Pan Pan Medico sounds a bit more rock-based than Picture Plane. Where did you want to take this album when you decided to record it?
Vocalist/keyboardist Michaela Galloway: It came out of a few different factors. Since Picture Plane, we have two new members — a new bass player [Robb Johannes] and a new keyboard player [Greg Williams] — so it produced a different dynamic in the band. The new equipment we got also played a huge role. I got a new Moog keyboard that produces all these dark, almost evil sounds. When I’d start writing something on the Moog, some of the songs led us to a heavier sound. There’s also the fact that we were all in a place where we all have individual frustrations in our lives. Everyone’s case was different, like one member ended a long-term relationship and another was going through a gruelling school program. The whole writing and recording process was very intense. Everyone was a little bit on edge somehow and it kind of came through.
Would you say Hinterland are moving into darker territory when it comes to music?
I think it’s always been a thread in our music, but things just came together in a direction of darker, heavier sounds for this record. That doesn’t mean that’s where we’ll go in the future; it’s just what came out on this one. Dark subject matter also came out in the lyrics. The last song on Pan Pan Medico ["The Sentinel”] is about nightmares and the first three songs ["Detwiller Pavilion,” "300.6” and "Somatoform”] are a trilogy of songs about mental illnesses: obsessive compulsive disorder, depersonalisation disorder and hypochondria, respectively. So yeah, there’s definitely some darkness on the record for sure.
How does Pan Pan Medico compare/contrast with your previous work?
It definitely has a heavier sound and the writing process was pretty condensed. We wrote a lot of songs in a very short period of time, compared to the other records. We had two new people in the band and all this new equipment, so it made us write fast because we just wanted to play with all the stuff we had. Earlier in the band’s history, we wouldn’t have been able to afford all this stuff, but now that we have better jobs, we could. Having two new people come into the band allowed us to present a more cohesive picture of what we wanted to do for the record. When we were picking our new members, we were able to pick people who we really thought would capture what the other three of us were feeling. At that stage, it was very formative and we were throwing around a lot of concept words like "angular” and "evil.” Evil was a word we threw around quite a bit, in the sense of morally corrupt rather than hurting people evil. We wanted that ominous feeling of frustration and distress.
Are the themes of distress and anxiety ones you tend to return to?
Yeah, they’re themes carried throughout all of the records, at least lyrically, although I don’t know if we captured it musically until this record, just because not everyone in the band felt that way. The people in the band before were much calmer people than those in the band now, so I don’t know, it just sounded like a clearer distillation in the new record. For me, it was immensely satisfying because that’s always how I’ve wanted to go about things. I’ve always wanted to capture those feelings of frustration and anxiety. You can do that with lyrics but with the keyboards I was able to create these apocalyptic bass lines. My job is super-cerebral because I’m doing my Ph.D in philosophy and I also teach, so I have this job that is very sort of reason-based and doesn’t have a lot to do with feelings or emotional reactions to the world. For me, music has always been that outlet and I really felt I could get a lot out on this record.
How does Pan Pan Medico sonically reflect this desire to call for help, as the album title suggests?
I think that you can really feel it in the bass on this record. The mood also helped with that. There’s also frantic guitar work in places, and I did some things different with my vocals. In the past, we’ve washed the vocals in a lot more reverb, but this time I wanted to keep it dryer and a little bit less polished, just to have more of an edge. We rented, like, the best microphone in the world that’s worth $10,000. John Lennon has sung through this microphone, among other big name people. This mic was pretty much perfect; you didn’t have to hide anything or fix anything. It just gives you your voice. Using this microphone was key in making the vocals sound as I wanted them to sound.