FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH: PANIA EMBRACES THE NOW ON NEW EP ‘WE STILL YOUNG’
Fresh off her first ARIA nomination, PANIA balances youthfulness with maturity on her sophomore EP WE STILL YOUNG.
The West Melbourne-raised artist has been leading the genre’s renaissance in Australia for the last few years. Arriving in 2020 with ‘ICYY’, she has consistently delivered world-class R&B hits ever since, including her debut EP burnt ur clothes & changed the addy. Released under Say Less/Warner Music Australia, the 2022 project featured some of her biggest tracks to date including the island-infused party starter ‘tiki’ and dance club ready cut ‘MY CREW’.
Crafting the perfect team behind your artistry is no easy feat, and can oftentimes make or break an artist. With her eyes always set on the global stage, PANIA says “it’s so much more important to me to be working with people I feel comfortable with.” ‘MY CREW’ is her ode to the people working with her and the seemingly endless ceiling of possibilities for them.
“I sometimes tend to take on more than I should. So I think it’s about finding the right people that really align and understand your vision. Why I like to have my friends on my team is because I feel like they really understand who I am before.”
Initially meeting at a Sony writing camp, Naarm / Melbourne based producer HAMLEY was one of the earliest additions to the company P keeps around her music. “We had a session when I was really young and just starting out. I’d never really been in a real studio before either.” Building mutual respect and understanding of one another, both in and out of their art, the duo have been able to continually evolve the PANIA sound. “Yeah, Hamley’s my guy.”
If you’ve been lucky enough to see her in the flesh, you’ll know the next step of PANIA’s sonic evolution has already been implemented into her live performances. At the start of the year, she performed at the inaugural Souled Out Festival and supported Kehlani on tour. “I got fans in Perth now so I’m happy. Shout out Kehlani, she’s dope.”
This touring experience would inevitably lead to her own sold-out show at the Sydney Opera House. From weaving in skits and interludes throughout her set, to handing out PANIA branded lip balm upon entry, P strives to impress at every opportunity “because the artists I look up to always just blew me away. So I always want to have that aspect to me.” Although “everything is always led by vocals and melodies”, her second EP pushes her sonic evolution to the next level with more prominent and thoughtful live instrumentation throughout.
The seven-track project begins with the raw and intimate title track, a freestyle recorded in Eora / Sydney that P recalls as “one of my favourite moments because it was really rushed, really raw.” Over the laidback acoustic guitar plucks, she paints a picture of life in her 20 something’s and details the EP’s core themes of “finding balance, navigating work and relationships and the sacrifices we make to achieve our goals.”
“It’s the most important years of your life in terms of having to make the decisions for your future, but it’s also the moments where you’re young and you can do whatever you want.”– PANIA (2023).
Released in May, ‘ALL MINE’ is a more intimate insight into her aspirations and hopes, and is treated to an extended version on the EP. Both her projects have primarily been collections of her past singles with some new offerings to lure you in further. At no cost to her EP’s underlying narrative, it’s been tested and approved to give each song its spotlight and even allows for alterations post-release. Adding a final verse and flute solo to the already commanding and soulful track, ‘ALL MINE’ is still a favourite. Although, the same can also be said for ‘GETTN OVA U‘ and ‘P STAND 4 PLAYA’, the January-released hit from her P Pack that’s still getting rinsed nearly every other day.
The accompanying music video for ‘ALL MINE’ was shot during her London visit earlier this year, where she also recorded two tracks from WYS: ‘BURNA FONE’, the drum and bass heavy hitter courtesy of Toddla T (Stormzy, Aitch, Craig David), and the EP’s focus track ‘PLAYLIST (ROCK DA BOAT)’ produced by Ray Michael (Burna Boy).
P says the experience of working in different environments has helped her “level up my sound as well as see different ways to work.” While these singles adopt a UK influence, they don’t shy away from representing her own culture too. The addictive dance anthem ‘PLAYLIST’ “incorporates chants from my [Polynesian] culture that we use in a celebratory way. I wanted to make it for the clubs with a touch of darkness to it.”
“I love making people feel something but I also love making people dance. And I always want to make something for the summer and for outside.”
The most impressive cut on WYS has to be ‘DNT NEED U’, featuring the country’s hottest rapper right now Miko Mal. As two of Melbourne’s promising superstar prospects, the duo join forces for a long-awaited collaboration and present new elements to their rap and R&B repertoire. P showcases her strengthened storytelling in the narrative-driven track while Mal excels “in a different pocket that no one’s heard before.”
“He kind of has no limit and I feel like he sees himself doing big bits globally as well, which is similar to me. I’m excited for the rest of the world and also the rest of Australia to hear what Melbourne has to offer.”
WE STILL YOUNG propels PANIA higher into Aus R&B royalty and towards the global shores of the UK and US. Less than a year since its predecessor, the sophomore EP demonstrates her artistic growth as she embraces the nostalgic 2000s R&B aesthetic and sound she grew up on, while pushing the boundaries of Australia’s modern music landscape.
In early October she’ll be performing around the country as the support act for Giveon, before hitting the road for her headline tour in November. While there’s a weight of pressure that comes with being at the top, PANIA balances it like everything else happening in her 20 something’s and remains “really excited for the genre.”
“I’m really excited for everyone else who is coming through and also the people that came before me because they opened the doors. It’s only a matter of time until the world catches on to the R&B made in Australia. I’m grateful that I get to be at the forefront right now.”– PANIA (2023).