Interview by James Damion
NJ’s Fair Panic may sound new to many, but for
someone who has been hearing the name since its earliest
conception, this collection of musicians and expatriates
of New Jersey’s indie rock scene feel as if they’ve
been around a lot longer than their debut LP Feels
might hint at. Fronted by former Those Mockingbirds violinist
Tory Anne Daine, the album draws from personal experiences
and struggles to chronicle the emotional high and lows of
someone who is clearly on a journey to find the inner strength
needed to not only overcome, but thrive. Choosing to take
a more personal approach with this interview really paid
off. I’m grateful to Tory for being so honest and
forthcoming with the road taken in making Feels.
Through our conversations, it seems as if we've
been waiting for 'Feels' to blossom for quite some time.
How did Fair Panic come to be and how long was it before
Fair Panic took flight?
Fair Panic started when I stopped asking permission. Writing
started in 2014 and recording started in 2016. Up until
that point I had a team, a manager, labels, etc... I was
also not the leader of any of my bands but was able to do
some work on the backend of things booking shows, press
emails, etc… Fair Panic was a whole new ballgame;
I had never written a song start to finish prior and was
only able to work with what I had available at the time
regarding players. It was a lot of pushing. I still think
there’s a lot more work to go. Fair Panic hasn’t
hit its stride yet but I am so excited for the future. There’s
a tremendous amount of room for growth.
What were some of the struggles you faced (both
personal and musically) prior to and during the making of
When I started writing for Fair Panic it was during one
of the most difficult situations I’ve faced in my
adult life. I wrote “Gateway Drug” and the chorus
of “Beat Street” alone in the basement of a
house I was set to move out of. I had nowhere to go. I was
blindsided. 2014 was a complete overhaul and turning point
in my life. I lost all my fair weather friends, quit Those
Mockingbirds, and had the choice to leave the area entirely
or continue to fight for the life I’d been building
here in NJ. I chose to stay. I don’t think running
away is the answer and happiness is a choice. Along with
these life upheavals came daily panic attacks. Throughout
the entire writing and recording process I was able to heal
It wasn’t an easy process; up until this point I had
been told that I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t good
enough, too sensitive, no offense but you can’t carry
this song, not a good fit, you know Tory since you quit
the band thing maybe it’s time for a real job…
Art is what you make it. I made this. To get through the
discouragement surrounding me at the time, I responded to
Maya’s Hope Charity. They were looking for violins
and guitars for impoverished and orphaned children in the
Philippines. Seemed easy enough so I asked around. To this
day we’ve delivered about 40 instruments over there.
Ian Kelly in Little Falls fixed up the guitars donated.
32 music students and teachers wrote inspirational letters
that were translated into Tagalog. There exists now an orchestra
and one of the violins lead to a college scholarship. Everything
came from the scene here in NJ, excluding 2 guitars from
Brooklyn. I’m still collecting. The process introduced
me to many wonderful new people. Doing things for others
helped me to help myself. I stand now on very solid ground
ready to reenter the music scene with new confidence and
a do it myself drive. I’m going wreak as much havoc
as I can and love every minute of it.
Tell me about the recording process. Who was involved
and who and who might stick around and become a regular
This was a very in-the-family process. It all started when
I moved into a notorious jazz house. It’s full of
musicians and the only rule is: No one can tell a housemate
to stop practicing no matter the time or inconvenience.
It’s a wonderful thing, notwithstanding the noise.
Ryan Palermo is the only permanent Fair Panic member and
is one insanely talented drummer. Ryan was a housemate.
Another housemate, Steven Kirsty, played sax. Rob Fitzgerald
was the bassist in Those Mockingbirds and recorded 4 songs
for the album. We first met when I was 16. The cellist and
bassist on the remaining songs, Dan Bindschedler, went to
the same preschool as me. We grew up together up until High
School and performed in the same youth orchestras. The guitarist,
Tom Monda, is borrowed from Thank You Scientist. We met
while I was recording viola for Stranger Heads. Kennedy
Grey is a powerful singer. She’s done some amazing
things but keeps them secret. Kennedy sang backups on a
few songs, and wrote the lyrics and melody to “Interlude”
in studio. That song highlights the vulnerabilities in such
a strong voice that is her own. There were a few instrument
pickups that involved forcing Skylar to play Theremin.
Skylar Ross Recording is where the album was tracked. I
knew Skylar from his days in The Nico Blues and was familiar
with his family. It was a comfortable place to work since
his studio is in his family home.
Mike Abiuso mixed and mastered 'Feels.' Mike has been in
bands for years. At one point
we realized I auditioned for his old band Kiss Kiss before
he was even in it. It was a 2 hour drive there and I left
with a complimentary copy of Catcher in the Rye. To this
day I’ve never had a more awkward audition. Beyond
that Mockingbirds played extensively with both Venetia Fair
and The Gay Blades, of which he was also a member. He’s
out in Brooklyn now running Behind the Curtains Media. Which
started as a 1 floor concrete room and turned into a 2 level
studio he built by hand. The sacrifices he made to have
what he has now are paying off.
When I write it all these names out, it’s overwhelming.
I’m fortunate to have been able to work with everyone
and my gratitude goes beyond that. I can’t imagine
any music this close to home will happen again in my life
time but it’s opened things up enough that so there
is room for permanent members. I have the session musicians
for a CD release show but beyond that it’s time to
start auditions. It might be a deal breaker but I can’t
promise a complimentary copy of Catcher in the Rye to everyone
who comes in.
Is there a song on the album that, for one reason
or another, feels more personal or evokes a certain emotion
“We’re Through” is the most transparent.
That was the easiest song to write but the most difficult
to record. The first time that song was performed live was
with my boyfriend Ben Karas covering the string parts. He’s
an electric violinist too. Everything came full circle.
It was an amazing feeling but I can’t quantitate what
that feeling was. I’m really lucky.
I still recall my initial reactions to the demo you shared
with me. Comparing it to the finished product, it sounds
like night and day. Were there a lot of changes over time?
I’m only one woman with a half broken computer, so
I’m assuming you heard the cellphone demos or the
GarageBand demos. In either case the keys and vocals were
recorded together. That was all the capability I had at
the time. I knew what I wanted it to sound like so there
weren’t that many changes beyond keyboard and tempo.
Ryan the drummer helped shape things and there were in studio
Funny enough before this version of the music manifested,
Fair Panic was going to be a strictly dance project with
Nick Goncalves of 8 Graves. We have one song reimagining
finished and hoping to do more. It’s freeing to be
able to collaborate and genre bend. I love it. That song
will be out by summer 2018 as a single.
How would you describe Fair Panic to someone who
has yet to hear it? Would that description differ when applying
it to someone you'd hope to get press from?
With everything press, the genre settled on is “Baroque
Rock” because of the use of strings. In the bio we
say the music invokes a sense of lyrical discourse while
strongly embracing graceful melodies and defined riffs.
Really any public musical description is trying to find
familiar words enough so that people are comfortable listening.
Privately with friends I think it’s harder. You already
know their tastes and you honestly want them to like it.
At the core it’s a vulnerable feeling. (Editor’s
note: After all these years, it’s still like dancing
Is there any specific reason you asked me to listen
to the album in the order it is presented? Though I'm glad
I did. Having a somewhat severe case of ADHD had me wondering
if I was up for the challenge.
I accidentally created a concept album with a beginning,
middle, and end. There are a few intro and outro songs that
make little sense out of context. Last thing you want is
multiple unwarranted political quotes blasting you in the
face for 30 seconds. So it was important that the first
listen be like a book.
Fair Panic recently had a chance to perform live.
What was it like playing the songs in a live environment
and were you happy with the response?
We did a few low key and some secret shows. It’s an
adjustment stepping out after hiding behind my violin for
an extended period of time. It felt good. We’ve just
got to find a lineup that’s a good fit. I want more
musical interaction. That’s why the project is called
Fair Panic and not the Tory Anne Daines Band. I’m
still trying to figure out where this music fits on a bill.
It’s not like anything I’ve ever done before.
Ultimately I’d like to free up some of the piano parts
and cover the string parts. I miss singing and playing at
the same time. There’s a lot that needs to happen
before that comes to fruition.
I know you're a multi instrument musician. Having
heard you sing, play violin and piano. Have you added any
new instruments to your arsenal? What instruments do you
play on the album?
I’ve got a degree in Violin Performance but also play
viola, keys, and theremin; Omnichord, if that counts. On
the list of things, I also studied guitar and cello in college
as well but they're definitely not my strong suit. In my
first band I played drums but whether or not you'd call
that playing is debatable. Voice was learned from listening
to my family. My mother and my sister are mind-blowing professional
coloratura opera singers. On the album I sing lead and play
keys, violin, viola, 5 string electric violin, omnichord,
and a tambourine still in the box.
You played a gazillion shows and put a lot of yourself
into Those Mockingbirds. How do you plan on promoting and
Until a regular lineup is assembled I’m at a standstill
with live shows. This is not an acoustic album and that
touring aspect of life is sorely missed. When the opportunity
arises Fair Panic will tour but instead of relentless weekend
shows in a van with no AC or heat, we will be renting a
van and going out for 1-2 weeks at a time. For now this
exists only as a studio album.
Tell me about the album art.
Yaz Lane is a tattooist based in Jersey City and she’s
an amazing artist. I gave her one picture and then complete
creative control beyond that. She did a beautiful job. It
was important that the album artwork be an artist’s
Having known you long enough to have the privilege
of calling you a friend, I can't help but say that I always
saw you as a free spirit. Perhaps, somewhat of a gypsy.
Would that description be even remotely accurate?
I'm not going to go pick pocketing on the Glasgow tubes
anytime soon. “Awkward” would be a better word
and that's not a bad thing. I had a pretty unconventional
upbringing that ultimately lead me to believe that it's
crazier to live life like everyone else than to make decisions
for yourself and see them through. Look at it this way,
we only eat one strain of bananas. Once one is extinct we
move onto the next viable version like nothing happened,
then what was once taboo is the norm. We’re eating
cloned bananas, a less appetizing version from the initial
banana that came up from South America before the bacteria
outbreak. The only reason that we have cloned bananas is
because North Americans can’t handle being marketed
a different tasting fruit. There are 1,000 different types
of bananas growing all over the world. I think it’s
crazy to limit yourself to one type of banana. It's all
perspective and that can change. Listen to the world around
you, don't be afraid to make decisions for yourself, and
don't be afraid to make mistakes.
If so, how do you separate the woman we see on stage
with the one who (say) stands in line for coffee?
I don't stand in line for coffee.
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