Finding the perfect band name is tough. Phoenix quartet Panic Baby can attest to that. Formerly, they were known as The Real Fits. And before that, they were The Fits.
Of course, the band-naming process can happen in fits and starts (pun intended). The Rolling Stones and The Beatles were known by several monikers before they settled on those final names. So Nick Smith, Jared Wood, Devin Russell, and Raquel Willand of Panic Baby are in good company. And they don’t regret the revisions. But they do wish they had made a final decision before they gave away condoms emblazoned with The Real Fits. At least there would have been a good joke behind the gimmick.
“When we make the Panic Baby condoms, they will have a whole different meaning,” Smith says. “There’s no need to panic, baby.”
Sure, raunchy stunts can get you recognition when you’re trying to make a name for yourself in the Valley music scene. But throughout the name changes, Panic Baby also have changed the way they write music. You can hear the progress they’ve made since the band began playing in fall 2015.
What started as a fun escape from mundane day jobs became a slightly more serious affair when the band members’ confidence in the music — and each other — started to take hold.
The Real Fits had a catchy synth-pop feel. When the band amended their handle, they shoved that sound in a closet somewhere along with unsold merch displaying that name. (Those leftover souvenir condoms have mysteriously disappeared, according to Willand.)
By contrast, Panic Baby’s sound has a bluesy vibe that recalls early Alabama Shakes. Tracks like the emotional “Don’t (Lie To Me)” are propelled by Willand’s sultry vocals.
“We enjoy pushing the songs further based on each person’s opinion,” Willand says of the band’s creative process.
The group met when Wood placed a Craigslist ad. Willand and Wood laugh when they recall her bringing Mace to the first band meeting. Wood thought Smith and Willand were the perfect fit and felt they had an instant rapport. And once Russell, who lived in the same Tempe apartment complex as Smith, joined the band last year following the departure of Blair Furmanski, the group decided to revisit their name.
“We just felt like it was a different band,” Wood says of the most recent name change. “We were writing different music.”
Panic Baby are starting to see both the name change and years of hard work pay off.
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The group is writing music for 2018 and headlining a show at Crescent Ballroom with El West, Beachwood Coyotes, and The American Weather on Thursday, February 22. Earlier this year, Willand participated in the Phoenix Rock Lottery. She joined local favorites Scott Hessel of the Gin Blossoms, JFA’s Michael Cornelius, Amelia Kestner from Amelia, and TINDAL MUZIC’s Jessica Tindal to form the quintet Something About Love.
In case you were wondering, Willand did not panic.
“It made me realize how much I would not mind [writing music] all day, every day,” she says.