I didn’t know what CD rot was until I stumbled upon a Panchiko thread on Reddit. The ambiguous lore of the UK-based band comprising of Owain, Andy, Shaun and John, goes back to their high school meanderings, where the quartet recorded an LP in 2000 that was seemingly forgotten. A stroke a fate, led a stray D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L demo (1 of 30 copies ever pressed) to be found at a charity shop in London and uploaded on 4chan 16 years later. The namesake track of the album is an anthem to slowly drifting into oblivion laid on a bed shoe gaze induced sentiments and the youthful antics of beeps and buzzes from being young, delusional., and in love. The rot infected track, imparted the question "Who and what is Panchiko?" Four years later, Owain was found the rest was left to fate.
The band, now reunited almost 20 years since making Deathmetal, returns for their latest offering which debuts May 5th. Failed at Math(s) reimagines and recharge their melancholic atmosphere from their youth, giving way to a matured stylistic eclecticism of sensitive tendrils of stings and the essence of waves crashing upon a shore. Owain shares, “I feel we have captured something of what Panchiko was, but you gotta keep moving forward. Getting obsessed about recapturing the past can be quite restricting when it comes to creating something that speaks about where you are at the moment and can limit creating music that is coming from a genuine place.”
It seemed that time had only made their hearts grow fonder. Andy shares, “The process of recording Deathmetal had an innocence about it that can only really be captured once–at the beginning of a musical adventure. Things have inevitably changed over the last 20 years but we still feel just as excited about recording again!”
Reminiscent of their precious rot inspired lo-fi sentimentalities, their second single, “Until I Know,” guides us through the weightless motions of their soft succulent soft morsels that begin to swell, as the soundscapes become more full and lush than we are accustomed to.
See here, a conversation with band members Owain and Andy on the matters of fate and what it has in store.
Bree: What does it feel like picking up where you left off over 20 years ago? I can’t imagine you’re in the same headspace you were in during high school.
Owain: Definitely a different head space. I've lived a normal standard life since then. Normal job paying the bills etc. Initially, it was very strange, I couldn't really remember the songs. It was interesting listening back to them, there was stuff in there that was very naive and inexperienced, but there was also a lot that surprised me, things that I thought ‘did we do that’ or ‘how did we get that sound or effect’. It’s been Surreal picking it up, an amazing experience where all these thoughts and feelings have traveled through time to where we are today.
It’s like having my teenage diary published in all its awkward glory (not that I ever had one, I wrote songs!) It’s quite liberating having your earlier creative endeavors exposed to show what were perhaps some decent lyrics and music………….and perhaps some not so decent stuff, speaking about my parts here! It means you have nothing to hide, I don’t need to worry about it. I can reflect on when youthful naivety produced something that actually came from a genuine place and combine that with a more experienced analytical mind to work on playing the songs in new ways and producing new material. It’s like working with two different versions of myself, A bit like in the Horizon video games but I’m not a super brain though ha!
Bree: And now making this album, what has changed since then?
Owain: I’ve listened to a lot more music since then! So maybe a broader range of influences. We did spend a lot of time listening and thinking about how to make songs that were ‘still’ Panchiko. I’d like to think that we have spent some time refining our craft whether that’s writing songs or developing our recording skills. Having an actual audience wanting to hear it is a new experience, trying to stay true to ourselves and make something that has an essence of what went before has been a balancing act!
Andy: Pretty much everything has changed for all of us, the emphasis never shifted entirely away from music for me in the years following the recording of Deathmetal. I’ve worked as an engineer of sorts for many years and am still as obsessed with sound as I ever was.
I have a happy life and Panchiko makes it all the more happy.
Bree: How did you keep your passion for music alive in these gap years?
Owain: I’ve always loved music, I think I always will. Listen to loads of different stuff. We had a great record store called ‘Selectadisc’ in Notts, I loved going there checking out the new releases. There are a lot of records lying round the house! I’ve always made music whether that’s tracks in the DAW or on some machines with guitar, I spent some time playing bar room beats. The more I find out about music the more I know that I know nothing about music at all. There is so much amazing music to discover nowadays on the internet, There is always something inspiring out there and the ‘itch’ to make music just keeps coming back.
Andy: I don’t think I’d ever be able to lose my enthusiasm for music, I’ve worked with thousands of bands over the last 20 years as a live sound engineer and as a mastering engineer. It’s not an easy industry, but it’s an industry full of interesting and amazing people, I can’t help but love it by surrounding myself with creative people and immersing ourselves in the music we make.
Bree: Do you feel that Failed at Math(s) is a continuation of your sound from back then or a departure? What was your inspiration for the narrative?
Owain: It’s a departure from how we technically made music back then; the sound has a bit more fidelity, but also a continuation of maybe how a Panchiko song would be written. I feel we have captured something of what Panchiko was, but you gotta keep moving forward. Getting obsessed about recapturing the past can be quite restricting when it comes to creating something that speaks about where you are at the moment and can limit creating music that is coming from a genuine place.
Most of the lyrics I write have a vagueness to them. I like that in music, it means multiple meanings can be attached and the song can maybe connect on multiple levels. I guess there’s a strong theme of failure ha! Failure is part of success, they are both sides of the same coin. It’s easy to get into a mindset that we should not fail, but if we do not know what failure is then how can we give ourselves the best chance of success.
Andy: We deliberately wanted things to feel familiar and not too much of a departure. Failed at Math(s) comprises of four new songs and four songs that were never finished from 20 years ago. It’s a unique position to be able to draw on such a selection of demos and we didn’t want to waste the opportunity. We want to take our lovely fans on this weird little adventure with us and so hopefully the inevitable changes in our sound aren’t too much to cope with.
Bree: What are you excited about touring?
Owain: Yes! It’s going to be a lot of hard work, but being able to make folks happy by playing a few tunes and brightening up their day is well worth it! We wouldn’t be able to do any of it without the support of lovely people who come to our shows, it’s a beautiful thing and we are so lucky to be able to do what we are doing now.
Andy: The last tour was just amazing, I’d never had the chance to go to America before so it was all new and (mostly) exciting! This time the shows are much bigger and we’ve even treated ourselves to a couple of days off so it’ll be lovely to absorb a little more of our surroundings.
Bree: Do you think that everything happens for a reason? That timing is everything?
Owain: Yeah, there’s definitely a strong feeling that we’ve been swept up by some uncontrollable river taking us somewhere for a reason, but maybe we don’t exactly know what that reason is yet. No paddle and the sat nav broke! I’ve personally been through a lot the past decade; health issues, life shattering events and grief, it was one thing after another. When Panchiko came along again, it was like the universe didn’t have much to work with to rebalance things, so the only solution was to line up a ridiculous beautiful situation to have a right laugh with!
The timing thing is interesting, it’s amazing how songs from a different time can resonate with a future generation and still mean something. Some of the stuff I included in songs like a videogame and anime references were a sub-culture at the time. These mediums and art forms now speak to so many people on different levels. There may be something in the idea that folks who would get the most out of the music were not even born at the time we made the music, and the world it could be a part of was not quite there yet. It also could be a retro Anemoia thing. The Internet helped a lot though!
What we as a species create through music, art and writing are moments in time we capture, perhaps it is more that if there is truth to the feeling and experience captured, it will find its place into peoples lives when it is needed and makes sense of the world they are part of.
Andy: I’m not sure if everything happens for a reason but it seems like anything that can happen is happening to us at the moment! It certainly helps that we said “yes” a lot initially…From Owain admitting that he was associated with the band, to being asked to go on tour.
Bree: What brings you hope?
Owain: Young people loving music, still! Music can be such a positive force in life that brings people together and brings joy. With so much nowadays to lose your time to, seeing so many young people coming to our shows and enjoying the moment and the music together is amazing. If the little we can do can help people forget their worries and maybe think about doing it themselves, the cycle continues and hopefully they make way better music than us!
Andy: Its sometimes hard not to feel a little disenfranchised, indoctrinated into a world of endless TikTok scrolling, disposable, endless content and comparing your life to the filtered weirdness that social media presents. It was kinda depressing to say the least, but seeing the kids faces at shows gives me a whole bunch of hope that they’re still connecting with the music and art they love…I mean there’s normally one person at least who’s puking into a bin from too much booze, but that’s the kinda connection we’ve all been through too, right?!
The band will soon enjoy their US tour this coming May. Tickets can be found here.
05/07 – Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
05/08 – Portland, OR @ Aladdin Theater
05/10 – San Francisco, CA @ The Regency Ballroom
05/11 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Vermont Hollywood
05/13 – Las Vegas, NV @ Sick New World Festival
05/14 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre
05/15 – Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
05/19 – Dallas, TX @ South Side Music Hall
05/20 – Austin, TX @ Scoot Inn
05/21 – Houston, TX @ House of Blues
05/24 – Miami, FL @ Gramps
05/25 – Jacksonville, FL @ Underbelly
05/26 – Atlanta, GA @ Variety Playhouse
05/28 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle
05/29 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat
05/30 – New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge
05/31 – New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge
06/01 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club
06/02 – Philadelphia, PA @ Brooklyn Bowl
06/03 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
06/04 – Chicago, IL @ House of Blues