Grand Rapids’s Pansy (not to be confused with the indie pop artist of the same name) will be releasing their debut self-titled album Friday — just in time for Bandcamp Day.
The quartet formed in 2019 in their hometown, Grand Rapids, before splitting off to midwestern centers of Chicago and Detroit, respectively. The group has gained steady traction over the past few months for their embrace of ‘90s tinged instrumentation combined with Singer Mat Hagger’s captivating vocals and heart-on-a-sleeve lyrics. Upon first listen, you can really get a sense of the bands main influences and the uncompromising honesty embedded within their songs.
Ears to Feed spoke with Pansy to discuss the origins of the band, how their long-distance working relationship has affected their music, their influences and more. You can also stream an exclusive premiere of their album a day early down below.
How did the band initially come to form?
Initially, the band was a vocal and melodic idea in Mat Hagger’s brain, and they took that idea to drummer Cameron Frank and bassist Ben Abid to add the first instrumentals to their melodies. About a year later, Danny Sein came on board to add lead guitar, and the band Pansy as we know it was fully formed. This all happened in Grand Rapids, MI, when we still lived in the same city.
When did y’all decide to make the move to midwestern cities, Chicago and Detroit?
Cameron and Mat moved to Detroit in July of 2019, Danny and Ben moved to Chicago more recently, in 2020.
How have you all worked through this transition, and has this made prospects for touring more difficult or does it give an advantage?
The distance between us physically isn’t a huge obstacle in getting things done, luckily. Our homebase of Grand Rapids is pretty central to us all, and we’ve had open communication living outside of that city as well. We were able to release the album from different cities during a pandemic and don’t plan on letting anything stop us in the future, either. Touring is pretty bleak at the moment for musicians, but hopefully when it is safe to travel again, we will be back on the bus, literally.
There appears to be a wide array of influences on your debut EP, I can sense the moving vocal style of Angel Olsen with a mix of Pixies and emo instrumentals – can you describe what sounds move the band?
It’s almost impossible to track down all of the influences Pansy has for our sound. We are always absorbing content from musician friends, musician strangers and found sounds. We all come together when it comes to ‘90s alternative, with mutual influences in work from The Cranberries, PJ Harvey, Pixies, etc. Other than that central force, we all listen to a wide variety of music and come together to move and change our sound on whatever whim is most enticing.
“Buried” is my favorite track on the album with its ethereal vocals and lyrics that center on escape. Can you share how the track came to be in this era of isolation?
To be entirely honest, the track did not start or stem in any way from this new era of pandemic isolation. It was written over 5 years ago by Mat, and evolved quickly to become part of our set as a new band. However, the song really seems to “hit” for those who have listened lately because of our collective feelings of restlessness and isolation. The meaning of the song has changed with the meaning that life gives it, and we prefer it to be malleable and universal.
Would you say that your new location has had an affect on Pansy’s sound?
Pansy has definitely had to get used to communicating solely with phone calls and texts, but it hasn’t changed the pace much for our music. Since our first album was recorded immediately before Mat and Cam moved, we knew we would have to work from a distance, and acted accordingly. Since we were in the process of moving even while recording overdubs, we wouldn’t say the sound was affected in any extraordinary way by location.
The midwestern scene surrounding Chicago has been gaining traction in recent years with a devout love of its peers. Can you describe this unjaded love that bands have for one another and are there any fellow artists you’d wish to highlight?
Danny and Ben: “We’re transplants. We haven’t been part of the scene for long, but we have a nice network now and of course friends to shout-out. However, the Chicago scene has a strong history to begin with, and musicians have been lifting each other up through all of it.
Shouts out to Oozing Wound, Drool, Silver Abuse, along with countless others.
What were the last shows you were able to attend before lockdown?
Cam: The Makeup, a day before the shutdown.
Mat: I think the last big show I went to was Big Thief and Palehound? It’s hard to remember.
Ben: Some Florida based cover-band, in a lagoon.
Have you all picked up new hobbies or a daily routine that has kept things in perspective in these turbulent days?
We’re all spiraling, just like the rest of us. We’re also drinking lots of coffee, going on walks, watching TV, reading more, bike-riding, writing, mixing, making art, working and taking things as they come, day by day.
What are your hopes for the future of Pansy as you navigate 2021 and beyond?
We hope to give y’all some new songs, track down a band van, change up our sound when it calls to us, play shows (someday) and keep collaborating in any way we can.
This interview was edited for clarity.