As we approach the end of 2022, this Tone Deaf series celebrates some of the artists from Australia, New Zealand and beyond that have impressed us this year. The music industry may be slowly returning to normal, but the past few years have been tough on musicians. The artists in this series are proof that creativity always endures, even in uncertain times. 

‘WEEKEND AT BERNIES’, the latest single from Tāmaki Makaurau-based queer pop artist Jack Panther, may take its name from a famous film about two friends pretending a dead guy is still alive, but there’s nothing lifeless about Panther’s track. 

It’s a bright and breezy slice of sunny pop, arriving just in time for cool summer afternoons. Drawing influence from the likes of Omar Apollo (more on him below), Zack Villere, and Dora Jar, Panther sounds at ease on ‘WEEKEND AT BERNIES’, performing languidly over sharp production, but the playful track has sincere depth to it. 

“‘WEEKEND AT BERNIES’ is a fun track about the panic moment when a relationship is fizzling out,” he explains. “What do you do when you think things are fizzling and what actually is the best way forward? I think it’s a conversation that happens in every relationship, something people don’t often accept and instead hide their feelings from each other.”

The single release neatly caps off a busy year for Panther, with his EP, why don’t you come over?, dropping back in June. Containing tracks tackling everything from missing a former flame to being on a comedown, Panther is a relatable songwriter, always honest and raw in presenting himself through his music. 

To round out 2022, he’ll be performing two shows in New Zealand: at curious new Auckland venue Big Fan on Saturday, November 26th and at Christchurch’s Space Academy on Saturday, December 3rd (more information here). 

To celebrate the release of his new single, we got to know Panther a little better, which you can read below.

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Jack Panther’s ‘WEEKEND AT BERNIES’ is out now. 

How did your artist name come about?

On a sunny day in Wellington, my friends Toby, Ben and I were driving around Wellington. At 19, naturally we were just talking absolute smack while we were on our way to the beach. What I thought was a mistake at the time, I mentioned how I was looking for an artist name for the music I was making. After what felt like hours of silly names and ideas including matrix references (my last name’s Anderson), Jack Panda & Jack and the Beanstalk, something about Jack Panther stuck with me.

How would you describe your music to your grandma?

I would say it’s super dependent on the era. I think my sound changes and always will because I like to challenge myself but what stays the same is the quirky delivery and style of writing. I’d say my new era is pretty eccentric, playful and fun. During lockdowns I just got really tired of writing sad music, I had just had my heart broken and couldn’t face being sad. I tried writing music that would instead lift me out of a funk and inspire me which is where this new era came from.

Tell us about a few of your tracks; their titles and what they’re about?

‘SKI LIFT 001’

This is such a special song to me. I went skiing in Mt Ruapehu not too long ago and all of these feelings came rushing back to me about my ex, who I was last with when I was last in the snow. It made me really miss him and look at our relationship with real fondness but also regret not telling him how much I had loved him. I wrote a demo which I then took to my first ever co-writing session. I showed Sophie and Harry the demo (co-writer and producers). I just saw sparks fly around Sophie as she was like, “YES we are doing this song”, then we wrote and put it all together in just seven hours. It was just a really crazy day, they are all vocals and instruments recorded from that day. I think that’s why it holds such a special place in my heart, the song wasn’t forced out or anything, it all just came from a place of feeling.

‘comedown :/’

The thing I really love about ‘comedown :/’ was just the making process. Whilst on a comedown I was sitting at the piano feeling so sorry for myself and came up with this crazy weird chord progression, it was kind of moody and twisted hahaha. It’s where the chorus came from. I then took it to Alistair (boycrush) and we wrote and produced it together. It’s a vibe I’d never explored before – so sparse and metallic- and it stuck with me. It nearly didn’t make it onto the EP but I fought for it to have a space there and I’m so glad I did – it’s now one of my favourites.

What do you love about your hometown?

Although I’m from Auckland, I very much consider Wellington my hometown. It’s the people, the sights, the beaches, the walks, the culture, the gigs – it’s where Jack Panther was born and a place I still hold very close to my heart.

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Career highlight so far?

I’d say going on tour is a huge career highlight for me. Something about travelling and playing shows is just so exciting. I’m really proud of how my band and I are sounding and can’t wait to play.

Fave non-music hobby?

I love going on night drives, there’s something so dope about driving around discovering new music with friends or even on your own. It’s sort of a meditative thing for me.

What’s on your dream rider?

Fresh fruit, Mizone – Crisp Apple flavour (it might just a kiwi thing?), lots of alcohol (mostly Mezcal), lots of non-alcpholic drinks (mostly La Croix), Vocalzone tablets (for vocals), sour worms and vegetarian pizza.

Dream music collaboration?

I’d actually love to jump on a track with Omar Apollo or Joji. I think I’d be a great fit for a collab with either and feel that we could make something super sick.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’d love to be in the studio recording and on the road touring, playing shows etc. That’s something I’m working towards.

What’s your go-to karaoke song?

‘Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ – Kylie Minogue. Just such a banger and gets everyone going, such fun!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

To push yourself out of your comfort zone – it’s that slight edge of discomfort which can give you a strike of genius. I’ve found all of the best friendships and working relationships I’ve made are from pushing myself into areas I wouldn’t usually. 

What’s one obsession you have that no one would guess after listening to your music?

I’ve got a little tattoo below the elbow of my left arm of an anchor. Every halloween I dress up as a sailor, perhaps as a playful queer stereotype or because I’ve had so many good stories in this costume, I can’t seem to give it up. The tattoo’s just a small reminder of some great university memories and that I’m not too good at coming up with new costume ideas.

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