You know what you never hear about?
A band inspired by the existential vision of 20th-century German-born poet and novelist Hermann Hesse.
A lead singer and songwriter so enthralled by Steppenwolf, Siddhartha and The Glass Bead Game that he asked his bandmates to read up and let the stringent tales of mortality inform their art-rocking melodies.
“The themes presented in Steppenwolf — the duality of man and beast, anomie, death, suffering and most of all self-actualization and transcendence — all were hitting close to home at the right time,” says Edward Everett (pictured, center) of Panic Years.
The local quartet’s debut full-length, The Month’s Mind, is rife with Hesse references. But Everett’s melancholy tenor, somewhere between a squawk and a coo, Amy Miller’s guitar, Adam Smith’s bass, Jason Gooch’s drums and the collective noodling of a battery of hired-gun synths, strings and French horns — that chamber-pop noise — never wilts under the weight of its ideas.
“We didn’t go into the writing process with the mindset that everything had to stay within a theme,” says Miller, who, like Everett, came to Philly from Virginia. “Yet Edward ended up giving me a copy of Steppenwolf and, after reading it, his themes and concepts became clearer. Individual lyrics started to make sense and take on a different meaning than they had before.”
After what he calls a “series of personal tragedies,” Everett looked for solace in all kinds of books: philosophy, psychology, religion, self-help. But he found solutions, finally, in Steppenwolf, different answers at different times.
“I reread Steppenwolf several times, each in a radically different state of mind. Each time it took on a new tone.” The first read was while Everett was in what he deems a negative space, and the songs he wrote for Panic Years — “Control the Action,” “Bad Faith” — reflected that everything-means-nothing feeling. “I’m sure there was an existential nihilism in there that must have made me seem like an overdramatic hipster,” says Everett.
After he came to better terms with the loss of loved ones and what to make of his own inevitable death, Everett found cheerful complements to those new feelings in “The Same Haunt” and “The Month’s Mind.” In particular, that latter track — titled for a celebratory service held one month after a loved one passes with the “minding days” prior to that focusing on fond memories of the deceased — gave him pause and allowed him to consider the possibilities.
“I tried to imagine each track as a minding day, each song with its own story to tell, but, when presented together, having a greater theme.”
Sat., June 16, 9 p.m., free (donations welcome), with This Way to the Egress and Unidos da Filadelfia, Ruba Hall, 414 Green St., 215-627-9831, panicyearsband.com.
Photo courtesy of John Ryan