Talking to PANIA, there’s no denying she’s fully aware of her star power potential. She’s quick to reference her inspirations as being some of the biggest artists in the world and importantly, she’s not afraid to showcase her ambition.
PANIA has dominated 2022. Emerging onto the scene and winning over a plethora of fans this year, PANIA’s energy and vigorous desire for bigger and better has driven her to the top of Australia’s bubbling R&B scene.
Matching confidence with vulnerability, her music pulls from the glitzy world of pop and soul music while teleporting them deeply into her world, taking the love laden lyrical tropes of the genre and bringing them all the way down to her hometown of West Melbourne.
Her year started with the release of her first single from her forthcoming EP burnt ur clothes & changed the addy, the crooning dancefloor, baby making worthy number titled tiki. The track reflects the back and forth conversation of lust, as PANIA makes her way across a dancefloor in the track’s music video with choreographed dances and an ensemble of her crew.
Then followed the collaboration with emerging Brisbane-based rapper Umamii titled LETHIM4ALL, and empowering certified hit My Crew. The latter of which celebrated her friends and crew, uplifting them to achieve the greatness that they deserve. She highlights that her success would be nothing without her team and that her success is merely a product of their creativity and hard work.
Then landed her debut EP, burnt ur clothes & changed the addy. The project is tight 7 tracks that showcase the duality of confidence and vulnerability through the lens of lust, love, heartbreak, betrayal and eventual forgiveness. The tracks range from bouncy hip hop inspired cuts to unadulterated drill beats with rolling 808s, each beautifully pairing with her soaring falsetto vocals and her intricate penmanship.
Talking to PANIA, there’s no denying she’s fully aware of her star power potential. She’s quick to reference her inspirations as being some of the biggest artists in the world and importantly, she’s not afraid to showcase her ambition. To be a star, you need to believe that you can be a star and PANIA reflects this in her tone, her spark and her eagerness to share her journey so far.
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We chat to PANIA on the use of Australian slang, the importance of ambition, meeting Tyler, The Creator, the power of her crew and merging R&B and drill.
Is “you say i'm skux please don’t lie,” the greatest line you’ve ever written?
Low key yeah, it’s one of my favourite lines.
I was weirdly proud to hear skux in a song, I wigged out, I was like that’s a word we use.
That’s culture. We need to make skux a global thing, everyone needs to know about it.
Everyone’s saying eshays and doin now but we need to bring the long fringes back.
We are bringing back skux culture.
Right now, in Australian music, people from communities, suburbs and areas that aren't traditionally showcased in Australian music are popping off and making a huge name for themselves. West Melbourne is an absolute hub right now, Agung Mango, CD, yourself, 3K and others.
How does being from an area like that make you feel coming into an industry that might not get it or understand what your background is? Does it making daunting, does it give you a chip on your shoulder, does it give you and your community an edge?
I love it. I feel like everything in life I see as, no matter what it is you just have to embrace it and know that you are special. It’s a special thing that’s happening right now. It gives me a responsibility, that I can represent a whole community is super important. It gives me immense pride and happiness. If someone grew up where I’m from and sees me and the way I dress and is empowered that’s crazy to me.
It’s a blessing that we come from where we come from and we are able to make music and be seen across Australia and the world. It’s dope to be in the big rooms given where the suburbs we are from are looked at. It’s looked down upon a little bit, so the fact that we can embrace ourselves through music is crazy to me. It’s big.
What is in the water there though? Why do you think that West Melbourne is having its moment?
All of our parents are ethnics and its very multicultural. We all grew up with our parent’s culture, our parent’s music and their way of life. I feel like we have that and then we are also inspired by music overseas, especially London music and music from the US. The blend of that mixed with our parent’s cultures, what we would watch on TV and where we grew up as well all mixed together has created this amazing musical culture.
One thing I love about you is your ambition. In Australia so many people are so cut up about people talk confidently and have global pop ambition. Where do you think your ambition has been birthed from? Is it self confidence, is it something that you’ve had from a kid? When did it emerge?
I feel like I’ve always had it, since I was a kid I’ve been like, “nah nah nah I want to be global.” I’ve never thought of doing something and it only exists locally. I’ve always looked up to superstars so it’s always been embedded in me.
That’s the goal. I think it’s also my personality. I've always go, go, go and always thinking really big and on a huge scale since I was a kid. That’s just how I am and I’ll always be that way and I’ll always be myself and that’s what I tell my friends too. Do it, don’t think small, think big. There’s no point in thinking small. That’s just my mentality with things.
What did meeting someone like Tyler, The Creator do for that ambition? What did just being in the room with a skux on that level do for your outlook on your career?
It was cool to see him and be in a room and hear advice from someone that has actually reached crazy heights. The main thing I took from that was knowing that he went through the same stuff, he had the same struggles that someone like me was going through in the same stages of their career. Knowing that you have to keep pushing is important.
I watched his Paris conference before I met him and everything he was saying was so perfect. He speaks so well. Hearing that in person at the Converse Talks: Sydney event and taking it all in and just being in his presence was super important to me.
I feel like I see the similarities between you two. He is definitely a bit staunch in his confidence. He isn’t afraid to tell people to chase their dreams and ignore the excuses that creatives can come up with in their heads.
For sure, just fuckin’ do it. He just does it. He is so whatever, he doesn’t give a fuck. I love that. How can you lose if you have that mentality?
One thing I’ve noticed about burnt ur clothes changed the addy is your synergy with HAMLEY and his beats is absolutely perfect. How much of the success of the project do you credit to how well you both work together, either on a sonic musical level or on a personal level?
So important. He was the first studio producer that I went to, who had a proper studio and the first to properly record my vocals really nicely. We’ve been working together since I was starting, so there’s a strong synergy there. We really got to know each other and he really knows my emotions, my sound and how to bring that out of me. It’s also special because we’ve developed my sound together.
We really honed in on everything with this project with so much focus. We sat on those songs for so long and really perfected them. I couldn’t have been that patient with someone else. We get each other. It works.
You’re on that rndrill wave which I think is going to be huge around the world. with/without us & 10’s & 8’s (no 4’s or 5’s) mould together the worlds of Drill and R&B beautifully. What inspired you to enter that world?
During lockdown when drill was huge, I was listening to Bandokay and a heap of UK drill. I love the production. It wasn’t as big as it was now, but it was about to be huge. I heard that and it was all I was listening to. I was then wondering what would it sound like if someone sang on this. Nobody has released any rndrill yet. I asked HAMLEY to make me a drill beat, and he was hesitant but I told him to trust me.
He made it and he wrote 10’s & 8’s (no 4’s or 5’s) so quickly and we had a moment where we thought fuck, we are onto something. We were listening to Magic by iLL BLU ft. #OFB and it was one of the only drill songs that had an R&B hook. We needed to make more stuff like that but with the whole song singing. Then followed with/without us and LETHIM4ALL all in the span of 2 weeks. We were lowkey on ourselves for creating this, then people starting slowly dropping it while we were sitting on the music.
burnt ur clothes changed the addy is an extremely potent EP. It’s real and it hits on both sides of the fence. We’ve all been the ones that have had our hearts broken, but also it hits because it also brings up some of the toxic shit people do in relationships as well as the mistakes that we make. There’s definitely two sides to it.
How does your creativity relate to your process of healing? How do your feelings change about a topic after writing about them?
I get the healing from writing the music, it’s the only way that I can process things sometimes. I feel things so deeply. There are people that feel things, obviously, but as artists there are certain artists that feel things so intensely. It takes over our whole bodies, as cringe as it sounds but I’m being dead ass. The only way for someone like me to process it is to write about it and let it out. Then I’ll listen to it later and think damn that’s crazy I had no idea I was feeling that.
I just hope somebody can relate to it. I hope it helps someone else.
Is there an anxiety attached to that at all, that you talking about some really specific real-life shit can sometimes make it all too real?
Not at all. I look up to people like SZA as well and her music is so raw and so honest. That is the level, it’s crazy and it’s so beautiful to me. When I write I don’t think too much about it. It is what it is, it’s yours now, make what you want of it.
Until you get the DM from the friend who you’re writing about.
True (laughs), I feel like my ex is going to listen to this and think it’s about him but it’s actually not.
You gained a lot of popularity in the last few years where you couldn’t perform shows. What’s the feeling like, after putting in all that groundwork finally being able to perform and interact with your fans?
It is so so so crazy. I was so anxious doing shows at the beginning. I told my team I didn’t want to do shows because I get such bad anxiety. So many shows early on I turned down because I was so nervous nobody would show up. To see the love and look out and it be filled out with people that I’ve never seen before is so beautiful. Those moments remind me of why I do this shit. It’s overwhelming in the best way possible. It reminds you to do it for the people that pull up for you, support you because it really means so much to them to see and hear your music live. It was really beautiful.
What legacy do you want burn ur clothes change the addy to leave? When people look what do you want people to remember from this era of PANIA.
I want them to know that it’s ok to be human. We all feel these things, and you don’t need to run from them, you don’t need to hide from them. Feel it, feel them, keep moving forward. You’ve got this.
And be a skux.
And be a skux of course. Go dance, get lit, be a sad girl, be a bit toxic. Do it all, we are human, live your life to the fullest. Do you babe.