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PANIA: 'I'm Really Reserved And Shy, But Everything Is In The Music'

3 October 2023 | 5:10 pm | Jessie Lynch

Melbourne's rising R&B sensation is back on the scene with the highly anticipated release of her second EP, WE STILL YOUNG.


PANIA (Supplied)

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Melbourne's rising R&B sensation, PANIA, is back on the scene with the highly anticipated release of her second EP, WE STILL YOUNG.

PANIA’s latest EP sees her delve into the concept of youth — that feeling that encapsulates the essence of that vibrant spirit in our early twenties and teenage years. It's a compelling narrative of finding a delicate equilibrium while making the necessary sacrifices to pursue our dreams and ambitions.

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“WE STILL YOUNG is an excuse we use in our early 20s and early teenage years – we still young, we live in that moment, we feel it, because these are the years that we go through the most, but these are also the years we can’t get back,” PANIA explained of the EP.

“It’s about finding balance, navigating work and relationships and the sacrifices we make to achieve our goals.”

In WE STILL YOUNG, PANIA skillfully blends her distinct musical style featuring infectious hooks, astute lyricism, and impeccable execution as she seamlessly fuses her dynamic local influences with the romantic nostalgia of 2000s R&B and OVO production, woven together with an assortment of live instruments that music her music to a whole new level.

Recorded in Melbourne and London, PANIA collaborated with long-time producer Hamley, enlisted rising Melbourne rapper Miko Mal on DNT NEED U, and partnered with acclaimed UK producers Toddla T for BURNA FONE and Ray Michael (Burna Boy) on production for her latest single, PLAYLIST (ROCK DA BOAT).

In celebration of the release of WE STILL YOUNG, we had a chat with PANIA to find out what you need to know about the new tunes.

You can check out WE STILL YOUNG below.

Congrats on the release of We Still Young! How are you feeling about it all?

PANIA: I'm feeling good! I'm excited for people to hear a more stripped-back sound, a warmth in my R&B style. I'm really excited for people to hear that side of me.

You can tell how much you've developed as an artist since your last album, especially when it comes to these live instrumentals you’ve added to the new record. Do you find that looking back on your work and considering how much you've done this year?

100%. When I dropped my first EP, it was my first time in the studio, my first time working with Hamley, and I was still learning to sing and write. Many of the beats and production reflected that. Now that I've developed my writing and my voice, I'm more comfortable with melodic and stripped-back styles where you can really hear my voice.

You've definitely honed in on certain things and made them your own with this new album. Do you have any personal experiences related to this album's theme of youth and experiences in your 20s and teenage years?

PANIA: Absolutely. All my music is about my own experiences or those close to me. Even the first song is a freestyle of exactly where I was at that moment, what was happening, and what I was feeling. I try to make my music like my diary — exactly what I'm feeling at the moment.

I was listening to your new track Playlists and loved the line “You feel like my favourite song I don't play no more”. How difficult is it for you to put that sort of vulnerability out there?

PANIA: My favourite artists are the ones that you can really feel and you're like, ‘damn!’, like, I've felt this before and it's just raw and vulnerable. That's why I like SZA so much because I feel like she says everything that everyone feels but it's are too afraid to say, so I've always had that approach with my music as well.

It's everything I've been through, and it's cool to do because it's so personal. I'm really reserved and shy, and I don't really like to talk too much, but everything is in the music.

Your use of live instrumentals in the new album, like the electric guitar, definitely adds an emotional punch and brings the music up another level. What were you hoping to bring to the tracks by including these?

PANIA: Electric guitar is one of my favourite instruments, and it just makes you feel something that know can't do with your voice or any other instrument — I've always just loved it. And I like to put it in my songs to make it as a kind of a way where I wish I could go with my voice, I wish I could make people someone feel that with my voice.

I love doing that with the instruments and the songs. And I think it just brings like a whole other element to music. Adding those live instruments is definitely something that I deliberately did with this EP, and I definitely want to continue to do just to like, elevate the sound and help people connect with it more.

We’re obsessed with your style. Do you see fashion as an extension of your art?

PANIA: Yeah, 100% — I fell in love with fashion before I fell in love with music.

I feel like it's always been something for me. And I've always just enjoyed this part of it. So much like when I get to just like focus on the outfits, focus on the styling, like it is I guess I've kind of set the bar a little bit high — so now it's like a lot of pressure every time I have a show.

You've long been supportive of your fellow creatives in Melbourne. Are there any local artists you've been vibing with lately?

PANIA: Of course, there’s BabyFaceMal who appears on the EP. Definitely, my homie Craigiewave. Also, there's this guy named Lithe from Melbourne who's killing it — his stuff is fire, there’s so much coming out of Melbourne.

PANIA, you’ve had an insane year — from supporting Kehlani to your EP release and everything in between — What's been the highlight for you?

PANIA: I forget that Kehlani was this year because that felt like so long ago — that was the moment. Also, I was travelling, and being able to travel and work overseas and do a showcase in London was really cool for me.

I want to take this music thing all around the world, so being able to do that in London was really cool. That was a really dope highlight for me.

You produced your EP in both London and Melbourne. How did you blend elements from both music hubs into your album?

PANIA: Definitely to me, the drum and bass track, that was like very London. But I definitely tried to incorporate my own R&B sound, my own lyrics, and my own punch lines into the sound and fuse that.

That was really fun to do. So yeah, that's kind of how I navigate like, those elements of like London sun, and my own sound. And also in the video as well. I wanted to put the whole of Melbourne in it — some key creatives and showcase the city skyline and just try to bridge that gap between the UK and Melbourne.

Despite the physical distance, Melbourne and London share a fair amount of similarities in their music scenes, don't they?

PANIA: Melbourne is similar to London in many ways, even with the weather.

You recently announced you’ll be supporting Givēon on tour. What can fans expect?

PANIA: I'm gonna do a bit more of an acoustic set, we'll hear a bit more of an acoustic set you can hear well, you can hear definitely the new EP as well as different renditions of my like classics.

But yeah, just a more chill vibe for this one. Because I really want to showcase a more vulnerable side on stage. Because with Kailani I had like dancers and DJ — it was it was hard.

This time, I really just want to connect and make people feel the music and listen to the words.

How exciting! Sounds like you're changing things up, which is exciting for your listeners. What's next for you after the tour?

PANIA: It's fun, because I don't get bored of what I do! It's cool to do different things.

So after the tour, I'll take a break. You know, love live laugh, love. I don't know, I need to chill out for a second so I get some more inspiration.

And yeah, just work on more music on the low and then come back. Come back harder next year!

It's been great talking to you, PANIA. Thanks for the chat!

PANIA: It's been great talking to you too! See you at the show in Sydney!