Manitoba Music has teamed up with Fresh Radio for a new monthly spotlight on local music, dubbed Manitoba Fresh to introduce audiences to a stellar slate of buzzworthy local artists emerging on the Canadian music scene. Featuring on-air segments and online performances via Fresh Radio, and in-depth band profiles right here on manitobamusic.com, Manitoba Fresh continues this month with pop sensation Panicland. Tune in to 99.1 Fresh Radio and stay tuned for so much more...
By Jillian Groening
Pop music just got an upgrade. Slick, beat-driven and unforgivably gutsy, the new sound racing up the charts is fuelled by hustle and hashtags. This fresh brand of Spotify-minded artists contains enough Millennial tech-savvy, in fact, to jump velvet ropes and schmooze their way into private A-list parties using only a smart phone.
Riding this roller coaster of trending tags and digital music tours right to the top is Winnipeg’s own Panicland.
With their first single “Bad Word” placed at #28 on Billboard and #24 on Mediabase top 40, Panicland’s pop following is set to stun.
“We’ve been together almost 10 years now and we are sick of having to be shy or be polite,” states lead vocalist and guitarist Braedon Bassio. Following a series of showcases in L.A. during Grammy week, Bassio along with drummer Travis Hunnie, bassist Ian Wilmer, and Bassio’s brother Riley, also on guitar, put their tech skills to good use by using the power of Instagram to get into record label parties. Sneaking in to rub shoulders with the likes of Skrillex, Mark Ronson, and Lorde, the band retired the notion of the prim and proper Canadian citizen.
This brazen confidence doesn’t just get the gents bragging rights, but has been a useful tool in dealing with the toughest fans around: teenagers.
While on a five-month long tour of high schools from Vancouver to Hamilton, Panicland learned how to use their flair for all things bold to win over fans. Driving up to gymnasiums packed with teens, the up-close-and-personal shows allowed the band to engage with their target audience in ways only true performers could enjoy.
The pop group would search for audience members sitting with their arms crossed and observe as they slowly let their guard down.
“We would watch them be won over. It was our favourite thing to do,” Bassio recalls. “High school kids are so extreme, they'll either love you or they’ll hate you. There is no middle ground when they are 17 years old.”
This talent for charming crowds has also been a benefit when playing busy malls. These guys aren’t scared of getting in anyone’s grills.
“We would try and make a spectacle of ourselves,” Bassio says of their experience playing at Polo Park Shopping Centre. “When people see that other people like you, they usually start to like you too. It leaves a good first impression.”
Panicland isn’t just gutsy while in performance mode. Having been making music together since the age of 12, the boys have developed a solid relationship while collaborating that follows with their unapologetic aesthetic.
Avoiding passive aggression at all costs, the friends make sure to shoot straight when talking business. Not having to tip toe around egos and emotions has allowed the band to build a supportive and successful environment. From Canadian tours to SOCAN songwriting workshops and showcases in L.A. and Toronto, Panicland has stayed self-assured. Focused on writing music, recording, networking and building an image from an age where a lot of kids are worried about homework and B.O., Panicland got through their creative awkward phase of making mistakes and finding an identity early.
Most recently working with award winning producer Keith Harris (The Black Eyed Peas, Usher) in L.A., Bassio took the opportunity to work on loads of new material to bring home to the prairies. As defiant as these dudes can be, they know how to let the old pros do their job.
“Working with someone like that was a huge learning experience,” Bassio says. “You go in and you forget everything you know and adjust to them and come home with a new perspective. The more you do that the more you learn, which is why I think collaboration in general is so important. But you also need to be able to put it towards something on your own in the end.”
This personal flair has been honed by years of creating and messing around in their studio, located in Bassio’s basement. From playing punk jams to pop productions, Panicland has hit their very own stride. With hit singles piling up and an EP in the works, Panicland brings a hard edge to mall pop.
“Pop music allows you to sound more colourful and to be influenced by all different genres of music,” Bassio states. “And there are less rules.”