes working 8 days straight. Days blurred and the track just rolled off my tongue - I daydreamed what it would be like to be my own boss. I wrote it as a way to empower myself to get through that slump.

The song itself is pretty playful, while I was still writing it I even had a joke with my bandmates that I’ll call it ‘augh capitalism sucks’. At the time I was seeing a guy who was a bit of a stoner and our dynamic felt pretty based around that. It didn’t last long but was a refreshing distraction from the day to day problems.

As an artist, how are you finding inspiration in lockdown?

I think I’d be lying if I said I’m finding it easy to write. I’ve been writing a bit but I find my writing comes in waves so I’m just holding out for the good stuff. Often I write about narratives and situations in my life and right now it’s hard to think of anything I feel as though I need to say. It’s also a tricky time for communication, there's a lot of room for miscommunication so I feel clogged up trying to wrap my head around it.

I’ve been going on walks around the suburbs and searching through ‘lost albums’ - albums by artists I love but albums I never quite got to. I feel like some incredible works can get lost in the world of streaming etc so it’s been good to have time to play catch up.

I’m trying to connect with my needs as a person rather than a musician and I think that in a sense has been inspiring. Taking more time to breathe, read and cook. I’ve started re-reading one of my favourite books ‘Just Kids’ by Patti Smith and have a feeling that it’ll spark a light.

What’s your favourite lockdown meal you’ve made so far?

I’ve actually been cooking and baking heaps so that’s been a tough one! Favourite so far would be the homemade roti and chickpea wraps my friend and I whipped up - so yum. Also, have to give a special mention to the homemade chilli cheese scones.

How does it feel to be a queer artist in NZ? 

I feel torn on how to simplify it. I’m grateful to be in a country where I can be open about my sexuality but at the same time I don’t see enough representation of LGBTQ+ within mainstream media.

Growing up I only had a handful of openly queer people I could look up to. As I’ve grown older I’ve found it really important to be as open as possible about sexuality in my music. I think back to when I was 14, trying to navigate it on my own, and I don’t want young kids to have to go through that. For me, it’s about painting those narratives for our future generations.

Being in my 20’s now I feel as though I’m still searching for representation. I’m educating myself more with the history of the LGBTQ+ community and that’s been so fuelling for me. With the AIDS pandemic, I feel as though a lot of history has been erased and I struggle to find examples of queer relationships that I can look up to. I think that will just come in time and come with more representation in mainstream media.

Fashion is obviously a big part of your life, describe your personal style in 3 words and brands you’d love to work with?

Badass. 90’s. Playful.

I’m a huge advocate for NZ fashion. I’m currently obsessed with Jimmy D (badass, beautifully grungy feel), Beach Brains (I love everything I’ve tried on - as I’ve already mentioned) and Bruno’s (who makes the most gorgeous, handmade clothing). If a look feels too serious I always like to pair it up with something fun, could be accessories, make-up or a jacket.

What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion started off as an addition to the world which I would create with music. In the last year or so fashion has had a bigger impact on me and inspires and informs the world in which I now create music. 

It’s another way I feel as though I can express myself and create. Visually it can say so much about a person before they even speak, or in my case sing.

This is a new era of your music, what sported the change into a more alternative pop genre?

I would say confidence has inspired a large part of this work. Confidence in my sexuality, in what I want to say and in my relationships with others. I think it’s just a part of growing older, feeling just that slight bit more in control of the things around you.

One of the tracks from my project, ‘Waste’ was a huge turning point for me. The recording session was where I met my now manager Mckenzie Comer (MCK) and where I felt as though I could say what I wanted to say to the people around me. It’s a thank you to the people before me who have fought so hard for me to live my life as an openly queer man.

There were a lot of big changes happening around me at the time and it was sort of my way to say to the people around me ‘Hey guys, look I’m doing okay’.

What is your advice for other budding artists wanting to get their music out there? 

Never be afraid to ask for help and to reach out to others! Places like the NZ Music Commission and Music Managers Forum work hard to create resources for developing artists and ways to find mentors. Creating music can feel lonely at times but collaborating has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve found in music. Surround yourself with people that support you!

Work hard and keep going - once a project starts wrapping up, start thinking of the next one.

What do you think the NZ music industry needs? 

A lot of NZ’s diversity needs to be protected and nurtured. The more I work in the industry the more I feel like it needs to do a 180.

Diversity also creates better music - 100%. It’s all about perspective and if people come together to create things and share experiences then we’ll all have stronger music. Great to see government agencies putting in the mahi to do this and I hope this will continue to develop and push NZ music.

What’s on the cards for your future in music?  

I’m in the midst of studio sessions at the moment - well pre-lockdown I was. Just writing new things about new experiences, there's a lot of experimenting at the moment, it's been a lot of fun so far. Have a feeling 2022's gonna be cool.

If I Was out Friday the 3rd of September is available on all streaming platforms.

Shot by Frances Carter @francescarter, MU by Richard Symons @princessrichard_, Styled by Tautahi Subritzky @badboitautau