Colton Holliday’s band, the Panic Division, is a personal extension of his innermost thoughts on life, love, relationships — and the indefinable moments in between. Plagued by a panic disorder himself, it’s no surprise that on the band’s freshman release “Versus,” each theme is played out chaotically under Holliday’s unpredictable direction. A collage of sounds, the Panic Division relies on a steady stream of mellow beats and moony electronic bleeps to calm you before cranking up the guitars and punching you in the gut.
On “Versus,” Holliday’s five-piece troupe of indie rockers from the dusty streets of San Antonio provide a beautiful 43-minute auditory experiment; constructed with simple loops and samples, the album is distinctly electronic.
Techie rock at its finest, the boys of the Panic Division write music from the laptop up, tapping computer keys and micro-processors before turning to traditional instruments for inspiration: “We like to build songs around electronic loops, which is different than most bands that incorporate electronics into a rock sound. In essence, we are incorporating a lot of rock into an electronic sound.”
The effect is impressive: samples weaving melodically through each song, while the guitars pound gently beneath Holliday’s gushy voice. Holliday, whose INXS-inspired vocal wanderings float and dip dramatically from track to track, fits nicely over the electronics, giving the band a distinctively ’80s feel. “We love electronic and rock, and try to find a way to combine those two worlds in the right way,” the band explains.
And while the Panic Division handily busts out tunes that will make the indie girls swoon, the boys' possess an undeniable grittiness, each track flavored with Daniel Stanush’s crunchy guitar, James Castillo’s driving beats and Holliday’s high-strung vocal harmonies.
Such is the case with the explosive title track, which kicks off the disc with a flurry of melodic samples and space age distortion. In anthemic tradition, the song jumps wildly as Holliday belts out lyrics over the mish-mashed electro-rock.
On “Delta,” the disc’s best track, meaty guitar licks and beautifully rendered vocals showcase the band’s talent for producing catchy, intriguing tunes.
On the somber and almost completely instrumental “Little Child,” gorgeous synths and moody whispers combine nicely. The song’s ethereal exploration of the band’s darker side is beautiful and eerie, and at just over two minutes, is a nice reprieve from the disc’s faster tracks.
Radio-friendly tunes like “Paradise” push the Panic Division into Top 10 territory, while “Versus‘” slow jams “Easy Target” and “Questions and Answers” play out as apologetic love songs that beg you to dust off the boom box and blast it overhead John Cusack style.
Like most of the bands we boast here on Indie Study, the Panic Division is a self-made success. Veterans of the scene (the Panic Division begins where Carbon 12 Theory ended), the Panic Division is not afraid of a little hard work. “Versus” alone was more than a year in the making, and it wasn’t until August that the band secured financial support from a bona fide record label.
But now, the long nights in the recording studio and long days on tour seem to have paid off — The Militia Group has signed the band to a multi-album deal, and the boys have already instituted a fervent following in San Antonio.
The Panic Division is ready, though, for whatever lies ahead. Now, with a record set to drop Nov. 1, they’re prepared to let their music take them out of Texas. Despite warm memories of their beginnings in San Antonio, the Panic Division crew admits they’ve probably outgrown the musical confines of their hometown — and they’re probably right.
For more info on the Panic Division, visit http://www.thepanicdivision.com/.