Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Panic Shack are not afraid of anything anymore

19 March 2024, 16:00

Ahead of their headline set at the SON Estrella Galicia micro-festival in Brighton this week, Panic Shack tells Best Fit about the subtle art of not giving a fuck.

Panic Shack was born out of the simple idea of four mates doing something because why the fuck not?

Being in a band is easy. Having the bollocks to pull it off is the hard part. The Cardiff Four-piece are such one group doing so. The friends, bassist Emily Smith, vocalist Sarah Harvey, and guitarists Megan Fretwell and Romi Lawrence, came together after a long period of attending gigs around Cardiff, including their partners when a realisation hit them: "We'd get the crowd going and get everyone into the dance floor, we'd support everyone so much. It just got to a point where we wanted to be on the stage instead of in front of it," Harvey shrugs. It's this no-nonsense-but-all-nonsense attitude that Panic Shack tote gleefully. A band rooted in turning shrugging shoulders into a determined smirk, the idea of simply starting a band and having the time of their lives felt as natural as breathing.

In fact, it beggars belief to them that people would ever do this if they weren't. "I can't believe people do that," Harvey gawps. "I can't imagine people aren't doing what we're doing and loving it. Like staying in the same Travelodge room, even if we don't get all fit in the same room, we're angry about it, like we don't want a minute apart from each other."


The pivotal aspect of pulling this off is their camaraderie. Having met thusly; Smith and Lawrence in school, with Smith eventually meeting Fretwell and Harvey while working in Lush. But it was a joint love of attending gigs around the city, and, perhaps most importantly: "We'd just have a laugh," Smith says. They also noticed that there was a deficit of any female-fronted bands in Cardiff, which is why now, they "want to make sure that other people like the younger girls out there or people who can't even afford to buy an instrument or have any kind of like lessons or anything, even that side of things to be a bit of an inspiration," Harvey says.

With the best will in the world, their green, ambitious start leap-frogged the physical reality. En route to their first official rehearsal, they quickly cobbled together instruments. "Meg bought a guitar on the way to our first practice," Smith laughs. In toying around, eventually, Panic Shack emerged – the four's first foray into band life. While Smith had played bass in previous acts, including her dad's band, the rest of the gang had limited exposure to musical workings, hence most of their offerings feature Smith's bass taking the lead: "It starts with bass all the time, like bass is the main thing going on, [which now] makes a lot of sense," Harvey laughs. Her vocal experience was limited to drama classes in school. But experience is a small part of success. More importantly, "I just don't give a shit," she cackles. "Like, I'll get in front of anyone and do anything, really. I think that was probably what helped me a lot."

IMG 9981
Photo by Ren Faulkner

It's this energy that Panic Shack exudes. Even chatting to them today ahead of their set later this week at the SON Estrella Galicia micro-festival in Brighton, there's a vibe of being hours deep into meeting your new best friends; they're joyously open, something that's aided their burgeoning attention. It's square in the face of their ideals which can predominantly be summarised as – fuck dickheads. From misogyny ("I Don't Really Like It", "Jiu Jits You"), to bad dates ("The Ick"), even to the people who nick lighters on nights out ("Who's Got My Lighter?"), every single released, including their 2023 debut EP Baby Shack, comes locked and loaded with crystal clear depictions of the shit sides of being female. This is why Panic Shack refuses to be more than what they are. "I feel like if you're a woman you're expected to be sexy on stage or a singer-songwriter with an acoustic guitar – we want to drink pints and have a laugh!" Smith beams.

What the four of them would sound like once they started rehearsing was a mystery. With no intentions other than wanting to be in a band – spurred on by a visit to Green Man festival and the inevitable post-fest blues – "We didn't know what we were going to come out with," Harvey says. What they came out with is the sound of four people discovering their creative output. The songs are minimalist in sound but maximalist in vivacity. Repeated mantras, scathing witticisms, and visceral energy combine to give Panic Shack an exceedingly addictive rampant attitude.


While they've found themselves falling under the punk umbrella thanks to their DIY ethos, it's not where they aimed. "I think that's more of the vibe because of how we are making the music because we didn't know what we were doing," Harvey says. "We're not trying to be sounding like anything. I don't think we could make it sound like a certain thing, especially in the beginning, anyway," she laughs. Do they see this punk brush they're being tarred with as a potential limitation? Harvey considers for a moment: "In a way, I can see...because when people use the term punk, they're expecting a certain thing, and then when we come out with our pretty dresses on and a dance's kind of fun, the juxtaposition, we really enjoy that, but yeah, sometimes I don't feel punk enough for certain shows and sometimes we're too punk for other shows because we are in the middle of a lot of genres – but it's all fun whenever it happens. Luckily, we don't take ourselves that seriously, so we don't mind."

Live is where Panic Shack's no-holds-barred energy takes form. But recalling those first moments on stage now, they animate vividly: "It was so fucking scary," Harvey says. "I remember my arms..." Smith says visibly shaking her arms, "All of our hearts...that was the scariest thing we've ever done." But as the four have always done, they remembered why they were doing this and why they were here, they became the gang they always were. "Because we've always had each other to fall back on, I don't think it's ever been as nerve racking as it should be," Harvey says.

While not sound-specific, in everything else they do Panic Shack are channelling the spirit of punk, from the more contemporary Amyl and The Sniffers ("The band that cemented all of us together...she's class," Sarah says) to the 70s forbearers, most importantly Viv Albertine and The Slits. They cite Albertine's book Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys as "band research". "It was nice to read that book especially for a new punk girl band to read that book, it was so inspiring and made you feel okay," Harvey says.

Smith adds: "They got up on stage still barely able to play and they still fucking own it. People were horrible to them and they carried on going and I thought that's inspiring."

It was an inspiration the four-piece would need sooner than anticipated. Panic Shack found themselves on the sharp end of the TikTok knife with the release of "The Ick" and an accompanying video. The four friends found the gauntlet coming for them as it has done for most women in bands over the last few years. Reflecting upon it now, Smith explains "When it first happened we were a little bit like, 'Haha, it's not gonna get much worse than this' and then it did keep getting worse." Trying to keep afloat, they began responding to select comments: "I think each one of us was having a bit of a moment like maybe we should stop retaliating, maybe we should take them down and not feeling good about this. In the end, we all came together and we were actually like, fuck all of them."

Main Press Shot Credit Ren Faulkner
Photo by Ren Faulkner

Unfounded accusations of being a Tory band and clandestine poshos were levied thick and fast, when in fact the group are from working-class families. Understanding of the vitriol, and it coming from a place of frustration, they reflect now: "I get that there's this whole conversation about private schools and stuff," Smith says. "And I think it's good to talk about. I saw it in an article earlier, it was like 40% of the people nominated for awards went to private schools, and they only represent 6% of the population – and it's just mental. I remember I read it, and I thought, fuck me. That is crazy." However, it's hard to ignore the through line between the bands that often find themselves on the sharp end of the comments: "There's a bit of misogyny there," Smith says. "So that's kind of like a double whammy. You're trying to stick up for yourself, but also not drag anyone else down because of their privilege because they can't help it but also just let us fucking sing about meal deals," Smith smiles.

With all of this behind them, they're fully focused on the future. Conscious of their smattering of singles carrying them only so far, "We just want to release new stuff now and let people hear what we've got. What we've whipped up is way better than the old stuff, that's shit," Smith cackles in a way that begs total buy-in. But most importantly, as Harvey says, "We're not afraid of really anything any more. After all that hate we genuinely feel you can't say anything to us now. I will do anything on stage – I gotta pop the worm off!" she laughs.

Panic Shack play SON Estrella Galicia’s micro-festival at The Prince Albert in Brighton on 23 March, alongside Plantoid, with DJ sets from Kike Louie, Lee Petryszyn and Henry WP. Tickets are onsale now.

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