Static Panic reimagine the '80s with gender-fluid finesse on 'Chrome'

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Static Panic Graham Tolbert

Michael Jackson, Prince, Tears for Fears… all the quintessential ‘80s influences are audible on Static Panic’s debut EP, Chrome.

The funk-electronic trio of Ro Lorenzen, Keston Wright, and Eli Kapell formed two years ago and is poised to bring the dance party to the Entry on Saturday. Lorenzen, who comes from a music family, started singing around age five and learned to play piano and violin. They (Lorenzen uses they/them pronouns) met Wright in high school and later recruited Kapell to collaborate on this sexy throwback sound. Chrome is a gutsy exploration of self-discovery and desire.

We spoke to Lorenzen about the band’s style and sex-positive ethos.

City Pages: You’re gender fluid. How did you arrive at that identity?

Ro Lorenzen: It stems from a feeling like I didn’t belong or wouldn’t really classify myself in a masculine way. I was born male. In puberty, basically I said, “I think the way people respond to how I present myself or how I’m told I should be presenting myself doesn’t quite align with who I feel I am.” I identify as gender fluid because I don’t feel like I just belong in masculinity but through interactions, experience, and some degree of societal expectation, I definitely still have some of that masculinity but prefer to live in a space in-between. It’s an ongoing journey and a challenge and an adventure that I like to talk about in my music. Not any of the lyrics have specific [gender] roles when it comes to talking about love. All the lyrics could be taken from any position in a relationship—masculine, feminine, in-between, or outside those gender roles or stereotypes. That’s something I’m proud of and is also naturally part of my experience.

CP: Do you feel accepted on the music scene?

RL: I do. I feel like I’ve found I mesh working with a lot of other gender fluid or non-binary artists. Those folks have been very inviting and very welcoming of me being a non-binary artist.

CP: Does the “fluid” in your song “Fluid Funky Butter Sweet” refer to gender fluidity or some other kind of fluid?

RL: The idea behind “Fluid Funky Butter Sweet” is definitely one of fluid gender but also the fluid gender role in sexual experience, being outside of [the stereotype that] a man has a certain level of control or a woman has a certain submissiveness, or any sort of combination. It’s a calling to be who you want to be in an intimate moment and allowing for somebody else to be who they want to be in both relationships and sex. It’s about who you want to be, especially because those moments are so intimate, personal, and vulnerable. It’s important that you get to be your true self in those moments.

CP: Did you grow up in a sex-positive household or did you have to learn to be that way on your own?

RL: I feel like my family had a very open dialogue when it came to talking about sex and intimate relationships. I feel like as soon as I was asking questions about them, I was getting answers. That was very helpful in discovering myself.

CP: In “Bottle to Brain,” there’s a lyric that goes “I’ll take the bottle to brain/For the emotion.” What’s that about?

RL: Keston wrote the lyrics for that track. The way he’s explained it is it’s the haziness of feeling kind of intoxicated by this exciting relationship, this love or this passion that is undefined and a curiosity. It’s really about finding ground or finding footing in something new or something exciting.

CP: Chrome has a definite ‘80s vibe. Why did you want to emulate that era’s sound?

RL: I’ve always had this fascination with the bombastic glitz and glamour of the ‘80s when it comes to sound and visuals and finding ways to bring polish to a time some people think was a little too extra. I’ve been seeing it coming back in subtle ways in pop music and it’s been fun to emulate those sounds and bring elements of things I grew up listening to or have rediscovered in the last couple of years. Something that everybody has told me for a long time is my songs seem to be cinematic with very distinct leads or catchy hooks and I think that’s something that everybody can align with. “Nostalgia” is another word that comes up when people listen to the work that I do.

CP: Your songs are very danceable. Is that a requirement for you when you’re composing a song?

RL: Not necessarily. That comes with wanting a very strong back-beat, something very syncopated and rhythmic. Keston and I gravitate towards that when it comes to writing. We’ve talked about and drafted out some slower tunes. I think that will come in future releases. We chose a dancey vibe for our premiere EP for the reason of catching people’s attention, really grabbing people by the collar, like “Hey, we’re here!”

CP: How did you choose the name Static Panic?

RL: We went through a couple different iterations. One of the names we were going with was Saturday Static Panic. I chose that from thinking about waking up in the morning to watch Saturday morning cartoons and finding that your TV antenna wasn’t working correctly, so you’ve got nothing but TV static on every channel and you’re freaking out because you’re missing your favorite show. It was a very distinctive image and I don’t know where it came from. We decided to shorten it down to Static Panic. The other option was Glitter Blood, which I thought also was very distinct imagery, but ultimately we decided that Static Panic had more staying power.

Static Panic
With: Love Sequence and Trevor DeVine and the Immaculate Beings
Where: 7th Street Entry
When: 8 p.m. Sat. May 19
Tickets: $10; more info here.


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