Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Mike Hoffman Of Panic Is Perfect

Artwork for ‘Becoming Yourself.’ Courtesy of JP Cutler Media.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Best known for their single “Go, Go, Go,” which was featured on a “People Are Awesome” YouTube video that racked up 15 million views and helped them gain over 7 million streams on Spotify, Panic Is Perfect is set to drop a new EP called ‘Becoming Yourself’ on May 13, 2022.

A somewhat appropriate sonic capsule for where we stand with the pandemic, where it’s not quite over, but the assumed worst is past us, ‘Becoming Yourself’ is just what you need to get yourself out of that quarantine-laden rut you’ve been stuck in and become a better human for it.

Pop heaven and dark emotions will unite in a heavenly way, as the aforementioned project of producer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Hoffman has already garnered praise from fans and media alike with the released singles “Just My Luck” and “Half Asleep.”

A vulnerable blend of dance-rock, ’60s pop, afro-beat and introspective narratives, ‘Becoming Yourself’ will present a new era for Panic Is Perfect, who’ve previously played with the likes of Death Cab For Cutie, Passion Pit and Matt And Kim.

The Music Bugle had the opportunity to talk with Hoffman about ‘Becoming Yourself’ and more.

Music Bugle – What does the name “Panic Is Perfect” mean to you? 

Mike Hoffman – The name “Panic is Perfect” to me, means the acceptance of difficult things you cannot control. We go through mental and emotional states all the time that are not our choice. A lot of times, the best way to move through them are to not fight against them. 

Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your new EP ‘Becoming Yourself’? 

Mike Hoffman – This EP was really made on my own terms.  As much as I could, I stopped paying attention to a specific trend or sound and really just focused on the songs and creating arrangements and productions that supported their meaning in the deepest way.

Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music? 

Mike Hoffman – It’s probably the open-ended-ness of it. I have the freedom to follow an idea down any musical path I want and I can pull from whatever inspiration or piece of musical language I carry around with me from my past. I’ve played in orchestras, free jazz groups, rock bands, worked in musical theater as a drummer and was deep into West African music for a long time. Bits and pieces of all this find their way into what I’m doing and it’s really cool to see how the past can reinvent itself over and over.

Music Bugle – What made you want to go with “Just My Luck” as the first single off the EP? 

Mike Hoffman – I’m much too close to all my tracks to be able to make decisions around which song should be a single. Every track is my favorite when I’m making it, otherwise I probably wouldn’t finish it. I took advice from people on my team when making the decision around “Just My Luck” as the lead single.

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?

Mike Hoffman – Still Woozy, Mall Rat, Aldous Harding and The War On Drugs.

Music Bugle – What do you attribute the band’s success to?

Mike Hoffman – The big successes we have had with some of our music in the past have been the lining up of a lot of hard work, a good team around us and the resources to push it out to the world. I wish that was all there is to it, but to be honest, I don’t know why one song will take off and another will not. Its timing, it’s how it catches people’s ears in the moment, it’s a big playlist or blog that picks it up. The more I do it, the more realize how little control I have. I try and focus on what I can control, which is the track and artwork and story and I try to make them the most authentic expressions that I can.

Music Bugle – How would you say your life has changed because of COVID-19?

Mike Hoffman – Overall, the lockdowns were tough for me. I was raising a 2-year-old trying to pay my rent and writing music when I could. I think that time period got rid of a lot of distractions for me. It forced me to look at why I was making music in the first place and moved my creative focus to a more personal place.

Music Bugle – What is the band’s ultimate next step? 

Mike Hoffman – The next step is really just the next lily pad for this project to jump onto so that I can keep creating and moving forward. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking, “Oh, I wish we would have a big viral hit or a record deal or whatever,” but I have been through those cycles before and I know that things that look good on the outside don’t always feel that way on the inside. What I want is to feel inspired, have the motivation, a reason and the resources to keep creating. However that looks in reality is what i want.

Music Bugle – Does social media help or hurt musicians?

Mike Hoffman – Good question. I think there is a current myth around social media that if you work hard and spend large amounts of time on a specific platform, then you can earn fame and fortune. This drives many artists to spend a lot of time creating huge amounts of content for these platforms and it’s easy for artists to fall into the trap of chasing trends and algorithms. In a lot of cases, this ends up dictating the type of content they create, taking time away from artists going deeper into their own process and work. I believe that overall, social media has a homogenizing and shallowing effect on art. This shaping of content is intentionally designed by big tech and is most definitely in the service of their profits, not artists and society.

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?

Mike Hoffman – There was a little snippet of an interview I saw years and years ago with Flea from The Red Hot Chili Peppers. I’m not really a big fan of his or the band, but something he said actually stuck with me for a long time. He was asked about advice to young musicians and he said, “Meditate and listen to John Coltrane records.” To me, it’s advice to stay grounded and focus on things that are magic and beautiful. I’m not always successful at it, but I try.

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