Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

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 'Feels'?

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 myself.

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 contributor?

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 in you?

“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 additions.

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 about architecture.)

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 distributing 'Feels'?

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 statement.

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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