Classic indie-rock renegades

Having picked up a slew of awards Down Under, The Panics are uprooting from Melbourne to Manchester. Clash caught up with them at their

Collingwood home before they departed. The rainy streets of Manchester and the sun-drenched beaches of Perth, in Western Australia, don’t share many obvious traits. Yet, for Jae Laffer, it was the sounds of Madchester as much as anything else that proved the inspiration to form The Panics while growing up in the world’s most remote city.“We were the kids who loved Oasis and the Stone Roses,” he recalls. “We were trying to write the biggest hits in the world and unashamedly showing off our influences.”

Lucky for them, then, that when The Happy Mondays played Australia’s Big Day Out festival in 2000, drummer Gaz Whelan and his cousin Pete Carroll stumbled into the pub where the teenage Panics were playing. The pair had been talking about setting up what would become LittleBIGMAN Records - a label focusing on the best of British and Australian new music; The Panics became their first Australian signing.

Almost a decade later and with a string of critically-acclaimed albums under their belts, The Panics are heading to the source of their inspiration, basing themselves in Manchester in preparation for the UK release of latest album ‘Cruel Guards’. It’s the band’s third visit to the UK, following performances at In The City in 2002 and a tour in 2004 that saw them support the Mondays in front of 12,000 people on Clapham Common. “It was an eyeopener,” says Laffer of their first trip. “It forced us to have a bit of street sense. We’d never had to feel defensive before. In Perth you know everyone and when you reach the outskirts there’s the desert. People are proud of that isolation and I am too - I guess it sounds romantic.”

For the self-effacing Laffer, who dropped out of art college and worked in orchards to fund his lifestyle while The Panics took shape, the return to the UK is the next challenge for a band who’ve patiently worked their way from endless pub tours into the upper echelons of the Australian music scene.

We’re family now,” he says. “We made it past the stress of putting out an initial album and then one that got heard to become one of the Aussie bands who have a golden record and can fill out clubs. We’d be letting ourselves
down if we lost that hunger. A lot of Aussie bands are dumbfounded by the silent response they get elsewhere. We’re clearly Australian, but consider it’s important to make inroads in Europe.”

He’s under no illusion as to the size of the task ahead, however. “There are so many good bands in the UK,” he says. He should rest assured that, for the next few months at least, there’s one more.

Words By: James Smith

Follow Clash: