Back in the day if the likes of Ozzy Osbourne decided to put out a pop record, the world would have looked at him as if he were insane. Thankfully, that’s far from the case today as artists are more independent than ever before and showing that they aren’t confined to genre boxes anymore. Artists like Priya Panda. She spent years in the metal scene but is now making her way in the pop realm with her latest single, “Freaky Girl.” We talked about the song and the obsession that inspired it, the beauty of record stores, and more in this back and forth exchange.
Kendra: What inspired you to go from singing in the metal band, Diemonds (great name by the way) to being a solo pop artist with an alternative twist?
Priya Panda: Thank you! I’ve sung in Diemonds for over a decade and I still love and always will love heavy rock music. I really wanted to explore the other music that really moved me when I was an early teen and that was stumbling on new wave and synth-pop and bands like Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys. I became so obsessed with it, and whenever I caught those bands live I’d be thinking damn, I’d love to make music in this vein. And one day, I just did. So here we are!
Kendra: Speaking of, “Freaky Girl” is like many pop songs these days that implement elements from elsewhere. What do you feel pushed this generation of artists to sort of do away with cookie-cutter genres and experiment more?
Priya Panda: I think this generation had an extremely unique experience with music that has truly never existed before. Having so much recorded music available at your fingertips, 24 hours a day, for next to nothing. Plus YouTube videos to teach yourself an instrument from your bedroom. It’s changed up the game and the way people absorb music and therefore create music. Their influences are insanely vast because of the music they’re exposed to and also what they have access to. I feel lucky I grew up a little bit before this time and had to save up, buy an album, and listen to it 300 times. It created a really intimate, personal, lifelong experience with records. Songs have never let me down. Music is always there for me.
Kendra: What I love about “Freaky Girl” is the meaning. That idea that when you spend too much time pretending, you can get lost in the fantasy. It reminds me of our obsession with social media. While a crucial tool for many, do you feel like we could survive without it? Like if we woke up tomorrow and there was no Twitter, Instagram, etc – would be we fine?
Priya Panda: You nailed my interpretation of the song. I channeled someone I know and am no longer in touch with that’s absolutely obsessed by her appearance and her image to this unhealthy point. I think we would absolutely be just fine without social media, but the world would probably feel like a different place for a second. We’re pretty much used to that after this crazy year, haha. Some people are addicted to the habit of scrolling and posting and checking in with it constantly – I’m guilty of it myself, but I think without it we actually might begin to experience life in a more meaningful and connected way again. Connected with each other, with nature. It would be positive for us.
Kendra: Having grown up a lover of record stores, are there any from those days that aren’t around anymore that you’d like to shout out as really helping to shape who you are musically today?
Priya Panda: Monster Records on Yonge Street in Toronto, Canada was one of the first really interesting indie record stores I can remember going to. They had a HUGE Kiss and horror collection. It’s such a bummer that they are closed but thank GOD for all the amazing ones that continue to thrive. I work for Record Store Day in Canada – it’s the best job ever – and I love working with record stores because they’re so close to my heart. It’s extremely important that people continue to hit up record stores and buy music. They are the heartbeat of so many communities and so important for getting young people into music!
Kendra: With all that has transpired this year, how do you feel 2020 has shaped your creativity and drive moving forward?
Priya Panda: Honestly, this year has been up and down. With cycles of creative bursts and also a lot of downtime. I’m starting to really look forward now and can’t wait to release my EP “Snacks” in the new year! Ideally, that’s followed up by performing these songs for the first time ever with a live band, but only time will tell.
Kendra: Usually, this is where I ask people what they have planned in the coming months but with the world in a strange place right now, plans aren’t as concrete as they typically are. You can go ahead and let us know what you have tentatively planned but can you also share a song that never fails to get you through when the world around you feels like a mess?
Priya Panda: Things are strange and plans always fall through so the best thing to do is aim towards small goals. In every aspect of life, but for music, I really want to release a cassette and t-shirt before the year ends. That would actually be the first physical merch I’d have for this project. It’s really meaningful to me to have something tangible in this fleeting world.
And when in doubt…always crank Van Halen. Always.