PANIK FLOWER is a Brooklyn-based quintet making fuzzy grunge-infused dream pop. Helmed by strong-headed alto crooner Sage Leopold (vocals), the rest of the eclectic band comprises Mila Stieglitz-Courtney and Jordan Buzzell on guitar, Max Baird on bass, and Lucas Ebeling on drums.
Their debut single, “Pretty Face,” immediately envelopes the listener in a pedal-heavy wall of sound with weeping guitar lines and crisp snare hits. Over these robust instrumentals, Leopold and Stieglitz-Courtney make bluntly poetic third-person professions on the superficial discontents of modern dating such as, “It’s a needless dull pain/the stagnancy of incompatibility.”
A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents caught up with Sage Leopold and Mila Stieglitz-Courtney of PANIK FLOWER to discuss the band’s debut single, the chaos and disorder of New York life, and refusing to tether themselves to one specific sound.
Welcome to A Grrrl’s Two Sound Cents! Would you tell me a little bit about the band?
Sage Leopold: Hi Isabel! It’s so great to be here, thanks for having us. We’re PANIK FLOWER, a Brooklyn-based dream pop band. We got our start back in February of this year and have been on a roll playing shows in the NYC area ever since.
How would you classify yourselves musically at this juncture, and what draws you to that realm?
Mila Stieglitz-Courtney: We classify ourselves as a dream pop band, but it’s definitely tricky to label ourselves given that there’s so much that influences us as a group. We’re a 5-piece band, and each member brings their own set of musical experiences and interests to the table. We landed on dream pop because it felt like the perfect convergence of the classic alt-rock of the 90s which the vocals fall into and the more shoegaze-y atmospheric instrumentals that our music often explores. Ultimately, we felt like the classification gave us the space to experiment and grow without being tethered to one very specific genre.
Do your personal life experiences have any bearing on your songwriting or do you normally keep them separate?
Leopold: Definitely! All of our songwriting is based on personal life experiences. I have always personally felt that the best way I can connect with others is by writing what I know and translating those very personal experiences into more universal experiences that hopefully resonate with listeners.
You’re set to release your debut single “Pretty Face” this month. Can you tell me a little bit about the single and how it came about?
Leopold: Yes! It’s our debut single, so it’s a very exciting release for us. I wrote the skeleton of the song last year after getting out of a short-lived relationship. I felt really unseen and generally frustrated by the climate around dating, which I wanted to capture through a third-person narrative. I brought the song to Mila, who does guitar and vocals with me, in early 2022. That’s when we really began fleshing out the track. We then brought the song to the rest of the band once we got our start back in February. “Pretty Face” really came to life when the five of us started writing together and bouncing ideas off of each other. We wanted the verses to have more sway to them to juxtapose the choruses that really hit and drive the song home. Of all of our discography, “Pretty Face” is definitely on the more upbeat side of the spectrum, so it was a fun challenge to find ways to relate it back to the rest of our music.
Where did you record the song and what did you enjoy the most about the process?
Stieglitz-Courtney: We recorded most of the song at Spin Studios in Queens, NY and then tracked a few parts at Jordan’s (lead guitar) home studio as well as at our wonderful mixer’s home studio (Nicky Young). We really enjoyed fine-tuning the song over the course of a few months and listening to it grow and develop. We’ve been playing live shows for 6 months now, so we know how our songs translate in that setting, but it’s a whole different beast in the studio. There are some elements that translate really well live but not in a recorded setting. “Pretty Face” was no exception to this. When we got the rough mix back from our studio engineer, we realized that the song was sounding a little lackluster. We took this as an opportunity to re-evaluate the track and continue fleshing out parts. This is when Jordan wrote the incredibly catchy guitar hook that you hear at the beginning of the song and in the choruses, which really felt like the missing piece we had been searching for.
You’ve cited the Cranberries, Chastity Belt, and Twen as influences on the song. Who else would you consider major influences on the band and why?
Leopold: From a songwriting perspective, PJ Harvey has been a huge influence on my writing. There’s a certain directness in her writing that begs to be heard. It’s that kind of in-your-face narrative that leaves nothing up to the imagination. I’ve been trying to capture that kind of vulnerability in my own writing. I like the discomfort of bearing it all and seeing how people respond, if they resonate with the stories I’m telling. Vocally, we’re super influenced by Broadcast and have been leaning into big echoey vocals with me and Mila’s voices. From an instrumental perspective, Slowdive, Cocteau Twins, and Beach House are huge influences of ours – we’ve been exploring soundscapes a lot and have been leaning into more shoegaze-y guitar tones while maintaining more grounded and rhythmic bass lines.
How does the surrounding environment of living in New York affect your output as a band?
Stieglitz-Courtney: New York is such a vibrant environment – one that’s constantly shifting and changing – but it can be a super tough one too. There’s a certain grit to New York that really affects our music. The chaos and disorder of the city allows our music to be [free from boundaries], and our music often mimics this chaos at times – going from soft and ethereal to loud and all-consuming.
Who are some bands you’re fans of who should be on our radar right now?
Stieglitz-Courtney: Our friends Sub*T, Bindy, Kierst, Reggie Pearl and Paper Lady
What does the rest of the year have in store for PANIK FLOWER?
Leopold: We’ve been taking some time to really refine our sound before we get into the studio for our next round of recording. We’re also really hoping to go on tour and are in the process of booking some shows outside of NYC!
Buy tickets to PANIK FLOWER’s single release show at The Sultan Room here.
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