Interview: Timberwolf

Interview: Timberwolf

Photo Courtesy: Troy Baird.

Photo Courtesy: Troy Baird.

Chris Panousakis is ‘Timberwolf’, a 22 year old, Adelaide born indie/rock/alternative artist raised on Greek and Italian food and the good sound of the Greek Orthodox church. Timberwolf talks with us about his upbringing with music, what it took for him to find his sound, his upcoming projects, what we can expect from Timberwolf after some time off and a respectful praise on the Greek hero ‘Demis Roussos’.

Could you tell us about your upbringing with music? Were you a part of a rather musically encouraging upbringing with family and friends or was it something you kicked off on your own?

I would probably call it a passively upbringing. I used to go to Greek Orthodox church with Dad and Mum, for a lot of my years and went for most Sundays and although I couldn't understand what they were singing or what they were on about, I used to love it and just feel at home. The kind of singing and harmonies were so nice. Then from a really young age, I learnt clarinet and saxophone for six years. But then my uncle Nick, who is the best guitarist I've ever seen in person, and at the family get-togethers I'd force him to play, and it was the only time I heard music that would rip a smile into my face. Watching him play guitar and he always inspired me with his 13-piece funk band. I grew up around a lot of music and then there came a point where I put the sax down and picked up the guitar because I loved it and the rest is history. I started on clarinet first because my school wouldn't let me start on the sexy shiny saxophone. So I did have music upbringing, and then I started singing which I was horrible at. But I was blessed with a really beautiful amount of ignorance, so I just kept singing despite it sounding bad and then eventually I popped out the other side being able to hold pitch.  

I was concerned with mimicking the guitar solo's from Eric Clapton's songs more than anything, I thought if I couldn't shred then I'd try learn backwards. Man, I learnt the guitar solo for Crossroads by Cream before I learnt how to play a G chord. I couldn't write a song but I could shred.

Mum was super supportive at the start of when I started playing guitar, she was super excited cause no one in the family had done it before. So when we had visitors she'd always made me play but all I had to offer then was 'Smoke on The Water', and after a few times of that it was time to tell her no.

*laughs* just had to put up the hands and say no mum, Yiayia has probably heard enough.

Oh so bad, and then when I stopped playing demo's for them, Dad brought me home a bouzouki from a shady warehouse, just saying here you go! Learn!

*laughs* Oh man but that is fucking sick! I have a bouzouki as well, which was Pappou's, where uncle Nick sprayed the top gold at some point and put a guitar pick-up in it and now I pretend I can play it.

Oh man, that's so cool, no way!

Dude the bouzouki is in the album! It's in there! It sounds SO dope, it's in this psychedelic breakdown called Stevie and there’s a bouzouki breakdown in there, I've run over with a 12 string guitar, so you can't really tell it's in there but oh it's in there, and the melody I've chosen for it is so Greek.

Man, you're preaching to the Greek choir right there.

I can't wait to show you the song, I'm just gonna send you it and be like GET TO THE GREEK BIT!

I didn't suffer 12 years of Greek school every Thursdays, barely understanding the teachers for nothing, so yes please, send it!

It's my secret mission to sneak Grecism into pop music. Wait, have you heard of someone called Demis Roussos?! He's their pop icon!

*After some exchange of appreciation for other Greek music idols, my personal thoughts on their tight white clothing and long dark hair*

If you wanted to write one thing from this interview, it'd be that - "all I do everyday, is try to be as talented as Demis Roussos."

So in 2015 you released your EP 'Flux' which kind of defined a big year for you, and after some time off you came back towards the end of 2016 with some new singles. I noticed that over time you changed your sound a little bit, from an original folky sounding guitar you grew into a more electric/alternative/rock kind of genre. Was there something that steered the change of sound or was it just a long time coming of falling into and finding your sound?

Probably more the second thing. I've got an opinion that for quite a few artists, that folk is the gateway drug to song writing. It's pretty easy I find to write it and it's just like a nursery for songwriting in a lot of cases, so I kind of entered, it was a strange disconnect between myself and my music. Like if I jammed at home and played guitar I'd be playing funk riffs and blues, and listening to the Beatles and Zeppelin, but the second I would step into a studio I would write folk music? I never understood why but in my mind the art of writing is a whole different skill set to your musicality, and I think, over time my two worlds have just started to marry and my writing has gotten to the level of my musicality and its all come together under this big banner that's transparency. I got better at accessing what I'm trying to convey because my writing got to the point where I had the skills to do it, but with folk, I only had the ability to make sounds and sing, but never felt truly myself. Having a year off developed my ability to convey my message. I feel more myself now than I did back then. There's no disconnect between my personal life and my performing life. The songs then feel like they're coming from the most authentic spot. 

A personal favourite track of mine is 'Washed Out', while the music is so soulful and electric, your vocals are something that just kind of makes you stop and listen. Could you tell us anything more about the songs lyrics? Or what inspired the track?

I had the lyrics for a while. It was about a falling out I had with a friend when I was in high school, that inspired the idea of 'Washed Out'; as another way of saying how it is to fall out with someone. Then as I explored the theme a little more, I was reflecting on the death of the relationship is the conjure of the life of another and the symbolism of the song is about loss and change. I had this super strange reoccurring image when I as writing the song. You know those little toy plastic trucks that are red and if they’re left in the sun they turn into that brittle pink? 

...yeah

And there's only this reminisce in colour and it becomes quite fragile, that was actually the sole vision that drove a lot of the lyrics. That’s why in the third verse there’s that lyric that "we were faded by the sunlight and turned brittle in the heat, and while I’m picking up the pieces I’m still afraid to hear you speak", and that’s a really personal line and yeah about loss. 

But the catalyst that pushed me to turn it into an actual song was the skinny dip that I had. Was with a of friends and played a show in Bondi and we went for a skinny dip at 3AM and the night sky and colour of the ocean were the same, while I was in the water I couldn't tell when the waves were coming I just had to react completely to what I was feeling then to predict things, and that was euphoria. It was that kind of presence - it spawned the life of the song. 

March is one big month for you as you'll be touring with Amy Shark for a handful of sold out shows which is pretty dope, as well as play at The Hills Are Alive festival, what can we expect to see from Timberwolf live? 

Supporting Amy I'll be solo. But at the Hills I'll have my band. They're two very different sets, but in either case, I'll be experimenting with multi-instrumental stuff, but the common thing is that you can expect a lot of vulnerability and transparency in my performance that I didn't have before. And that's something I'm very excited about...I mean, I suppose it’s worth mentioning that I had three vocal surgeries last year, which is why there was such a big gap, because I couldn't sing falsetto anymore and there’s so much that comes with that but when you form an identity of yourself and how you can express what makes you yourself. So I couldn't sing tenderly anymore which was so disappointing, and it was scary too. So while I'm writing gentle lyrics I had to scream them out, and it didn't really make sense. So I don't know how or why but the last surgery worked and I got my voice back, so you can expect I'll have more confidence in my voice and its vulnerability. It's changed my entire outlook on music. Why I do music and how much it means to me and my job and tools. But at the Hills I'll have my talented band with me and my girlfriend, Bree will be on the keys and she's an absolute weapon, which will be cool.

Can we look forward to a new EP or some new material anytime soon? 

You can expect a full-length album! I'm almost done. I recorded some in the States, some in Newcastle too. I actually co-wrote a song with Tommy King, who's the keyboardist from HAIM, which was cool. I did some jamming with Jim Fairchild from Modest Mouse who's the guitarist and yeah we wrote together. I went into this cool studio called ‘Valentines Studios’ with Jim and that was awesome like The Beach Boys recorded there, it was so cool. I've been all over the place recording it, but it’s like a collage that’s all coming together, but it's nice cause it looks like it's gonna finish up here at home in a studio I've built up that used to be my friends sock closet. I've written about 38 songs so at this point I'm deciding what's gonna make it on there and stuff. 

Should we be marking our calendars for any particular time?

I wouldn't if I were you. It'll definitely be this year, but in terms of a particular month then nup. 

We're pretty stoked to be able to see you at 'The Hills are Alive' festival in late March, what other acts are you keen to see?

Jordan Rakei! (with no hesitation), it'll be great to catch the Dope Lemon set. I saw Angus play at The Gov in Adelaide and I though they had such a great set. I was playing guitar for my mate who was supporting so yeah that was awesome. Oh! Gretta Ray too! Excited to say how she is live. But I can't wait for the festival the band and I have been rehearsing getting into a real groove.

Thanks a heap for having a chat with us Timberwolf, best of luck with the rest of the album and we’ll catch you at The Hills Are Alive!

Sounds good! Thank you to you! Yes! Come say hey if you do!

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