It’s March in 2018, and indie hero Timberwolf finds himself amongst an enormous world tour supporting his debut album Íkaros. For an artist who began playing whichever venues he could around South Australia, it’s a dream come true. One he feels privileged to be experiencing.
Before he caps off the tour with a home state performance at Blenheim Festival, we caught up with Chris Panousakis, the man behind it.
After an enchanting Australian tour supporting his debut album Íkaros, could Chris Panousakis already be hungry to record again?
HAPPY: We’re still pretty fresh into the new year, how’s 2018 been treating you? Been keeping busy?
CHRIS: I feel like I’ve made the most of the beach this year (so far), that makes me happy. I’ve been juggling some work as a producer/engineer for other people, but at the moment I’m touring my album with the band. We’ve hit NSW and QLD so far, playing Belgrave, Melbourne and Geelong this weekend before The Hills Are Alive festival the following weekend. So yes; definitely keeping busy.
HAPPY: Throughout your career you’ve experimented with a lot of different genres. Was it through this experimentation that you’ve landed on your current, very unique sound?
CHRIS: I think part of it has been experimentation. A lot of it has been pretty intense self-reflection on getting to know my strengths, but collaboration really dismantled any old habits that die hard. I think it helped me to realise there’s more substance in writing true to you (which is vast and expansive), not so much true to the sound you think you should/could sound like or what you’re hearing on the radio. If you’re shooting for that you’re just chasing your tail.
HAPPY: Last month you released your most recent single Jacaranda Sunsets, could you tell us a little about the new track?
CHRIS: I had been looking for a way to explain that naive euphoria or sense of possibility that summer ignites within me, and late ’17, all of the streets around where I live had erupted with purple jacaranda trees and walking or riding beneath them I thought they embodied all of those feelings perfectly. I like how the purple skies only last for a little while too. I didn’t mean to write the song, I actually sat down to write something else but that popped out.
HAPPY: Last year you released your debut album Íkaros, how was the process of writing/recording this record different (if at all) from the process of creating your new material?
CHRIS: Yeah I would say it was thematic. I was really trying to write a record about vulnerability and all the shades of love, with a nod to my favourite ’70s records. These days I’m writing whatever comes to my head but not really taking it seriously yet, just seeing where it takes me for a while. I haven’t written anything I’m really attached to in a little while.
HAPPY: What was like seeing a full-length record you’d worked so hard on be released into the world? Were there any nerves?
CHRIS: I think I sat on it for so long that the nerves had passed and then it became a pretty intense impatience, and then a huge relief. Once it was out I felt like I had no reason to keep one foot in the past for the first time in what must be two years. If you can picture walking around having developed a slight high pitched ring in your ears for two years that you learn to ignore, and then it finally stops and you feel like crying because you had forgotten what true silence sounds like. That’s how it felt to release the record.
HAPPY: In the past you’ve played sets at festivals such as Groovin The Moo, Big Pineapple, Woodford folk, and soon Blenheim Festival; how do you find festival sets compare to solo headline slots?
CHRIS: They are different because people I think arrive at a festival ready to release themselves and throw back all the energy and love you throw at them, so when you’re playing with a band it’s like this 45 minute journey to find transcendence between you, the band, and the audience. Whereas the solo headline slots are naked, sometimes you can feel like you’re under the magnifying glass but that’s a beautiful rush as well. You can’t hide in plain sight.
HAPPY: Speaking of Blenheim… being from Adelaide, what does it mean to you to see South Australian festivals full of home-grown talent thrive and grow?
CHRIS: To me it means living in a place that makes you want to be here, and proud to be from here. It means living in a place where you want to learn from your neighbour and share common ground, and that feels like belonging.
HAPPY: You’ve played a lot of gigs throughout your career. Are there any particular favourite moments you’d like to share?
CHRIS: Well I just went to WOMAD last night (Thundercat; what the fuck so good) and couldn’t help but indulge in a sentimental moment remembering my set there a few years ago. At that point I had no real concept of how big a privilege that is. I remember playing to the trees under all these hanging bats, and everyone (previously sitting down) got up and danced to the last few songs. There was lots of wisdom in that show.
My first trip to LA was special too. I remember my publishing label Third Side Music set me up a solo gig at an old bar in Silver Lake called The Red Lion, the kind of place you would drink whiskey and beer and stumble into a cab. My girlfriend was there and so was my manager, otherwise I was playing my new album songs to a bunch of Americans sat in silence who I hadn’t met, before I finished recording the album. Sometimes I have a conversation in my head with 17 year old Chris, contemplating becoming a full time musician, and he’s always pretty blown away to hear these stories and others like it.
HAPPY: What can people expect when going to a Timberwolf gig, or festival set?
CHRIS: The other day a friend of mine told me he thought our full band set was interesting because there are shades of rock but there’s often a pocket or a groove that gets you moving too. People have been singing Washed Out and Jacaranda Sunsets back at us lately, I don’t get tired of that. I’m bringing a percussionist and saxophone player to Blenheim as well, so I sense groove times.
HAPPY: What does the future hold? Any new music on the way?
CHRIS: I’m getting hungry again to work toward another record, so I might move down closer to the beach over winter and see what happens.
Catch Timberwolf live:
March 15 – Sooki Lounge, Belgrave VIC
March 16 – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne VIC
March 17 – Workers Club, Melbourne VIC
March 24 – The Hills Are Alive – South Gippsland, VIC
March 30 – Blenheim Music & Arts Festival – Clare Valley, SA – Tickets