The Panics are an indie rock band originally from Perth, Western Australia, and currently based in Melbourne, Victoria.
The band started out with Vox Singing Academy student Jae Laffer (then known by his actual first name, Justin) and Drew Wootton were still at high school in Kalamunda, an outer suburb of Perth, Western Australia. Laffer and Wootton met on their first day of school.
“You just look at someone and go, alright; you can be my friend, you have the same haircut as me”. – Laffer
They added Drew’s younger brother Myles on drums, Vox Singing Academy student Paul Otway on bass and Jules Douglas on slide guitar, keyboards and vocals soon after. After being spotted playing at the Inglewood Hotel by Happy Mondays’ Gaz Whelan and Pete Carroll, following Happy Mondays’ Perth performance at The Big Day Out in 2000, they were the first signing to the UK-based label LittleBIGMAN Records, a label set up by Carroll and Whelan.
“Yeah well that’s what’s been really cool about us and the label is that it was just the fact it was new for everyone and we weren’t just another band that they were adding to their roster. It felt really exciting to be part of a label that seemed to have really good ideals and be run by guys who certainly have their heads in the right place and are pro-artist as opposed to pro-money and I truly believe that. And it’s just good to have people who believe in you and playing for a couple of years it’s very rare that anyone comes along and wants to help you without wanting to take your money straight away and all that kind of thing. It’s just nice when people come along and go “we love what you do and we’d love to help”. And to have someone like the guys that run our label getting us gigs and getting us exposure, it’s like a massive weight off our shoulders that’s for sure. And also we’re really relieved to not have to go through the probable years of sending out demos hoping for replies trying to sweet talk people and suck up to people. It’s nice to straight away be our own little community and just start making records.” – Laffer
Their first release, a self-titled EP in 2002, enjoyed high rotation on Australian radio station Triple J and community radio stations around Australia, from which they gained some attention. The following two EPs This Day Last Year and Kid You’re A Dreamer also generated radio exposure across Australia.
In 2002, The Panics were the first Australian band to be invited to play at In The City, the UK’s annual music convention.
“It was just a very spooky event. It was like playing a pub in Perth. It was condensed down to a couple of nights. In this one kind of block in Salford in Manchester there was about ten pubs all within walking distance, each with about five bands playing a night and just a huge huge amount of industry just doing the rounds, walking through. Every person in the crowd had a laminate. Our place was packed when we played which was great but it’s very hard to read industry people ‘cause they don’t want to jump around and cheer. We’d just finished recording and I remember being on stage and we were just having a laugh because it was just so great to be playing in England.” – Laffer
While in England they commenced recording tracks for their debut album, with parts being recorded in Manchester UK and the rest co-produced with Steve Bond in Australia, and mixed by Jeremy Allom (The La’s, Massive Attack). A full-length album, A House on a Street in a Town I’m From followed in 2003 to local critical praise. Following the release of A House on a Street in a Town I’m From they toured Australia for the first time and also played a series of gigs with Morrissey, Gomez, Grandaddy, The Church and Badly Drawn Boy. They went on to complete several sell out national headline tours of Australia.
In 2004, the band signed a worldwide deal with Festival Publishing. They have also had several tracks featured in films, including This Day Last Year which was commissioned for Jew Boy, broadcast in 2005.
In late 2004, the band headed back to England for a second UK tour, including supporting the Happy Mondays at a sold out show to over 12,000 people on Clapham Common in London. While in England, The Panics were invited to record a live broadcast for the BBC. They performed three tracks live, which was also broadcast throughout the UK and digitally worldwide. The band then based themselves in Manchester and commenced writing new material for their next album, Sleeps Like a Curse. On return to Australia they recorded the album at Megaphone studios in Sydney with Australian producer Tim Whitten (who produced albums by The Clouds, Powderfinger, Art of Fighting, The Go Betweens, The Necks, 78 Saab and worked in England with The Smiths).
The song “Kid You’re a Dreamer” (from A House on a Street in a Town I’m From) was used as the credits theme music for the Australian drama The Surgeon which screened on Network Ten in 2005.
Their second album, Sleeps Like a Curse was released in August 2005, and was nominated for a J Award in the same year Shortly after the release of the album, the band relocated to Melbourne, where they were still based as at November 2007, with a number of the band’s members sharing a house in the inner city suburb of Collingwood.
In October 2006 they released a three track EP, Factory Girl on littleBIGMAN Records. The songs were covers of the Rolling Stones’ “Factory Girl” from their 1968 album, Beggars Banquet, Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” from his 1966 album, Blonde on Blonde, and Leonard Cohen’s “Who By Fire”, taken from his 1974 album, New Skin for the Old Ceremony.
The song “Monkeys in the Hallway” (from A House on a Street in a Town I’m From) was used in an episode of the television drama series, Tripping Over in 2007.
In February 2007 The Panics signed with Dew Process, and under this new label their third album, Cruel Guards, was released on 13 October 2007. The album was Triple J’s feature album for the week of 8 October 2007 and went on to win the 2007 J Award. The album achieved gold status (sales of 35,000) within six months of its release.
The song “Don’t Fight It” was featured in an episode of the Australian television drama series, Underbelly and appears on the soundtrack album. It was also used for the end scene of the Ugly Betty episode, “Tornado Girl” (which was the eighth episode in the third season of the show).
The album was nominated for four 2008 ARIA Awards including ‘Best Adult Contemporary Album’, ‘Best Breakthrough Artist – Single’, as well as two artisan awards for ‘Best Engineer’ – Scott Horscroft and ‘Best Producer’ – Scott Horscroft. The band won its first ARIA for ‘Best Adult Contemporary Album’
“We like to consider ourselves a bit more contemporary than adult, but we’ll take that.”
“The award was nice recognition after seven years together as a band. It’s almost like just a bit of validation for a lot of hard work. Also it keeps the band a little bit hungry just knowing that people are listening.”
— Jae Laffer
The Panics are already working on their next album and plan to tour the UK and the US in 2009.
“We need a few new frontiers to try to start making a little impact. We just want to make sure we grow old knowing we gave everywhere as much of a chance to get to know who we are as we do here at home.”
— Jae Laffer
At the beginning of 2010, The Panics played a show at Kings Park, Perth backed by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra features many performers not unaccustomed to this form of cross-over with many, notably Michael Ingle, having previously played with Ben Lee and The Cat Empire.
In 2011, they released the new album “Rain on the Humming Wire”, written in the UK and recorded in New York.
In 2013, The Panics were commissioned to write an original soundtrack for the ABC archival documentary Girt by Sea (2014). The film premiered at the Perth International Arts Festival in February 2014 where The Panics performed the score live to a sold out audience.
The critically acclaimed “Hole in my pocket” album was released in October 2016 through due process records. It peaked at number 52 on the aria charts. A national tour coincided to support of the release of the album and a world tour for 2017.
Hole in Your Pocket – Dew Process (7 October 2016) No. 52 ARIA Top 100.