Premiere: Jack Panther’s sophomore EP ‘Why Don’t You Come Over’ is a beautifully layered lesson in letting go: We go track-by-track with the artist    

image: matt hurley

The glistening alt-pop of New Zealand’s Jack Panther already has him pegged as ‘an artist you need to watch’ by the hallowed tastemakers over at Rolling Stone. And Backseat Mafia is buzzed to announce the long-awaited release of Jack’s sophomore EP, ‘why don’t you come over?’ Dropping tomorrow, this 6-track collection effortlessly blends the boldness and vulnerability the Auckland-based, queer artist has become known for.

Speaking about both the origins and the cathartic process of writing the new EP, Jack says: “It showcases such a different side to me – one that feels kind of badass. Throughout the process of writing the project I was listening to such confident, self-assured music and it rubbed shoulders with me, I guess.” Having previously listed such musical influences as Amy Winehouse, HAIM, Lykke Li and Arctic Monkeys, Jack himself is a fan of sad, emotive music and so this kind of expression is delicately evident in his own musical creativity.

Jack takes us on a track-by-track walk through of the album (below), with some interesting backstories on the creative process:

Track 1 | if i was: Opener If I was crackles to life on a pop whim and is driven by Jack’s fervent vocals about ‘waking up and getting high’, along with the perfectly simple backbeat and atmospheric synths.

JP: “I always really enjoy being in the studio with Seb (IPSY). We work really well together, he has a way of creating such unique textures and he has such a good ear. It’s kind of a twisted song, and that’s the vibe I wanted to create. I was working such long days in hospitality and was dating a stoner at the time. I had this fantasy like, ‘what if I just gave up on working hard, get stoned all the time and just cruise through life’? I wrote it as a way to get me through that slump – something I’d never allow myself to do, but an entertaining idea nevertheless. I wrote the majority of it on my own before actually meeting Seb, then when I came across Seb’s music I knew he’d be a perfect fit for the track. Seb tried convincing me to add in a sample from a movie (over the outro section) but I actually grabbed the mic, said ‘click record, let me try this’ and came up with the outro ooo’s in one take. This whole track felt like such an organic process, it was cool.”

Track 2 | Feels Right (ft MAURICE) provides a transition into late-night reflective mode, with sensual percussive beats that propel along a tale of entanglement and free scotch. MAURICE’s honeyed vocals beautifully balance Jack’s huskier harmonies and coax the listener deep into an intimate world.

JP: “I really felt like I came into my own making Feels Right. I had just met Dan, who ended up being a key collaborator (producing Feels Right, co-producing Dead Weight and mixing 5 out of 6 of the songs on the project). This session was rare for me as I came in with no lyrics, no ideas and tried to go with the flow.

Dan went to work and came up with these awesome chords – it still buzzes me out that the song is made up of just 2 chords. In the middle of this first session I started a little frustrated writing, nothing was coming to me.. then I suddenly stood up and was like ‘I need fresh air’. I got up, went downstairs and wandered the block with a guitar trying to unlock this puzzle in my head. It came to me pretty quickly from there – I did have something I wanted to say. At the time I was seeing someone and it felt like it wasn’t working when we were trying so hard to make it work. That’s what Feels Right ended up being about.

We left the 2nd verse and I thought a feature would be awesome. I ended up asking kiwi duo DUAL to come in. MAURICE had such a unique, fun melody and really helped bring the track out of the water. Jamie from DUAL added some awesome unique guitar textures. Filming the music video for this track was insane. It spanned over 2 big long nights, shooting till 3am but it was such a fun time. I was lowkey terrified standing on the back of a ute going 50kms an hour, ahhah!”

Track 3 | The angst-filled lyrics of ‘Dead Weight’ are thematic of having had enough of relationships that no longer serve. Making the decision to get rid. Organ keys rise and fall to a slowed beat groove, all the way to the parting lyrical burn: ‘I can do better and I’ll show you how’.

JP: Dead Weight was the very first track I wrote on this project. It just flew out of me. I sat at my keyboard, came up with some chords with fun timings and began writing the chorus when I was so fumed up about this guy I was dating. I then took it to a session with my longtime producer mate in the UK- Ian Barter- and we whipped it up pretty quickly. I loved going a little edgy with this song, I had a lot to say and wanted to feel empowered by making it! Fast forward a year later the EP was coming together and I really wanted it on the project. For it to feel cohesive with everything else, I took it to Dan (the producer of Feels Right) and we added a couple of textures and ideas for it to fit with everything else on the project. This is definitely my favourite track to play live, my bands too. I really enjoy the weird chord timings and I love that I solely wrote this one, it makes it feel like it’s my baby.”

Track 4 | ‘comedown :/’ fades in with sad strings and ethereal vocals – a tale of morning-after regret echoed in the cool-synth repetition.

JP: Making comedown was so much fun because it felt like nothing I had ever written before. I came into a session with boycrush (Alistair) where I said I wanted to make something weird, really experiment on this track. I did go into the session with a melody which ended up being the verse! The rest, Alistair, McKenzie and I all just played around and tried things out.

This track I was so excited about because as we were writing I could feel gold in the melodies. I really like  the way the track flows and dances about but still feels so edgy and moody. I knew this was going to be a key part of the EP because it felt so belonging to the world I was creating. I trusted my gut on this one. I did at one point have to fight for it to even be on the project and now I’d say it’s quite a key song in the project. It was actually originally designed as an interlude but I’ve had such good reception to this track it made more sense to not box the track as an interlude!”

Track 5 | The most recent single release (and penultimate song on the EP) Ski Lift 001  is beautifully heartfelt. Simple guitars blend intimately with candid lyrics to create a wonderfully nostalgic, indie track. About those moments when nostalgia hits you hard, Jack himself says: “Writing this song was so cathartic for me, I had a lot of feelings towards my ex and I think in a way I wrote it to acknowledge these feelings and try to move on.”

JP: This was actually my first session ever co-writing. I had met Harry and Sophie one or twice before but that day we really got to know each other. We wrote it in 6 hours, the song fell into place so quickly. Collaborators Harry and Sophie just brought out such a vulnerable side to me. Last winter I went skiing for the first time since going with my ex-boyfriend and so many bittersweet memories came flooding back to me. I remember having an epiphany while skiing that I took so many moments with him for granted. It’s a feeling that I think resonates with a lot of people – nostalgia can hit you so hard and so quickly. Writing SKI LIFT 001 was so cathartic to me.”

It’s the project I’m most proud of so far and that’s because at 24 I feel as though I’ve said everything I’ve wanted and needed to say. Every texture, every detail is made with purpose and I hope it’s something that will resonate with people -Jack Panther

Track 6 | Closing track ‘Waste’ is driven by a unique rhythm and showcases Jack’s impassioned vocal talent. With clear confidence and sense of independence, the song looks ahead with a defiant yet positive heart and provides the perfect closer to the album.

JP: Waste was a huge turning point for me. The recording session was 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’. I love this track because I wrote the verses and pre-choruses on my own, then took it into the session where the chorus just poured out of me. I felt so in the zone. We ended up keeping all of the vocals from that first session, it just felt too right. It’s the perfect closer to the project because it’s arguably the most meaningful one to me. It has the kind of confidence where it signs off of why don’t you come over? as an authentic, powerful project.”

About the themes of change that reveal themselves throughout the EP, Jack says: “For the first time I feel empowered by my own music and I think that’s why I feel so connected to it. I was in the process of moving cities at the time. With so many changes, everything felt like both the world was opening up, yet crashing down on me. In that time I was so forced to look inward, discover more about myself, my identity and the queer history of people that fought for my right to have a voice. That’s where this project stemmed from, I had so much to say to the people around me and the people before me.”

‘why don’t you come over?’ is the culmination of harnessing the ups and downs of being in your early 20s, whilst experiencing ongoing creative evolution as a musical artist. The EP celebrates Jack Panther’s own personal narrative and journey, with its edgy pop and themes of empowerment. Following on from his debut EP ‘this dream i had’, 2022 promises to be the most exciting year for Jack so far. Not only with the release of this stunning new EP, but also with plans to focus on some live shows, with upcoming writing sessions planned for both Australia and the UK. 

Previous Premiere: Melbourne's BADGERS unveil an euphoric trippy psychedelic video for their new luscious single 'Bad Dreams'.
Next Blu-Ray Review: Drive

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