IN HINDSIGHT by Loose Panic | INTERVIEW
Author: Sean Manuel
I must admit: our next interviewee's release is the first to give me difficulties ascertaining research direction. Congratulations to Loose Panic (Jarret Crawford) for genuinely stumping me! In Hindsight is the Hopewell songwriter's debut EP release featuring five songs composed from a diverse genre palette. Fans of shoegaze, Americana, hip hop, and 90s alternative... Unite and explore Loose Panic's soundscapes now on all streaming platforms and Bandcamp! If you want a listening guide, read this interview before you stream the EP; or, if you're adventurous, stream first and return here afterward with the benefit of... hindsight. Introducing Loose Panic:
Greetings, Loose Panic. I must disclose In Hindsight caught me out of my genre depth. Poetically, reviewing your social media... in hindsight... provided me with a starting point. This point was a post explaining how your listeners sparked an epiphany regarding the track "So Pretty" and its shoegaze undertones. Was invoking new discoveries with the benefit of hindsight a mission in this release? Can you also provide a primer for listeners experiencing their first impression of Loose Panic through this release?
Thanks for the chance to share my music, and my reflections on it! The social media post you mention was eye-opening to me - listeners were hearing influences of shoegaze bands like Slowdive, Ride, Hum, that I had never even heard of before writing these songs! I'm guessing I picked up some of the ways in which these bands influenced more commercially mainstream bands like Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins.
I think my somewhat out of the ordinary genre-surfing has something to do with my somewhat out of the ordinary musical journey. I only began writing songs 5 or 6 years ago, when I was in my mid-30s. I haven't been steeped for decades in a particular music scene or sphere of influence, which I think prevented certain expectations or norms from solidifying into habits or worldviews. Instead, I've spent a third of a lifetime listening to and absorbing a variety of musical styles without ever trying to situate myself within them.
And so the listener can expect to experience genre-hopping (and some genre-melding) from a guy in his early 40s who is bringing influences he grew up with as a kid in the 90s, as he listened to contemporary popular rock (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Tom Petty) but also had a bit of a soft side (Counting Crows, Tori Amos) and access to his dad's music collection (Neil Young, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones); who fell in love with new and old releases from Radiohead and Wilco while in college, and who in his mid 30s began discovering new artists (Phoebe Bridgers) and rediscovering some he had somehow missed earlier (Pixies, Talib Kweli, Built to Spill).
In Hindsight was a phrase that always captured my attention; before I had enough songs for an EP, I had the idea of that being the title for my first release. You'll notice that all of these songs are in some way about relationships - how we experience them as they thrive, but especially once they've ended. These are songs in which I'm looking back. "In Hindsight" is a reminder that these events, and the feelings they evoked, are now in the past.
"So Pretty" is the Ride-like opening track to In Hindsight. Your production elicits a reverberating ethereal euphoria around your pleasantly psychedelic legato vocal delivery. This adoration of beauty indicated by lyrics like "Dancing, floating right on air; Twirling spirals of your hair, everywhere," over an A major tonality soon shifts to belittling self-assessment with lyrics "So Pretty, not me" sung over an A minor riff. What inspired the track's lyrical and modal mood swing?
The song began with that euphoric guitar riff; but, I'm not in the habit of writing a straight up, uncomplicated love song. The song called for a darker contrast. Thus, we get the grinding bolero of the chorus, and the self-flagellation that accompanies it. Sometimes you want things that you can't have. And you can beat yourself up both for the wanting, and for the not getting. That's what "So Pretty" is trying to capture.
"Waiting" evokes hints of REM and Americana. It features a tremolo electric guitar and special elongating emphasis on the lyric "time" in the choruses. Did the lyrics dictate your arrangement choices? Which element normally arrives first in your process: lyrics or music?
That's interesting that you hear REM on this track! They are one of my favorite bands, but I'd say that many of my so-far unreleased tracks have stronger REM influences than "Waiting" does. The songwriting process for "Waiting" started with the guitar chord progression in the chorus, and the picking pattern dictated the vocal melody. To me, I was emulating early Counting Crows and Wildflowers-era Tom Petty. The lyrics came afterwards, after some heavy Lucinda Williams listening sessions; the seemingly interminable heartbreak of the waiting in the chorus, and the imagery created during the verses, are definitely inspired by her work.
Generally speaking, my process starts with the music, typically with snippets I record on my iPhone. I then try to develop vocal melodies to accompany these musical sketches, and see what emotions I'm feeling as I'm scatting over the music, or perhaps see if any intelligible words are uttered during the process that suggest a lyrical direction. Once I have something that moves me, I decide whether it's the chorus or the verse, and then begin searching for an alternative chord progression that fits in the key and that might work for the existing part.
That said, there is no single formula. My songwriting journey is relatively young, and so the scholar in me has sought out information about other artists' creative processes to learn and experiment with other approaches. Just recently I asked a poet friend (Marissa Woodrow, who also created the cover art for In Hindsight) to share a poem, for which I wrote music and a vocal melody.
In Hindsight then goes from the patient to the urgent with the Tom Petty-esque "Gasoline." Does the girl believe she needs gasoline to continue an effort to abandon her past?
I like how you described that transition, from patient to urgent. "Gasoline" always felt to me like a departure from the other four songs on the EP, and so it was difficult to decide where to place it. Where it sits on the EP is as a disruption of momentum.
There is definitely a Petty influence here; I was also listening to a fair amount of Jason Isbell and other Americana-adjacent acts when I wrote this one. Rather than abandon, I'd say she's trying to escape the past, and those who have caused her harm. Gasoline can fuel that escape, or it can help you burn the whole thing down. Either way, I like to think that by the end of the song, she's free.
Another interesting instance of track sequencing occurs with "Forget My Name," a track which I envision could be a Black Keys tune if The Black Keys went more mainstream. Due to the lyrics imploring to "make the familiar the unknown and stay, stay, stay gone" after a love interest "struck the match and burst me into flame," (of which, "match" is also a lyric in the previous song "Gasoline") is "Forget My Name" written from the perspective of the guy "passed out in there" at the convenience store in the previous song?
"Forget My Name" is actually the first song I wrote! I can certainly hear Black Keys in this track. I also hear Pearl Jam, and really the initial inspiration for the song, which started out on an acoustic guitar, came from Neil Young. It's safe to say that the guy passed out in his home is very very dead, and not the same guy who had his heart ripped out, though that's an interesting theory! Now that you mention it, fire does show up in a number of my songs. One unreleased track, "In Effigy," should appear on the LP, and as you might suspect, has lyrics surrounded by flames.
"One Wave" communicates a great deal through only 37 words composing two succinct verses and choruses. The similarly open nature of the melody and chord progression allow space for the guitar and auxiliary strings to shine throughout. Did your background as a psychology professor factor into the lyrical editing for conciseness? If so, how?
It is interesting that you noticed the concise lyrics. One of my recent Instagram posts shared the multiple pages of notes and alternative lyrics for "One Wave," which were eventually whittled down to these 37 words. To me, the song called for space, musically and lyrically, that I wanted to leave open to make room for you to feel the true weight of the song. The lyric of the chorus is perhaps my favorite lyric to date, and I didn't want it crowded out by excess words.
It has been an interesting transition between the world of academics and the world of artists. As someone who career has required prolific publication and the teaching of writing skills, I am certainly ever conscious of whether my written words convey what I mean them to, and have a good, heavily reinforced habit of editing (and editing, and editing). This probably influences my approach to lyric writing, which usually starts with pen to paper, then moves to an Excel file where editing accelerates and alternative lines are developed.
Can we look forward to more music!?
Yes! I've already been back at Cambridge Sound Studios in Philadelphia, where In Hindsight was recorded. I have been re-recording vocals for the first single I released, "The Cruelty is the Point," and completing another song, "When I See You," which I had initially intended for the In Hindsight EP. I have over 20 other demos sitting around from the last few years, and am always writing new music. My next goal is to release a full length LP of new music within the next year.
Are there any concert dates you would like to announce?
At this point Loose Panic is just me! I am in the process of organizing a band around the project that I hope to begin gigging and recording with over the next year. Right now I am playing impromptu solo acoustic sets at local open mics. My goal is to begin playing venues in Philly and NJ with a full band by early 2024.
Where can listeners go to keep up with Loose Panic and interact with you?
I am most active on Instagram, at @loosepanic_music. Listeners can check out my website, www.loosepanic.com, to join the mailing list, check out lyrics, pictures, and music videos, and stay updated on new releases and upcoming performances. You can also find my music on all streaming services; go to Bandcamp to either download the EP or purchase a CD copy; or even head to Princeton Record Exchange, which currently has the CD for sale.
Artist Bio: Loose Panic is the New Jersey/Philly-based songwriting project of Jarret Crawford. He came back to playing and writing music after a 15 year hiatus during which he started a family and a career as a psychology professor. He combines influences from Americana and roots rock, 90s alternative, and various other styles to create music that deals with the feelings of anxiety, loss, anger, and occasional joy that come with living in 21st century America.
About the Author: Sean Manuel is a Senior enrolled in New Jersey City University's Honors Program. A Music Business major, Sean specializes in the piano and bass guitar. Outside of academia, Sean performs in and manages the Bayonne indie-pop group BreakTime: a four-piece writing modern pop tunes with generous vintage allusions to artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Are you interested in their music? Follow BreakTime @breaktimelivenj and stream their releases on all platforms.