This was the first feature that I wrote for the BRAG, and there’s many happy returns where that came from. So far, I’ve done dozens of features for them; including seven cover stories that I’m really happy with. Obviously, we’ll get to them before you know it. Let’s get back to this, as I had a chat with the perfectly charming frontman of The Panics. Seriously underrated band if you ask me – even if, for many, they live and die by that song. This was in promotion of his perfectly charming solo album. Painless interview. Good one to start with for a place I’m still very proud and happy to be writing for.
– DJY, December 2014
2013 not only marks the release of Jae Laffer’s debut solo album, it also marks a milestone of ten years since the release of A House on a Street in a Town I’m From, the debut album from Laffer’s day job, The Panics. Jae exudes a sense of pride at what the band achieved – particularly at such an early age.
“It reminds me of that time in your life when you’re waking up out of being a dreamer in high school,” he says. “I listen to that album and I hear myself crazily imitating all of my heroes. It’s so exciting, though – and when it starts catching on, it’s the most invigorating feeling. There’s a great energy, and that’s the great thing about the kind of music you make when you’re in your teens – it’s naïve, but it’s not afraid of anything.”
The Panics have been on an extended break following the release of their 2011 album Rain on the Humming Wire. In that time, Laffer has been hard at work on When the Iron Glows Red – an earnest slice of folk-rock full of warm harmonies, strident acoustic guitar and a new-found sense of purpose. Laffer felt that Iron was an album that he had to make.
“I just wanted to test the waters,” he explains. “I’ve gotten to the stage where the band and I want to change up what we do and start afresh. We’re still very close, but I also wanted to keep up creativity on all fronts.”
“I felt it was a good time to do this album,” he continues. “After the last Panics album took a little longer than we wanted, it certainly had its particular stresses here and there. All I really wanted to do before starting on any new Panics stuff was just to show myself that I could create an atmosphere, write a whole bunch of songs really quickly and record them. For many years of compromising, it just felt great to be freely creative for creativity’s sake and take control of a record – produce it, play most of the stuff on it. It just felt good, and it worked.”
Laffer points to two iconic figures – John Lennon and Bruce Springsteen – as being greatly influential on the sound of Iron. “I think a lot of what I was listening to was reflecting being thirty years old and having new kinds of pressures in life,” he says. “It’s that struggle of trying to keep our dreams alive and not compromising too much, not letting things stop you from being your true self. So I found myself really relating to the worker’s ballads of Springsteen and Lennon crazily talking so abruptly about his relationship. I might not be up there with those guys, but it’s just that kind of feeling that resonated with me.”
The album will be launched with a national tour, starting in mid-October in Melbourne and winding up with a Sydney date in early November. Laffer will be joined by a four-piece backing band, and promises a mix of new solo material and some Panics favourites. Don’t worry about backlash should you request ‘Don’t Fight It,’ either – against all odds, Jae is at peace with The Panics’ biggest single.
“It’s just a cool song,” he says calmly. “As far as having a track that sums you up to people, then I feel ‘Don’t Fight It’ puts our reputation in good hands. It’s got a certain something to it… I’ll always be proud of it.”