VMP Rising is our series where we partner with up-and-coming artists to press their music to vinyl and highlight artists we think are going to be the Next Big Thing. Today, we’re featuring These Days, the new EP from St. Panther.
Image by Caity Krone
Like any artist forging her own path, she begins with a name. Irvine-native St. Panther, born Daniela Bojorges-Giraldo, recalls her moniker being gifted to her as armor from her father, but also a testament to her kindness from her friends, “That was just [my dad’s] nickname for me. Little Panther was my first moniker, like my first music alias, and then it carried on with my friend that I used to do a ton of favors for, so he would call me ‘Saint’ and that was his nickname for me. And one day he was like, ‘You know what, you're St. Panther, that's what you are.’ It had a nice ring and I kept it ever since high school.” While music has been the structure of her life, having played piano from such a young age, high school proved to be the formative years of St. Panther — not only crafting her sound but also the work ethic that would jettison her into a budding career. Upon graduation, St. Panther, who's now signed jointly to Ricky Reed's Nice Life Recording Company and Nate Mercereau's How So Records, would spend the next seven years starting her own business.
Her voice over the phone is soft and bright, a departure from the multi-instrumentalist’s warm, jazz-infused voice that pours over in her first single “Infrastructure” which appears on the Insecure season four soundtrack. Reed played the song for Kier Lehman, the music supervisor for Insecure. Lehman became a fan of it, noting how the soul and funk of the single very much fit the musical aesthetic of the show. From there, the process was pretty simple, and “Infrastructure” found its home on the soundtrack.
Complimented by funky synths and nimble rap lyrics, her breakout single chronicles a person who messily yearns for love, yet the music is delivered to listeners in a soulful measure that can only be akin to the vibrant backdrop of California. “Infrastructure” does a miraculous job of not veering into overly sentimental territory by capturing the imperfection of being human. Despite some of St. Panther’s clear influences such as Prince or Stevie Wonder, her own personality stands at the forefront, blended in a lush menagerie of sound.
When she spoke more at length about allowing vulnerability to govern her work, she mused, “I see that there are so many human stories that sometimes, for me, felt like overly dressed, in a way. So, I would strip down all of the extra things. We would dress to engage an audience, and I concentrate on the center of where these emotions are coming from whether it's literally about an experience of love or what we’re going through now; I try to take all the extra dressing out and just leave the human root of it. That's kind of what guides the creativity for my music or music videos. I try to just be as myself, without costume, as much as possible. I thrive off the imperfection of being human, and I think that's what gives the music its signature.”
True to her process, St. Panther’s These Days EP is a very human story, but in a way that is also still singularly her story. Crafted over a year, St. Panther pulled from a batch of 20 to 30 songs, ranging from funky, soulful high-energy ensembles such as “Highway,” which are balanced out with downtempo ballads such as the EP’s title track. The song’s music video blurs between days on a seemingly endless loop, which mirrors life in quarantine. While the single “These Days” was a song initially written for the untimely death of a close friend, St. Panther notes how the song has changed meaning for her over time. Ultimately, she seeks to craft music in such a way that is adaptable to all the years of pop that have happened. “There's a lot to be said about how our generation does like that sort of funky music — that it has to kind of be repurposed and given anew.”
These Days is a six-track interior journey balanced with an equal measure of vulnerability, delightful human imperfection, and heart-swept up in a rich tapestry of inspirations, like the raspy melancholy of Amy Winehouse. “Amy Winehouse was one of the first female voices that kind of was a representation of the music that I like listening to but also the music that I wanted to make when I was very young.” St. Panther’s similar ear for the transformation of funk and soul to a younger audience makes her the bridge between her predecessors and the future. From bright, danceable music like “Highway” to more slow-paced tracks such as “Something’s Gotta Give,” it’s easy to overlook some of the more somber moments of “These Days.” Released in September 2020, the EP is aptly titled for its meditative gaze both into solitude and the ennui which comes from the great indoors. Some days are luminous, and you have enough energy to take on the world, and some days drag their nails along your back, and These Days reflects that.
She speaks intimately on how COVID-19 has also changed her life with respect to how she makes music, and how many artists like herself have had to learn how to re-center the home or become more creative with fan engagement. Yet, St. Panther seeks to be more intentional with her engagement. In collaboration with her record label, Nice Life, St. Panther began working on an initiative called the Room-Aid Community Fund, which has inspired a public effort to raise money for organizations and spaces where artists can engage with others. Through Rick Reed’s debut album The Room, which was released August 28th of this year, the artists featured on the album, including St. Panther, were partnered with or asked to select an organization that they’re passionate about. The Solutions Project, whose main focus is on climate change, partnered with Nice Life to create this Room-Aid Community Fund, where the artists can engage with fans or anyone inclined to be part of the community. People were encouraged to donate via YouTube Live sessions that Reed started, which became the start to Reed’s album and, from there, more organizations and other donors began to support the initiative. St. Panther expresses her immense gratitude towards Ricky Reed and where her music has led her up to this point, noting how it takes a team to make the music possible. Despite COVID-19 upending and changing people's lives — changing the way artists have to now reimagine their audience engagement — St. Panther isn’t worried at all.
St. Panther hopes fans that listen to “These Days” take from her music whatever it is they need in the moment. “Going back to what I said about the human root of my music, I just wanted the music to serve as a way for people to see a reflection of themselves, whether the music opens up a certain emotion or song, or whether it's just coming in for the music to have some joy with a song like “Highway,” and just dance in your room. Whatever it is. I just really want positive feelings to come of my music, and however that is interpreted for you,” she explains. “The music is meant to be a window and I hope people can see it as a mirror too.”
I.S. Jones is a queer American / Nigerian poet and music journalist. She is an Editor at 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, freelances for Vinyl Me Please, Complex, Earmilk, NBC News Think and elsewhere. Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Guernica, Washington Square Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Rumpus, The Offing, Shade Literary Arts and elsewhere.