– Nikki Brumen (vocals), Xavier Santilli (guitar), Dan Bonnici (bass), Matt Marasco (drums) – have had what can only be described as an incredible reception to their debut album. The singles received spins on BBC’s Radio 1, Kerrang! Radio & triple j Home & Hosed, Short.Fast.Loud and The Racket. Global press reaction has also been somewhat rapturous for Pagan’s debut album Black Wash, a collection of 11 songs (‘spells’, in Pagan speak) by four people who have each experienced their own individual Hells but walked through the flames together, hand in hand, brought to life by producer Mike Deslandes.
We caught up with the Melbourne based outfit to talk about the success of their debut album, gender equality in the music industry, and what we can expect from Pagan on tour.
Your debut album, ‘Black Wash’ has already received a huge amount of press throughout the UK and Europe, which is quite an achievement for an act from so far away. How do you feel about this impressive achievement so early in your career?
It’s hard to put into words really! To see people connecting with and becoming interested in something that you and your friends made together on the other side of the world is a pretty surreal feeling. It’s insanely flattering and humbling, and something that I don’t think any of us expected in such a short amount of time, but also kind of a weird reminder of how big the world, how small our band is in the scheme of things and just how much work we have ahead of us. It’s a very exciting but overwhelming feeling! Very mind blowing.
What were your main inspirations musically that played a big part in the writing and recording of Black Wash?
We get asked this question a lot and I always find it difficult to answer. I think the thing with writing Black Wash was that we’d found ourselves in a place where we were so confident in our own sound that the aim was to just write the best and most coherent collection Pagan songs that we could, as opposed to bringing in outside influences, if that makes sense. Obviously all musicians are subconsciously influenced by music that they find interesting, but I think with this record and the kind of lead up we had to writing it, the mindset was very much like, okay, this is what Pagan sounds like at this point in time, let’s flesh that out across a batch of songs.
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Did you have any expectations about the success of your debut album when you were recording it?
Not at all. I don’t think that any of us expect anything from music, to be honest. I don’t think anyone ever really should! Success for us was coming out of our time in the studio with Mike Deslandes with a body of work that the four of us would love forever, and we did that without a doubt. Like I kind of touched on earlier, the incredibly positive reaction to it has been a very heartwarming bonus, and we’re eternally grateful for every bonus that comes our way from here on out!
Can you tell us about the overall theme/message that you wanted to convey to the listener with ‘Black Wash’?
Nikki’s lyrics come from a very personal place, so the songs are not necessarily there to offer messages so much as they are self-reflexive passages of writing for her. But with that said, when you listen to the record and read the lyrics, a lot of it can be interpreted in so many different ways and I think that’s really special. You can kind of make it your own! To me, it kind of conveys the notion of the human spirit and how even after the greatest defeat we’re still able to keep searching for hope. I had some fairly life-changing events occur in between writing and recording the album to the time it was released, so the album hits me on a very different way now than it did when we were making it. I think that’s my absolute favorite part about Nikki’s writing.
What can we expect from a Pagan live show?
We promise to give you the loudest, sweatiest and wildest dance party you and your friends have ever been to!
Do you face any challenges or frustrations in your home country of Australia as a female fronted act?
Maybe a better question for Nikki, but I think that Australia has a way to go in terms of the type of credibility offered to bands with gender-varying members. I think it’s almost being pushed as a selling point in a lot of respects and I don’t know exactly how positive it is. Nikki is a musician just like the rest of us, and I think it’s really unfair for media and industry to single her and other women or female-identifying artists out as a point of difference because it’s kind of a backhanded slap at the sort of equality that needs to exist. Any woman should be able to embrace their femininity as they choose, not how anyone else thinks they should choose. Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a huge responsibility on the music industry to be working toward diversity, but this also extends to race and culture, sexuality and even genre.
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Your overall sound has elements of punk, hardcore, metal, and hard rock, are these all styles that you try to incorporate in your music, or is it just the natural outcome of the music you write?
It’s very natural. I spoke before about subconscious influences and I think that years and years of playing in bands that fall within the confines of the genres of music you’ve mentioned have just taught us to play our instruments and write music in a particular way. It’s funny though because I think more often than not, we’re looking for ways to push the boundaries of these styles of music and exist outside of them, but at the end of the day, we play what we know!
If you could compare your live sound and live show to a handful of bands, who would it be?
I’m really not sure. Our shows are our rituals and we just kind of do our own thing, y’know? I guess if I was going to compare it to anything I’d maybe say some sort of Cajun Courir De Mardi Gras celebration or something!
You’ve just kicked off a UK & European tour heading to London, Bristol, Manchester, Hamburg, and Berlin to name just a few of the dates, how's the tour going so far and what’s the audience reaction been like?
We actually play the first show tonight but we’re so excited to be over here and to show people what we do best! We’ve just spent two lovely days exploring London and battling jet lag and spirits in the Pagan camp are very high at the moment, and we’re going to do everything we can to make every show special for everyone who comes to bare whiteness!
Have you guys started working on any new music yet and what does the future hold for Pagan?
We all have a lot of ideas up our sleeves for new music and have already started thinking about how we’ll approach creating album number two. The future for Pagan will involve a lot more touring and traveling and we’re really looking to expand on what we do, and continue to make Pagan a bigger experience than just a band who plays songs, both for ourselves and for people that are interested in what we do!
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