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Arizona alt rockers DON’T PANIC break down new album “42” track by track

From the beginning, DON’T PANIC has known no boundaries, bending and blending mainstream, pop, progressive rock, EDM and all-around weird. Following their brief hiatus, they’ve decided once again to pour their energy into an evolved version of their former selves with a full length album entitled ‘42’, available now in full and now available with an exclusive track by track commentary below!

The Arizona based group has been at it for over a decade, and after a brief hiatus, returned to the studio to write/record new music that will be included on ‘42’.

Vocalist Dylan Rowe and company are excited to once again be making music and were brought back together in 2021 when inspiration and the perfectly imperfect timing struck (nothing like some COVID downtime).

With a similar energy to “Time Machine”, the album’s opener “Conquer Divide” leans into a mix of infectious guitar rock with tasteful backing keys to create an approachable, but heavy sound that perfectly lends itself to Rowe’s powerful vocal melodies.

Conquer Divide is a personal protest, it’s the enormity of chaos, and feeling powerless to change it. It’s about compassion, understanding, forgiveness, anger, hope, all of the vulnerable feelings critical to realize change.” – comments the band.

Don't Panic

Speaking further on the album: “I feel like we revisited our roots here with this one, which makes my heart really happy. Our first EP was very tongue-in-cheek, Conquer Divide and the ‘42’ LP definitely encapsulates that sarcastic sentiment, something we were known for in the very beginning. We are, undoubtedly, the “if I’m not laughing, I’m crying” kind of people, we try our best to balance our stinging satire with genuine optimism.”

“I feel like we revisited our roots here with this one, which makes my heart really happy. Our first EP was very tongue-in-cheek, Conquer Divide definitely encapsulates that sarcastic sentiment, something we were known for in the very beginning. We [Don’t Panic] are, undoubtedly, the “if I’m not laughing, I’m crying” kind of people, we try our best to balance our stinging satire with genuine optimism.”

Don't Panic

“We’ve been intensely focused on bending our creativity, exploring new sounds, and uncharted ideas for “42”.” – says the band.

“This album is a segue between The Sleepy EP and an evolved, more “experimental”, early Don’t Panic. We’ve done our best over the years to not adhere to any one genre and allow ourselves to just be creative, this album captures that sentiment perfectly. From beginning to end, there is an entirely different mood for each song, sort of like us as humans, a “hot pink emotional rollercoaster, with lasers and a disco ball”

Since forming in 2012, the multi-dimensional quartet has carefully picked out influences ranging from progressive rock, indie and flavors from the mainstream to create a sound that is rounded out by Dylan Rowe’s soaring, yet emotionally dynamic vocals.

Don't Panic band

Don’t Panic released their two EPs ‘DOS Robot Circus’ (2014) and ‘The Sleepy EP’ (2015) and will release their new album ‘42’ on August 26. The band embraces a unique mix of rock and experimental tendencies, and is composed of members Dylan Rowe (Vocals), Jeffrey Fred Robens Jr. (Guitar), and Ryan Obermeit (Bass).

As collaborators, Jeffrey Robens, Dylan Rowe, and Ryan Obermeit’s multidimensional artistry is captured perfectly. Robens drives the band’s creative process and studio efforts, having written and produced the fresh and sophomore EPs, DOS Robot Circus and The Sleepy EP. Obermeit underpins the project with a motoring rhythm and captivating flair. Rowe enlivens it all with her haunting perspectives, emotional performance, and handmade visage.

Track by track commentary:

Phasers Set To Stun

I think we’d all agree this is the most fun song on the album. It’s upbeat, and it has a neato lounge singer vibe in the verses, which sounds simple, but it’s actually one of the hardest verses for a drummer to play. We found this out while trying out new drummers last month.

The plot for this story is a soulmate connection. You feel it out there, but you haven’t found it yet.

Eyes On Fire

The phrase “you’re dead to me” inspired this song. It has this flirty “I dare you to” undertone, but it also encapsulates desire to be noticed by your crush. Someone who has noticed you a few times but never really showed an interest.

This song originally started out with a longer intro, but after recording it we realized it was just unnecessary and decided that coming straight in with bass and vocals made the most impact.

Time Machine

The first line written for our song Time Machine was the pre-chorus. It was a combination of Dylan asking what the song should be about, because the song was instrumentally near completion, and Jeffy offhandedly answering, “time travel?”. This inspired the sing′song′y line “cause if I had a time machine”, as Dylan recalls, “it just seemed to fit freakishly well”.

Okay, well, so that’s not entirely true, but that’s what we tell people, anyways. Just between you and us, in the previous historical timeline (where we’re actually from), the song was released in 2023 and it didn’t work out. However, in 2034 we had a chance meeting with Vice President Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage, known to you here in the present day, as “The Tiger King”. He said, “man this sound would have blown up if it was about time travel!”. Little did he know, we were working closely with Will Smith on some pretty groundbreaking time travel tech, thanks to Dr. Emmett Lathrop Brown, Ph.D.. But much to our surprise when we arrived, it was all so he could come back to slap Chris Rock for making fun of President Jada Pinkett-Smith. It was a grueling 11 year undertaking to develop the technology, but it worked, we came back and here we are…

Anyways…

When we landed on the idea of time travel, Time Machine quickly became the song that took the most time to develop a plot for. Typically, we like the lyrics in our songs to have a certain ambiguity about them; a sort of “leave it up for interpretation” approach, but every few songs or so we find ourselves digging pretty deep into either our own morality, or mortality, this one we did both. Everyone has that one moment in time they wish they had done things differently. Our song Time Machine explores the existential dread of a time traveler and what a person might grapple with given the opportunity to travel into the past. It asks three questions: save yourself, everyone else, or do nothing at all? It was a fun concept to explore lyrically, logically, and subjectively. The concept itself is full of variables, so coming to a decision about what exactly that premise should be was hard to choose. The depth of the idea could have easily gotten out of hand, so ultimately, we landed on the three questions for simplicity’s sake.

We chose to work with Jim Wirt on the song this time, to capture all the little nuances we didn’t get the first time. We knew he’d help us define some of the more organic or analog sounds we were looking to achieve. Most notably the lonely vocal intro back into the last chorus, which was recorded with a bullet mic, later he introduced a Leslie speaker. As a diehard Portishead fan, this was a pinnacle in Dylan’s vocal career for sure. In the original version there were an additional four bars explaining a final resolution for the character in our plot, but we decided to cut the bridge in half for length purposes, and we found we quite liked the “open endedness” we left lyrically for the listener. It was originally released as “88mph”, a nod to the 1985 film Back To The Future, but was changed to “Time Machine” shortly before the release, when we realized that’s what listeners were referring to it as.

Oh yeah, and sorry for ruining the timeline…

Drax

Drax is an all around favorite, we love it, fans love it, and it’s incredibly fun to play live. The throbbing buildup in the beginning won me over the minute we started writing it. This song is so dynamic, it reminds us of some dystopian landscape, like Madmax. It’s a rollercoaster, from beginning to end.

The name [Drax] we are asked about a lot, actually. It originates from the Key and Peele episode Prepared For Terries. It might be safe to say we’ve [the band] never really had a meaningful conversation with each other, it’s always been just movie quotes, “that’s what she said”s, and spoonerisms. “Draxxing the sklounst” was the working title for the song when we wrote it, we shortened it after. I guess, in a way, it’s a nod to our inside humor as a band.

Ninjas

This was actually the very first song Don’t Panic wrote. We decided to re-release it on ‘42’, it was recorded and added at the very last moment, on a whim, for reasons unknown. There’s never been a method to our madness, why start now?

It’s off our first EP Dos Robot Circus, it’s a themed album, and it’s the last song in the sad story of a girl searching for fame. Written from the perspective of someone who has completely succumbed to their OCD in their fall from fame. It touches upon paranoia, self medicating, hallucinations, and hopelessness. Dylan wrote the lyrics just to be cheeky, but I think lyrically, this is the most honest she has ever been in her writing. She’s struggled with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder since she was very young, the lyrics parallel some of the things she’s described dealing with.

Emotional Tourist

Originally this song was supposed to be Emotional Terrorist, but a simple spelling mistake changed the name forever. We found we liked Tourist better anyways, we’re chock full of happy accidents in Don’t Panic.

This is one of those “sleeper” songs for us, just a song at the end of the list no one was really all that into. Honestly, I didn’t have much hope for it, never thought it’d actually make it. Then we got a text from Dylan one afternoon out of the clear blue, exclaiming that she was having a blast layering vocals on the bridge. She sent it over and BAM, we had another song.

Fly Into The Sea

Fly Into The Sea, lyrically, was inspired by the working title, which obviously stuck. This is another “sleeper” for us, just an idea hanging out in Dropbox until someone took interest. I don’t remember who did, but we moved a few things around, made things a bit more interesting and Dylan did the rest.

I love the guitars in this song so much, they feel just as emotional as the vocals, almost showing a vulnerable side. I can’t wait for more people to hear this song, it’s a favorite live.

Conquer Divide

Conquer Divide is a personal protest, it’s the enormity of chaos, and feeling powerless to change it. It’s about compassion, understanding, forgiveness, anger, hope, all of the vulnerable feelings critical to realize change.

I feel like we revisited our roots here with this one, which makes my heart really happy. Our first EP was very tongue-in-cheek, Conquer Divide definitely encapsulates that sarcastic sentiment, something we were known for in the very beginning. We [Don’t Panic] are, undoubtedly, the “if I’m not laughing, I’m crying” kind of people, we try our best to balance our stinging satire with genuine optimism.

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