The last time we spoke to Chris Panousakis – you might know him better as Timberwolf – he had just released his debut record Íkaros. It was a tale of love and the vulnerability you feel when you give yourself over to someone completely. After a complementing national tour, Chris took some time off and now he’s back with Proud Silence, and in many ways it’s a whole new take on vulnerability but the kind where you feel like you can’t reach out.
Ahead of his latest tour – he plays here at home first before hitting the Eastern states – we sit down to chat to Chris about the many layers behind Proud Silence, his hope that it will start the conversation with someone who’s silently struggling and what’s next for him.
Hey Chris, congrats on the release of Proud Silence! It’s on repeat on our Spotify playlist. How does it feel to have it out in the world?
Ayyy, I like the sound of your playlist! Thank you. I’m definitely proud of this track. It’s the first TW release of mine in what feels like quite a while, and because I produced and engineered it myself I was a little nervous to watch it pedal off into the sunset with no training wheels. But it seems to have kept its balance so far.
Speaking of Spotify, you’ve made quite a few appearances on their playlists. Does it feel like a cherry on top of releasing a meaningful record to also have that recognition from them?
Yeah the play listing has been awesome to follow, I didn’t know there were so many ways to ‘chill’ [laughs]. Compared to some of the tracks off Íkaros, there hasn’t been a whole bunch of radio support for the track, so I’m really grateful Spotify has got behind it and created another really healthy avenue for me to connect with listeners. I also love the idea that on a playlist, people are digesting the song as part of a broader kind of themed ‘mood’ tapestry with other mad artists.
There’s obviously a lot of depth behind your new song and for those of us who know you and follow you on social media, we know there’s a big story behind it – can you tell us what the thought process has been like behind writing the song?
Well, initially I wrote some lyrics specifically addressing men’s mental health and the toxicity of stoicism, or ‘over-masculine madness’ as I touch on in the song. I’ve always been terrified by how silently people seem to suffer. That depressed or anxious haze takes over too slowly to tell. Way too often you hear that ‘nobody had a clue’ about somebody’s suffering and it can be so well hidden.
Me writing this was ignited by the tragic loss of someone who meant the world to a friend I love, and involved me reflecting on whether my friendships/relationships are healthy, or if I’m being a good son, a good boyfriend? Am I an open communicator? What do I persist to suppress? I came up with the theme ‘proud silence is sadness’ while I was running and it all kind of unravelled in my mind that although I noticed this stuff more in guys, I was really talking about a broader topic of suppression for everybody. There is a huge disconnect. We all know how vital it is to be communicating with each other, but it seems to be so hard to find who we believe to be the right person to listen or the appropriate moment to share.
My hope is that the song in itself provides a disarming medium to encourage the conversation. Just these last few months there have been two really sad mental-health related deaths of young men in the music industry and, although the intention is great, I think it’s too little and too late for everyone to be sharing mental health hotlines following a tragedy. I think we need to lead by example, so I would love to see us all taking time to keep each other accountable when we can for the things we know improve our mental health: time in nature, less time on phones, less phone-related validation, time off the booze, eye contact, exercise, compassionate listening.
It sounds like it’s been a massive thought journey for you since the last time we spoke. Then, you had just released Íkaros. How was the aftermath of that? It’s still a great record to listen to.
Thank you! I had a sick time touring around playing all the songs. I definitely needed a bit of time off though before I got back in the swing of writing new material.
We also spoke a lot of love and the vulnerability you feel in a romantic relationship, but Proud Silence is about more than that. It feels like we get to see – or rather hear – a whole other side of you. Did you feel nervous prior to putting it out?
Definitely. Íkaros was a specifically romantic record, and Proud Silence is so much broader then that. On the stuff I mentioned above I was pretty hungry to be contributing with this song, so I would say that determination quickly kind of overtook the nerves.
You’ve worked closely with our friend Jack Fenby – what was it like to work with him again on the artwork for the record? Is it just a natural fit as collaborators between you two?
[The] best part about shooting with Jack is he’s down to chase the dragon. I love talking a bit of shit and cooking up a concept but I think it rarely goes how you thought it would. Sometimes you got to get a bit weird and inventive. I appreciate anyone without an ego and Jack’s no slave to ego. Nothing seems to get in the way of getting to the bottom of a mood when we collaborate.
You’re about to go on tour again. What can we expect in terms of set lists? Any chance of some new material being road tested?
Definitely. I’ve always said a good set list is a lot like a solid wedding get up. Something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue. Can’t wait to share some new shiny things.
What’s next for you personally and musically?
Lately I’ve been really enjoying writing and recording for both myself and some other cool cats, so there’ll be something on the horizon sooner rather than later whether it’s a TW song or not.
Timberwolf plays the Crown & Anchor Hotel today, September 28 at 9.00pm. Tickets are available here.