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The “panic” in Panic Is Perfect has a lot more to do with adrenaline than it does with anxiety. From the very first notes of the band’s debut full-length, Cellspace, out on Strange Loop Records, there’s a sense of urgent wonder that drives the unique, eclectic and undeniably accessible songs. Each of the 11 tracks has an indisputable energy, but unlike everyday pop songs they feature an impressive array of international influences and surprising sounds—from vibraslaps to french vocal loops —that make for exciting, inspiring and truly multifaceted music.
A good deal of Panic is Perfect’s complex sound comes out of the experiences of the group’s founders, Mike Hoffman and Jeremy Belzer who’ve crisscrossed the globe, making music from Ghana to Thailand, Korea, China and beyond. Indeed, the band initially formed while Hoffman and Belzer were in Southern India and continued when the pair—multi-instrumentalists, songwriters and producers who met at their Los Angeles music school—reunited in the San Francisco Bay Area. Filling out the band is Ty Parker on drums, Joey Hassid on synth and David Monzon on guitar. Each of the band’s five members brings impressive individual talent to the creative process and together the band creates a live show known for captivating audiences with instrumental sagas, high-energy percussion and soulful grooves that make it nearly impossible to stand still.
Since forming, Panic is Perfect has released an EP—2015’s well received Behind Your Eyelids—and toured extensively, creating what Belzer calls wild landscapes. “We love dance songs,” he says, “but in the end what transports us to another place are the different rhythms, sonic landscapes and intimate messages that make each song personal, and different than the last. “That multi-dimensional sound is something the band has created by design. “We have a lot of multilayered arrangements in our songs, and almost everything we write features big hooks,” Hoffman says. “Everything is catchy, but it’s also complex. The songs are approachable and memorable at the same time.”
Photo by Samantha Madnick
Nowhere is this more apparent than on Cellspace. The album opens with “Turn Back Into Stars,” at once upbeat and apocalyptic in its creation of original sonic scenery propelled by driving rhythms, and features standout tracks like “Go Go Go,” which has been played around the world more than 13 million times, the surprisingly soulful “The Mailman” and the danceable “You’re Alive.” All of the tracks couples their energy with a deep-seated message apparent throughout, creating something of a theme to the album. Hoffman says it’s about, “finding a fire that burns bright enough to transcend your life; finding joy that can burn through the sorrow.”
Now that Cellspace is complete, the band plans to release a music video for each of the record’s songs, and their live show—an unforgettable experience all its own—will be on display as they tour in support of the album. Describing what it’s like at one of their shows, Belzer says, “We run down a mountain of energy with our fans during our high-energy dance songs, and fall into some more intimate landscapes about friendships long gone. Suddenly we’re running out in the rain and down mountains again and yelling about wild fights with lovers.”
The live Panic is Perfect experience also allows the band to show off its versatility. “We’ve noticed a lot of bands in our genre of music using backing tracks when they play live,” says Belzer. “We play music that sounds like it has backing tracks but doesn’t, and that has given us the flexibility to jam more, and to extend sections of songs when we’re really feeling it.” This display of energy and innovation has become a hallmark of the Panic is Perfect experience and has made the band’s live show something unique and important for every fan to experience. “Our live show has evolved over time and has solidified during all the touring we’ve done in the last year,” Hoffman says. “We do a lot of heavy, intense, high-energy drumming and the goal for us is to create a tangible energy for the audience and take them to a transcendent place.”
And that sounds like something worth getting worked up about.