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Diving into PANIA’s World

In the current climate of Australia’s R&B music scene, Naarm-based artist PANIA has solidified herself as one of the most prominent names on the rise. With her debut EP out now, we spoke to her about the project, and the importance of being as human as possible during its creation process.

Naarm-based R&B artist, PANIA, is the name on everyone’s lips as of late. Having had a successful run of single drops since 2020, she’s slowly been making a name for herself outside of the typical moulds and carvings of a contemporary R&B artist. She exists in a realm of her own and is always chasing the opportunity to bring her audience into her world at any given moment. Carrying herself with undeniable ambition and pride in who she is as an artist and person, she carefully allows it to play out across her music. Taking inspiration from her upbringing in West Melbourne, and the music she was enamoured with growing up, PANIA covers a significant range of sonics that help tell a tale of her experiences with love, loss, and introspection. Her debut EP, burnt your clothes & changed the addy, is a solid narrative that is humanly honest and serves as a testament to PANIA’s indisputable ability to make music that feels like it understands you. Touching on themes of jealousy, toxicity, and going through the motions of heartache, her new EP obtains an element of rawness that reminds us that we are all human. Having recently played at Listen Out, and scheduled to play alongside Kehlani for Souled Out Festival in Brisbane, PANIA’s one dream is to take her music across the globe.

The superstar story of PANIA is being told just as much as it’s being written, and to be witnessing it in its prime is beyond extraordinary. We spoke to the Naarm artist to discuss the EP, the process of looking inwards, and the importance of putting on for your people.

Hi Pania! You have a campaign with Platypus out now, and I saw a snippet of you playing a party for them in the lead-up to that campaign dropping. How was that?
It was cool, they asked me to make a Christmas song for their party. 

I’m familiar with your DJ as well, Sana, and just from watching your guys’ Instagram stories from that party, I could see both of your energies bounce off each other, which I’m sure makes the energy in the room that much more sick.
Yeah, no, so sick. She only started DJing not that long ago, so when we had our first gig together, she was kind of still getting used to everything. Coming back and rehearsing again, she’s so much more confident on the mic. It’s literally the perfect dynamic, and that’s a homie as well. We have so much banter too, so it’s just funny. Like, I feel like it’s so important to have a good DJ for your live sets because it makes you feel less alone. It’s so important. But yeah, she killed it. The energy was dope.

Yeah, for sure. It definitely helps with the pressures of a live performance, having someone who is also performing up there.
100%, definitely.

Speaking of live performances, you performed at Listen Out, in Sydney this year as well. How was it to perform at such a large-scale music festival like that?
It was crazy. It was such a dope experience. I feel like in these beginning stages of your career, it’s such a dope moment where you can kind of grab fans from the audience, and take them on your journey. They’re literally seeing your first festival performance. And I won’t be in those stages forever, so I think it’s really cool. And yeah, it’s just a whole other experience to do all of that. For me, I think it’s really important to know that I’m bringing people into my world. If they fuck with it, they fuck with it. If they don’t, it’s so calm, they’re probably lit anyways at a festival. But yeah, I think I really tried to embrace that, because I honestly didn’t really like performing that much. I was always just like, “I wanna be in the studio, I don’t wanna perform”. But you just gotta go with it.

Do you still have that mentality of performing when you’re doing smaller, intimate gigs? Or have you overcome that a little bit more through doing these kinds of big scale performances?
Honestly, I was getting better. I had that mentality until I played this festival a week before Listen Out, called Wanderer Festival in NSW. It was packed; everyone was crazy, hyping it up. They were all loving it. And I think knowing that I can create the vibe, and they just have to go with it, and just knowing that you control the room was kind of what switched for me. So then going into Listen Out, Wanderer Festival felt like a rehearsal. That’s kind of where my mind changed. I’m still learning a lot when it comes to performing live, but I think I’m getting there for sure.

Where’s somewhere you’d like to perform one day? What’s the dream spot for you?
Coachella, headlining Coachella. That’s always been a dream of mine. It’s gonna happen.

You’ve just dropped your debut EP burnt your clothes and changed the addy, which, just from the title alone, is already making a massive statement on what you dive into. Can you share a little bit on the process of making that EP and the thinking that went into creating it?
I made most of the songs on the EP in lockdown late 2020-21. The main thing I wanted to kind of share with the EP and all of the songs is just that we’re all human. I wanted to give it a human approach because it’s raw, and we all go through all these emotions, whether it’s jealousy, being petty, being toxic, or just being so passionately into something. I just wanted to make that note, and make it relatable in that way. It was kind of just songs that I had made, and they all became a story coincidentally because I was going through those same emotions when I wrote it.

During lockdown, you’re isolated; you’re sitting with your thoughts. Did that make you look inwards, or help you grasp onto what you wanted to say in the EP a little bit?
Yeah, for sure. I feel like I grew so much in lockdown. I really took that time to get to know myself, and just read. I read The Four Agreements, and I feel like that changed the way I think a lot. Some of that shit sounds corny, but when you actually deep it,  it’s so important for your mental. And also doing long-distance relationships, all of those emotions I was feeling, I put it into the EP. It’s kind of like a rebirth, I’m just trying to heal and get past that, but I’m still gonna reflect on it. That’s kind of what the EP is, going through it all, my partying stage, like with ‘tiki’ and ‘Dnt wanna rush’. And then getting into new flings but also being hurt from the past. But yeah, just like going through all that stuff that we all go through, but in my kind of world.

Did you ever struggle with being able to open up and be vulnerable in that way through music?
I kind of struggle with opening up in my everyday life, so with music, it’s kind of the only way I can open up sometimes. It’s natural for me. But in everyday relationships, sometimes it’s a lot harder for me. So I just wanted my music to do the talking.

Your single ‘My Crew’ closes out the EP, and it’s basically an ode to your people. And so, coming from West Melbourne, how important is it to you to preserve that creative hub down there and to put your people on where possible?
It’s so important. My main thing is to be myself, be authentic, and let people know where I’m from. And that’s what I’ve always done, and for people that come from where I come from, and see what I’m doing and where I’m gonna go, I think that is really important. We didn’t really have that growing up. We didn’t have anyone to look to that was doing anything in our area. And it’s not really expected to make much of ourselves. So I think just being myself is important to people growing up from my area, but also putting on and opening the door for other people. There’s an amazing local scene here, so when I do my show, I definitely want to put on one of my favourite artists, Craigiewave, who’s opening for me. I don’t know, I love my friends. I think they’re so talented. So I want to bring them everywhere I go. 

Which track would you say is your favourite off of the EP and why?
Everyone’s been asking this, and I said, ‘with/without us’, but I think I’m gonna change it for this interview. I’m gonna say ‘10s & 8s (no 4s or 5s)’ because I like that it’s a ‘feel yourself’ song, but it’s also a really emotional song. It’s a bit bipolar. And I also say, “you say I’m skuxx, please don’t lie” in it. [laughs]. So I think that’s why it’s important to me. It’s kind of about dealing with distance, and it’s me feeling myself so much. And it’s like, I’m gonna feel myself if you don’t.

No, I love that. I feel like in the past year, I haven’t seen another artist like you flourish so much in such a short period of time. So when you get the time to self-reflect and look back on the past year, what’s one thing that you look back to?
I was just talking about this yesterday with Sana. I feel like because I’m so focused where it’s tunnel vision, even the moments that are big for me, it’s hard to take it in at the moment, but two months later, we’ll look back and be like damn, that’s crazy. How did that happen? Something I’d look back on probably would be shooting the video for ‘tiki’. I think that was such a special moment. Everyone that pulled up, from the city, out of love was crazy. Me learning how to dance in two weeks. I don’t know, I think that was a moment where I’m like, okay, I’m made for this. I can do this shit. That was a really big moment for me. And just being able to put all those visuals that I had in my head onto screen and make a video like that is something I’m super proud of.

The music video for ‘tiki’ reminds me of a scene in the movie Honey with Jessica Alba, where she’s choreographing a club music video. The visuals are just so synonymous, and I remember thinking about how much it had that same essence.
A lot of my influences in general are Y2K; The Pussycat Dolls, Christina Aguilera, Pink. All those music videos and aesthetics, I love that stuff. 

Yeah, that’s so hard; you’re really bringing that aesthetic into an Australian context. And speaking in an Australian context, I feel like the climate of music here, specifically within R&B, is very powerfully dominated by women. We have so many talented women being pushed to the front, so how does it feel for you to be part of the roster of women shaping the R&B scene here?
It’s dope, it’s so special to be able to pioneer a whole scene. It’s giving Drake [laughs]. But yeah, honestly, I just always want to make sure there’s room for all the women. I hate that mentality of there only being one, there are so many of us, and we’re all different. No one in Australia is the same, so it’s cool. It’s cool to see everyone come up.

Which artists have been on your radar lately?
My homie Craigiewave, Tru Saali, who’s gonna drop some stuff. Baby Face Mal, Billymaree. All the guys from the West are doing some crazy shit, there are so many, but those are the ones that come to mind.

And to close, after the EP drops what would be your goal over the next year?
I want to go global properly. Keep levelling up, and taking things to the next level. I want to take my music all the way, and just create a really solid, strong fan base. That’s the main goal.

Follow Pania here for more and stream the EP burnt your clothes & changed the addy now.

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