Interview PinkPantheress: “I always wanted to have an audience”

The viral ‘Just For Me’ star is finally starting to lift the veil…

“I just want people to listen to my music and not think the person making it is someone that knew or expected all of this was going to happen,” explains PinkPantheress. “I am literally just a young woman who enjoys making music and isn’t thinking too much about the other elements that come with it. I’m just a simple music maker, not much behind me, and I’m a big fan of the internet.”

The 19-year-old is an enigma - whose real name remains currently undivulged - that’s carefully balancing anonymity with being a viral sensation. While she wants to keep her identity private and her social media posts minimal, her music can be heard all over TikTok, with most recent single ‘Just For Me’ featured in over 700,000 videos on the platform.

It all started during a run of sleepless nights at university in London, when she was in a panic about her course and making music as an outlet - secretly at first, and then posting the finished products online. It wasn’t until an oblivious friend sent one of her videos back to her in a group chat that she eventually came clean about her internet fame. “I always wanted to have an audience,” she says. “It felt like a relief to be able to have these songs out, even if no one was listening. [But] I think even back then, when I was doing that, I still wanted people to listen.”

“I can relate, I am one of you, I’m just a music fan who embraced making music.”

Choosing TikTok for its reach and instant connection with listeners, she didn’t expect people to like her sound as much as they did. Blending chopped-up melodies stolen from the garage and drum’n’bass tunes she grew up listening to, PinkPantheress very much feeds Gen Z’s appetite for nostalgia. Her high-pitched vocals bounce atop familiar beats that take you back to ‘00s radio shows, with ‘Just For Me’ being a perfect example of this. Working on the track with Mura Masa, she simply said she wanted to sound like Craig David, and the 2-step anthem about obsessive love was made.

“I'd been listening to Eminem’s ‘Stan’ and I just love the way he tells that story,” she explains. “It’s one of my favourite songs ever because of the lyrics, and I wanted to do the same kind of stalkerish thing. Obviously his song is a bit darker than mine, which is a bit more about love and feels more lighthearted, but I'd always wanted to do something where it's like, ‘Oh these lyrics are nice’ and then you think about it and you're like, ‘Hold on, this is kind of weird...’”

Noting My Chemical Romance as her favourite band, alongside idols such as Michael Jackson, Imogen Heap and Ryan Ross from Panic! At The Disco, PinkPantheress’ musical palette is a broad one. Most audibly, you can hear the immediate influence of Lily Allen, such as in the un-sugar-coated lyrics of ‘Passion’: “They call it sad, but they’re the outside lookin’ in / I mean they can’t understand when they all cope with everything / And when I opened my heart in front of my friends, finally / It was not what I thought, 'cause they're not there anymore.”

While she has collaborated with producers, and even lent her voice to GoldLink’s house anthem ‘Evian’, don’t expect any kind of major shift in PinkPantheress’ sound quite yet. The DIY aesthetic that started as GarageBand experimentation has quickly become a signature that’s hooked in her audience. “If everything sounded too polished, I don’t think people would have received my music as well,” she says. “I think it helped that it ended up sounding a bit shit in some areas, I feel like our generation likes that for some reason.”

Meanwhile, the sense of secrecy PinkPantheress has constructed around her identity (she politely declines to turn her camera on for this Zoom call) extends to not even spilling on new project ‘To Hell With It’. “There's definitely a body of work coming out very soon,” is all she cryptically hints. Of course live shows will quickly follow, where she’ll be able to see the fandom she’s attracted IRL for the first time, but stepping out from her internet persona, there’s only one thing the musician wants her listeners to take from her songs. “I just want them to know that any layman can make music,” she shrugs. “I started this not thinking anything would happen… I can relate, I am one of you, I’m just a music fan who embraced making music. So if you want to make music, make it. And don't even think about the reason why or why you shouldn't, just do it.”

As featured in the October 2021 issue of DIY, out now. Scroll down to get your copy.

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