Shy Guys

5 July 2012 | 8:00 am | Troy Mutton

I think the appeal I suppose is that it’s fairly fresh. I’ve heard a few people say there’s not too much else like us in Perth at the moment.

It's no secret that our little corner of the country – nay, the world – is a hotbed of musical talent, and it's for this reason when a new band crops up and people start taking notice almost immediately that it makes them all the more exciting.

And around these parts, for now, that band is Shy Panther, a laid-back four-piece who've got trip hop down – a sound not really tackled around here thus far, although one we're clearly eager to gobble up. A sold-out video clip launch a few weeks ago (for one of the year's most beautiful video clips – anywhere), a few spins on that national radio station we all love to hate, and slots on the recent Groovin' The Moo and the upcoming Parklife festivals… Yeah, things are going pretty swimmingly for vocalist Dan Fragomeni and co.

“It's come from nowhere, but we'll take it, the positivity,” begins a casual Fragomeni, acknowledging their unique sound. “I think the appeal I suppose is that it's fairly fresh. I've heard a few people say there's not too much else like us in Perth at the moment. And I suppose that's an advantage and we've kinda got that on our side.

“It's nice to get a couple of great opportunities to play some big shows after only really coming to full form in the last year or so. It's nice and Perth is a really great place when you're starting out playing music. Obviously, I can't really compare it to anything else, but it's quite a nice community, because it's so small. We kinda just got a little bit lucky I suppose; a couple of people liked what they heard and passed it on to a couple of others and it's all flowing from there.”

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A more appropriate word than 'flowing', you'd be hard to find. While the descriptors in the groups' press release are lofty indeed, they do go someway towards explaining the group – some kinda midpoint between the -heads Radio and Portis, Prince and DJ Shadow, and it goes some way toward explaining the group's driving, atmospheric jams.

Fragomeni has a few of his own: “We were all doing a fair bit of travelling over the last year as well and I think that definitely plays a part in [our sound]. Like underwater, dreamy, galaxy, atmospheric sort of…” The video clip for single Erving definitely fits the vibe – and continues the recent spate of local acts crafting international-quality clips in our own backyard.

Cracking video clips, festival slots, EP launches… Since “the full shape of the animal, the panther” only came together in the last 12 months, are these cool cats (yep, I did it) feeling the bite of a rapidly-growing fanbase? “We're kinda 'Easy, Breezy, over Girl' kinda dudes,” Fragomeni states with a casual chuckle. “I'm a fairly laid-back sorta character like the rest of the guys are, so I don't know if we feel much pressure or stress so to speak. But without trying to sound to cliché, we're just enjoying it at the moment. Rolling with the punches and going with the flow... so there's two clichés used.”

Noted. In fact, throughout the interview, this is the only really indication that Shy Panther really are a young group, and dare it be said - a little shy. Fragomeni, while not purposely careful with his words, often checks himself, or makes self-deprecating jokes about sounding too cliché, or “standard”, and it's nice to chat to a young group that aren't buying the hype, but just stoked to be doing what they're doing. Although it's not all easy, breezy sailing just yet. “At the moment, the biggest stress we're facing is because the EP launch came around quicker than we expected so we had to quickly get the printing done on the hard copies of our EP. So now the pressure is if they'll arrive before the gig,” he laughs again, somewhat nervously.

In the days after this interview, the group do indeed get the physical release, and of its recording Fragomeni states writing for Shy Panther is a collaborative process through-and-through. “It's a pretty family-based method I suppose. We all bring something to the table I think. Ben [Santostefano], our drummer, will generally come up with a groove on the drums, which is generally the foundation of each track. And Rhien [Tan] who's our mastermind behind the electronics and computer stuff, keys and all that jazz, he'll sort of formulate the groove and I'll chip in with some literature if you like. Some vocal melodies, harmonies and stuff,” he explains.

And while they (were) somewhat stressed about getting the EP on the front door of their launch in time, for Fragomeni the physical release is really just a bonus for people who like the live show, which is where he –and the group's – heart truly lies. So much so that they've expanded the line-up to feature two drummers in an attempt to recreate the record as live as possible. “We actually haven't played with two drummers yet. It could very well fall flat on its face but we thought we may as well take the risk for our EP launch. We spent a lot of our time playing at smaller venues. But now we've got the opportunity to use a bigger space, and I think the sound on the EP is quite a big sound and it's very atmospheric. While it is possible to do that with fewer people, I think if we can get the double-drum attack going, and going well, I think it'll be a really nice thing to watch.”

It's pretty clear from early in the conversation that Shy Panther are a group of smart musicians, who most importantly know what they want to get out of a live music experience, and want to transfer this into their own. “We all really, really love to watch music in Perth live, and a couple of the shows that we've seen and have really liked, [like] Sufjan Stevens and Bjorks' live shows… the top three live shows that we always put in our top shows are all very big and there's a lot going on and they're memorable. And I think we, to a degree, are hoping to try and get to that level and make it a memorable night. Give people good bang for their buck.

“It's an EP launch, so it's gonna have a lot of friends and family down there. It's nice to put on a good show for them. And also there might be people there who are seeing us for the first time, and we wanna make a good first impression. We're getting to a point where we really want to try and make each show a big performance, and the live element is pivotal for us I think. And trying to recreate the sound on the EP. If they like it at the end they can take a little somethin' somethin' home with them. It's very important for us, and we wanna try and make it as special as possible.”