Sydney-based band Panama got back from a European tour a few days ago, and lead singer and keys player Jarrah McCleary is struggling to adjust. “I woke up at 2am the other day, wide awake and I thought, ‘This sucks’ so I just went to the studio and started work.”
Born and raised in the Northern Territory, McCleary learned classical piano as a child, before moving to Perth when he was older, and finally settling on Sydney, (via stints in LA). Here his music evolved into synth-pop laden with dark, painful lyrics. Panama has seen band members come and go, the latest iteration is just McCleary and Tom Commandeur on the drum pad. Latest single Jungle is a slower, more intense affair than previous offerings from 2013’s Always EP, but with the same nostalgic, electronic sound; it’s a little Cut Copy, a little Jamie XX, very now.
So does he think where you live has much of an influence on the music you create? “I don’t know anymore. I’m inside the studio, working all the time – I’m not an overly sociable guy,” he says. “I go out when I’m on tour, that’s probably when I do most of my socialising, ‘cos I’m kind of a workaholic.”
The band is now preparing to support Years & Years at its Splendour sideshow in July. “Our audience has always been overseas more than Australia, so we generally don’t play much here,” he says when asked about the difference between crowds in his adopted city and abroad. “Not that it’s that bad over here, but we just have more of a following overseas for some reason.”
Sydney has now become a place to create before he takes his music on the road. “I toured last year and the year before that and I’m kind of getting used to it. And for the first time I got back and realised, I get what I have to do now. I come to Sydney and I write and I work and I sort of prepare myself to go overseas. It’s one of those things that I never expected, but I now understand that it’s the routine.”
But travelling must be fun, right, despite the heinous jetlag? “Oh yeah, it’s awesome! I’m trying not to take it for granted. I just need to try and stay awake past 9pm.”
Panama is supporting Years & Years at the Metro Theatre on July 26. The band's latest single, Jungle, is out now.