TEXT IAN DAVID MONROE
University student Tyson McVay and recording engineer Shaun Savage, aka PANES, turned heads (mostly ears) with the debut-track “Choice Errors.” Despite the violent connotations you might get from their last names, PANES make new-age R&B music better suited to nurse your wounds than rip them open. Their sound is a perfect mixture of soulful lyrics and electronic synth creating a sonic environment for the youth of London. It’s a teen dream sound that reflects a rising and increasingly mature generation that no longer finds comfort in mediocrity. Determined to do it on their own, PANES arrived effortlessly on the scene with few blogs making the connection that Tyson is the daughter of Swedish-siren Neneh Cherry. We reached out to learn more about this little-known genetic destiny, and to premiere their impressive new video for “Bones Without You.”
Can you both breakdown what each of you do in the duo?
S: Well in terms of actually writing songs we basically sit down in a room together and just do it. It’s a pretty straight forward process. It’s pretty varied in terms of the music we each bring different things that hopefully make something a bit bigger than ourselves.
T: Yeah we pretty much manage to work 50/50 when it comes to writing the songs. Sometimes Shaun will have an instrumental of some sort and sometimes we’ll just start from scratch. As for live, we’re also still figuring that out, it keeps changing, which I guess is exciting.
How did you two link up? Was it love (musical love of course) at first site? How do you blend your personal voices? Or are they the same?
T: We knew each other through mutual friends but not that well. Shaun got in touch one day and asked me if he could sample my voice for an instrumental project he was working on. I don’t know what happened with that! But about a year later I went to a meeting with a mutual friend, I trying to find someone to work with and Shaun walked in. A lot of the songs we ended up writing to are the instrumentals he didn’t use before which is part of the sound, or whatever, I guess.
S: Yeah it was a bit of a coincidence that meeting thing but I’d known her vaguely for a while, and like Tyson said I’d done a small amount of work with her. Consensus seems to be really easy because I’d like to think that we have a lot of time for each others tastes. Tyson introduces me to loads of stuff and I guess I do the same.
What is the significance of “PANES” as a duo title? How was the name born? Any relation to its homophone “Pains”?
S: The homophone is something but it essentially refers to the framing of things. I guess in both a literal and figurative sense. How we view and frame our thoughts, lives etc and the windows we look into and out of on a daily basis. But I mean anything can have a veneer of intelligence if you think about it enough. That and the fact that someone else had already bagged our first choice.
T: It was a bit of a nightmare trying to find another name. We had one we both liked, we started to think of ourselves as that name, but then we couldn’t use it. It took us a while to settle on Panes. It works because, like Shaun said, it can be vague and mundane but mean more if you want to look at it like that.
Tyson how do you juggle school work with music? Is there ever a desire to just abandon schooling and dive into music full time?
T: It’s hard, much harder than I thought. But they feed into each other nicely so that helps. I definitely don’t want to be in school for the rest of my life! No, I’ve wondered whether I can actually pull this off quite a lot, but I haven’t got long left so I should hang in there.
I was at UCL for a semester a little over a year ago and I was wondering if anything inspires you about Bloomsbury? If nothing where do both of you go for inspiration?
T: Oh really? It’s a great place to study. There’s so much going on there all the time which is great if you make the effort to use it all. I think my long journey into school is probably more inspiring for making music than being there. When I’m at school I try to just think about school. I suppose it’s inspiring for that kind of work. I like studying in the middle of town though. I like having to travel there, it’s inspiring to have to travel to do what you want to do.
Your press release says the EP is “a mission statement for the PANES sound.” Granted the music can speak for itself, but how would you put your mission statement into words? Why call it a mission statement?
S: Does it? That’s pretty embarrassing I should probably pay more attention to stuff like that. Actual wording aside, I think the sentiment of that is reasonably accurate. This is a body of work that is basically the first 4 songs we wrote together and as such could be seen as a starting point rather than a mission statement.
T: Oh wow I didn’t know that. We didn’t call it a mission statement ourselves! This first collection of songs is where we are so far if that makes sense. Hopefully we can write some more that are just as good, or better, or just different. It’s still developing in terms of sound.
What themes can be found throughout the EP?
S: it’s the usual themes I guess that affect most youngish people. Life set within the limits of a city, love, leisure time, the mundane, the beautiful, nights out, mornings after. It’s a setting more than a narrative.
T: Can’t beat that answer. He put it perfectly.
We’re premiering the “Bones Without You” video and its wildly captivating in its simplicity. How much of a voice did you have in its direction?
S: In so much that Cieron [Magat] was someone whose aesthetic and other work we’d admired for a while. I’m very much into letting people get on with what they’re good at. He spoke us through his idea and in terms of the styling, the setting and people in it; it just seemed like a good fit. The simplicity is important as it’s essentially aiming to catch the sense of conflict one feels with a lover or a girlfriend or whatever. It’s not meant to make a big statement because these issues are invariably more complex than we’d like to believe.
T: We knew we wanted Cieron to make the video. We put together a brief of the themes we’ve tried to reflect in this collection of songs and this is what he came back with. It’s perfect.
What’s the symbolism of the string?
T: Originally Cieron’s idea was to focus on the moments in between, in between their arguments and sweet moments. The cat’s cradle is there to symbolise a city grid and the journey between good and bad moments in their relationship. I think.
S: I think the cats-cradle or string conveys a web or sorts, the unravelling of a situation and the streets in which most of our lives run.
Are the boy and girl in the video friends of yours?
S: Well no, although we were involved in the casting in that we gave the OK but Cieron had them in mind from the out-set. The fact that they’re girlfriend/boyfriend, or used to be I think is evident in the closeness between them and in their intimacy together. Because the video lives or dies by that intimacy.
T: It was important to us, and Cieron who made the video, that we were all involved in the casting process because we’re not in the video ourselves. They had to be regular kids who were comfortable with each other and comfortable in the setting. That sounds weird, but to me it’s important and clear that they’re from London. It’s subtle but he’s managed to show it in small details. I like that. We don’t know them personally but they know each other which is part of the subtle sweetness of it.
Was it a conscious decision to leave yourself out of the video?
T: Yes. We’re both sort of resisting being in pictures and videos but I guess we’ll have to get over that at some point.
S: Yeah it was, although I dare say that’ll have to change at some point. We liked the idea Cieron has and just thought whacking ourselves in front of the camera every 10 seconds would probably be a little bit incongruous and distract.
Tyson, what are the pros and cons of having a mother that’s already a prominent figure in the music industry?
T: Ah, that question. The main pro is that she’s amazing, there’s no one else like her. I don’t know if I’d be making music if I didn’t grow up the way I did, even though I resisted it for a long time. I suppose the only con is that people tend to focus on the fact that I have a famous mum. Hopefully people would think the music I make is good even if she wasn’t my mum.
What pearls of wisdom has she passed on?
T: She’s my mum. Everything I know comes from her, it’s too much to put here!
What music did both of you grow up listening to?
S: It’s tricky to nail it down. All sorts of crap but then I guess the records coming out of Bristol during my growing up there had a pretty big influence on both myself and Tyson. Other than the RnB records that were coming out of America when I was at school it was all pretty uk-centric. garage, grime, jungle, dance-music in a pretty wide sense. The better end of indie. I guess all those things have shaped how I approach music.
T: My granddad’s records. His music collection is a big deal in the family. When I started listening to music I went the other way and listened to a lot of awful 90s pop girlbands but luckily I got over that and found better things! Like Shaun said, uk based music has always been a big part of what I listen to. That saved me when I got dragged to Sweden when I was 15. And lets not forget R&B.
What do you find to the coolest/most interesting/exciting thing in music right now?
S: I find the streaming of live video content is pretty exciting and it is still pretty much in its infancy. I mean Boiler Room is an obvious touch-stone for this but Just Jam are visually way ahead of the game. The ease at which stations can legitimately set-up on-line and create something pretty remarkable such as NTS is great but then the flip side is the demise of pirate radio (which played a big part in my discovery of music growing up).
T: I think one of the most exciting things about music is how people have adapted to the way music has changed. The internet changed everything but it’s more exciting than ever. It’s so hard to make money from selling records so playing live is more important than ever. I think that’s exciting.
I’ve come to realise that London has the best music scene right now (but don’t tell any New Yorkers). Who from London are you guys listening to? What do you think it is about London that’s influencing new/successful artists?
S: I don’t think New York does too bad, to be honest. In terms of London you’re right there is a slightly bewildering amount of good music about. Off the top of my head I think LV, Twigs, D Double E, Four Tet, Mark Pritchard, Kwes, Fryars, Factory Floor and Petite Noir (albeit he’s originally from South Africa, but lives here now).
T: Haha. Me too. Although we went to Berlin recently to play a gig and I thought was exciting. Berlin is the best at what it does but I suppose London has its own way of doing things too. There is a London sound and a feeling from going out here that you can’t get anywhere else. It’s a big, dirty, and expensive city but it creates hungry, ambitious, creative people. I don’t have fun anywhere else like I do in London. At the moment I can’t stop listening to Fatima’s first album Yellow Memories. She’s actually from Stockholm originally but has lived here for years and you can’t miss that. The album is amazing.