Today marks a massive day for homegrown talent Christopher Panasoukis, better known under his stage moniker Timberwolf, as he releases his first full-length album, Íkaros. Two years in the making and two years since releasing his five-track EP Flux in 2015, the album is an incredibly vulnerable and down to earth record that you can’t help but connect with instantly. We sat down with the man behind the music to chat about what he’s been keeping busy with, inspiration behind the record and the power of vulnerability.
Hey Chris, congratulations on releasing the album! How does it feel finally be able to share it with everyone?
Thanks! It’s real, hey? I reckon it’s a pretty soothing feeling, in that it’s been a long journey over the last two years. I’m finally in a spot where we’ve done all the work – the songs are done, we’ve taken all the photos, the vinyl has been handed in, everything’s ready so now we can enjoy it. We’re rehearsing the songs with a full band. It’s kind of party time now. That’s what it feels like.
It’s a really great record. Can you tell us a little more about the name Íkaros?
So Íkaros is my adaptation and interpretation of the Greek mythology of Icarus. In the mythology Icarus is gifted these beautiful wings made from wax and despite his parents best wishes he flies too close to the sun, gets burned and the wax on the wings melt and he falls to his death. Whereas in my adaptation of the story, I liken myself to the Icarus character – with a bit of a reference to my roots as well because my dad was an immigrant from Greece and he came over in his early years on a boat. The whole album describes a narrative of a pursuit of awakening to vulnerability, there’s this character who is self-serving and materially focussed and I liken that to chasing goals, chasing the sun and all these things that you think you want but at the end of it, you realise that if you have no one to share it with and fly up high with you then it’s a little bit fickle. In my story, the guy who flies too close to the sun has this awakening that vulnerability is power. Once he embraces vulnerability, he falls from this height of gold and materialism, and washes up on shore but instead of dying when he lands, it’s the washing up on shore and getting grounded that is this guy’s salvation. The story behind this whole album for me is the narrative of self-awakening and self-realisation through this pursuit of vulnerability. The whole thing is described in the title track but it’s also spread throughout the whole record.
The last time CLIQUE Mag spoke to you, you had just wrapped up recording the album – what have you been keeping busy with since then?
Heaps and heaps of stuff. I did a little bit of travelling and played a few gigs. I actually started recording some more music, which is actually a little bit of a sickness of mine. Also getting the vinyl ready, we submitted it the other day and we’re just waiting for the test press to come back. It’s so exciting and it looks great. We’re just getting the full band together because we’re having a house party next Friday. But otherwise I did a really cool photo shoot that might end up as a film clip. It involves Jack [Fenby] and I getting pretty intimate in a bath…
We saw that! We know Jack and saw a little snippet on his Instagram story. It looked interesting.
We had this moment where I was lying in the bathtub in my jocks, and my girlfriend Bree stepped out of the room to get a prop. We were in my friend’s share house bathroom by the way which is super weird, and Jack was kind of leaning over me in the bath and we both just looked at each other and we were like ‘”we should never speak about this again”.
We listened to ‘Washed Out’ when it came and we loved it but now listening the rest of the record, it’s actually quite diverse. Do you think that writing and recording it in different places like LA, in NSW and here at home has acted as inspiration for the differences in the tracks?
I think so, and [inspired by] people as well. Because it’s taken quite a while – the better part of two years to do it – I’ve encountered heaps of different people and heaps of different places and there’s been little beautiful cameos and collaborations through the whole thing. So it’s like a big patchwork quilt and there’s a lot of different bits in one record. Which is why it doesn’t surprise me if you’re hearing a lot of diversity in it all. You encounter so many different stages of self-perception when you’re on this journey towards awakening and I think sonically this is represented by collaborations that bring out the best in you, it’s represented by a different recording ethos as well. I used to try bury my sounds and the meaning of my songs in textures and multiple guitars and a lot of poetry and metaphors. Now I’m going on the ethos that if you wouldn’t say it to someone, don’t write it. So I think that’s why the lyrics are so vulnerable and that ties it all together. The mood behind all the songs are just a snapshot of that moment in time.
We can definitely hear that. One of our favourite tracks is ‘Why Won’t You Love Me’ and that gets pretty intense and deep.
Yeah man. ‘Why Won’t You Love Me’ is the evil twin of ‘Vulnerable Heart’. In my mind, Vulnerable Heart is the most uplifting, naïve and childish celebration of love that you can possibly go through. But true to love itself and the way that it can change, it’s so fragile and so instantaneous that you can wake up one morning feeling like that but later that day, go to bed and feel like ‘Why Won’t You Love Me’, you know? I wanted those songs to be next to each other to remind you that it can be fleeting and none of this is for sure. But you can tie it together by being a bit vulnerable. I remember I wrote ‘Why Won’t You Love Me’ while I was bawling my eyes out. The whole song was a stream of consciousness from start to finish. At the time I was living by myself in Glenelg South, and I had three vocal surgeries, I had broken my ankle and was eight months into a long distance relationship and I was feeling so lonely. It came out of rock bottom. That’s what happened and the song was born from that. I think that’s what you’re definitely hearing in the lyrics.
Those are definitely our two favourites off the album so it’s funny you say that.
Yeah, look ‘Vulnerable Heart’ rides that fine line between really grand and decadent and cheesy.
But it’s like slow dancing underneath a disco ball. In the best way.
(Laughs) My favourite love song is ‘Something’ by George Harrison from The Beatles. So it’s my answer to that – I even used some of the chords and chord progressions and reinterpreted it into my own love song.
We know it’s like asking about favourite child, but what is your favourite track off the album?
Oh man, I don’t know if I have a favourite track per se. But I really enjoy listening to ‘Seabird’. It’s one thing to make music but it’s another to make music that you, yourself, would listen to if you were a stranger to yourself. ‘Seabird’ is that song off the record that I can picture myself listening to if someone sent me a Spotify link because it paints a lot of good memories for me. When I was living in that house by the beach, I’d run down towards Seacliff and there was a sweet lighthouse on top of Marino Rocks and it was massively a source of consistency and stability and I’d run towards it and would get into rhythm with how the light spins. On the way home, I’d always take a moment to stop at one of the benches and I used to stare out at the clouds, which were completely black then the stars would appear out of nowhere, or sometimes it’d be satellites or sometimes just the lights on wings of planes. I used to love this feeling and I’d make up stories in my head like who would be on that plane and who was coming to visit me. It just filled me with a lot of hope. So for that reason, I like listening to ‘Seabird’ the most but I couldn’t pick a favourite, you know?
You’ve played some shows on the East coast recently but you still do gigs at home a lot. Does it always feel special to play to local audience?
Yeah it does! It’s felt different in recent times because for the first time in my career there’s more fans than just good friends in the crowd. Instead of feeling like an overcrowded 21st or house party it’s starting to feel a lot more like a real gig. So that’s a really good sign.
Now that you’ve released the record, are you going to be touring for the album as well?
Definitely, definitely. I’ve got shows supporting The Teskey Brothers and Lime Cordiale which will finish out the year, and a couple of sets at the Woodford Folk Festival. Next year I think in February and March, I’ll do a full album tour with a full band and go up the East coast and way up North.
Íkaros is now available to stream on Spotify and buy on iTunes here.