Peter Kirk of Panama Wedding talks sold-out shows, life before fame

Peter Kirk, lead singer of Panama Wedding, recently spoke with the Tufts Daily about the origins and evolution of his band. Amanda_Devitt via Flickr Creative Commons

If you haven’t yet heard of New York synth-pop outfit Panama Wedding, give it a few more months and that will change. The four-piece band, fronted by lead singer and songwriter Peter Kirk, is gearing up to release its first full-length album this coming fall, on the heels of an international tour with Magic Man and a steady saturation of the indie music blogosphere. The Daily caught up with Kirk on the Boston stop of his tour to discuss the band’s newfound success:

Tufts Daily: How does it feel to be playing so many sold-out shows? Have you had a favorite city to play?

Peter Kirk: Every city kind of has its own cool vibe. I remember being on a bus listening to Magic Man’s “South Dakota” (2010) on repeat, and now it’s five years later, and I’m on tour with them. It’s the weirdest thing. But everything is relative. I’m in a place now where I’m really happy, making music full time and meeting great people. But it is a job at the end of the day. If you told me a year ago that people would even know who we were, that would just blow my mind. But now, I’m like … we have to get played on these radio stations! We have to be No. 1 on Alt Nation! Sometimes it’s easy to lose perspective.

DG: Has your recent debut TV appearance on Jimmy Kimmel played into that mindset?

PK: It was great. It was completely surreal. It was just a totally “Truman Show” (1998) moment, like, ‘Is this really happening? Are these real people?’ I’m just glad that we played pretty well. I’d have these nightmares about breaking down and losing it on TV. So I’m happy with it. I’m just happy.

TD: How do you see yourself fitting into the current top-40 ranks that [Kimmel] typically hosts?

PK: I love that the top 40, especially now, is actually so good. There’s a lot of interesting music being put out — it’s not brainless or one-dimensional. Charli XCX and Max Martin and Ariana Grande … the new Taylor Swift record sounds flawless. There are pop stars making incredible records, and I think we’re in a pop renaissance right now. The barrier between what’s indie and top 40 pop is being destroyed. So I could fit in anywhere.

TD: Where did the name Panama Wedding come from?

PK: It’s actually the name of a song I wrote a few years ago. The song was loosely based on someone I knew who was leaving New York City to go back home to Panama. I’ve just sort of had this fantastical idea of what it’d be like to live in Panama and have a wedding. I was writing a bunch of songs at the time and was just like, ‘Why not?’ When it came time to release some music under a different name, it just seemed like a natural fit. It evoked the style of music I was interested in making.

TD: Was that style inspired by a trip to Panama?

PK: I’ve never been! People always ask me if I’m from there at shows, and they’re super disappointed when I’m like, ‘I don’t know anything about Panama.’ But … one day. I’m putting it out there.

TD: What was your life like before Panama Wedding came to be?

PK: I worked in finance in the foreign exchange industry, you know, with Morgan Stanley. It was a day job, like anything else that pays the bills. I was able to make a decent amount of money to get a studio. I was just one of these people who never felt like they were never good at anything, but in the back of my mind, I always knew I wanted to pursue this. It was just a long process of developing the confidence and keeping at it [making music] over time, [until] I eventually started sharing [my songs] with friends and going public.

TD: So you’ve never considered going in another direction?

PK: I really do believe that if you’re doing something you truly love — and you have to really love it, regardless of the rewards or bad times — you’ll want to keep doing it. Do something you’d keep doing no matter what. And that’s what I’ve done. It hasn’t been a long struggle, but I did go for years just trying to get music out there and get people to pay attention to it. There were a solid three or four years when no one was interested at all. If I didn’t get signed and there was no Panama Wedding, I’d still be at my desk job in Manhattan making music on the side.