In December 2021, a group called Panchiko performed a concert. Hundreds of fans were there at the Metronome in Nottingham, England, singing their songs. All of this may seem like a standard routine for bands, but for the three members of Panchiko, it was a marvel. “Having a show where people have paid their money and they really want to see us is really nice,” says Owain Davies, 40, who plays guitar in the band.
“People knew the lyrics to the songs, which is crazy,” says Andrew Wright, 40, who also plays guitar.
Davies remarked on the joy of making eye contact with people at a gig like this. “When you’re not playing anyone” – which they had been doing – “if you make eye contact with someone in the bar, they might not want to make eye contact with you,” he laughs .
The last time Panchiko played a show was 20 years ago, in 2001, at a festival in a small town called Sutton-in-Ashfield, and there wasn’t much meaningful eye contact. . Wright said they played “people who hurry up, buy a hot dog and look at you weirdly.”
Panchiko disbanded shortly after the 2001 show. The band members spoke to each other occasionally but didn’t see each other often – mostly at friends’ weddings – until an internet mystery brought them together. unexpected in 2021. “It was pretty amazing then,” Wright says. “And I think the following has kind of grown exponentially even since then, and it looks even more amazing now, to be honest.”
In 2016, someone found Panchiko’s CD 2000, titled D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L, in a thrift store in the UK, but couldn’t find information about them online. They posted on 4chan asking for help. From there, the songs and the search for their provenance spread online, “to Reddit forums, Discord channels, private chats and YouTube,” according to an article by Vice about the global effort to find Panchiko. It took four years before Davies, Wright and Shaun Ferreday, 40, who plays bass in the band, finally learned that a dedicated group of internet sleuths were desperately looking for them.
Shocked to suddenly have fans wanting to hear their former band, the members of Panchiko gradually started putting more songs on band camp, then Spotify, then later on cassettes, vinyls and, of course, CDs. They started with D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L and then started adding more. Davies had kept much of his music on CDs and minidiscs neatly hidden in wallets for years (although he no longer owns a CD player), but there were songs they had recorded that none of the group even had more – they had to ask around to see if any friends had any. “We had all of that, and then there was an audience,” says Davies. “And then we didn’t have to do things, we were just finding things and pitching to them, ‘Here, here’s something we did 20 years ago.'”
D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L, despite its name, is not death metal. The Panchiko song that inspired the album title was written in the late 90s, when nu-metal was enjoying mainstream success. The song, which opens the album, is beautifully smooth with clear trip-hop influences. Distorted strings slide easily, punctuated by chopped-up spoken-word samples, a looping melody played through keyboard chimes and electronic beeps. It’s gently moody with serious vocals, reminiscent of a quieter version of Broadcast or Tricky. They hoped the mismatched title would be clever. “It seemed like a good idea at the time to give it a title that would be the opposite of what was going to come out of the speakers,” Davies says.
Some of the early versions of Panchiko songs circulating on the internet were taken from the thrift store CD, which had started to rot. Fans liked the added sound of the distortion. Panchiko has now included these versions on reissues of the music, under titles like D>E>A>T>H>M>E>T>A>L_R>O>T.
Now they are working on recording a new album and preparing for an American tour which will start in October, which is already partly sold out.
A few years before Panchiko recorded his first music, a band called Visual Purple was also going through a similar process in Canton, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. Like Panchiko, Visual Purple broke up shortly after recording their album, and have now found a new following decades later. One key difference: the three members of Visual Purple were only 11 years old.
“We just did it because it was fun,” says Kevin McGorey, now 37, vocalist and guitarist for Visual Purple. “It was just kind of innocent. There was no self-awareness at all. At the time, he didn’t think that in 26 years his tapes would sell out in multiple sets of releases. on Bandcamp. K recordsthe label founded by Beat Happening frontman Calvin Johnson, and whose logo was tattooed on Kurt Cobain’s arm, also distributed copies of the album, which immediately sold out.
K Records posted on Instagram about the album, “and people were kinda freaking out,” says Shelley Salant, a musician who leads a record company called Ginkgo Records, who released the Visual Purple tape in March of this year. “You know, I see why people are freaking out. It’s really good. And it’s pretty amazing that it was made by an 11-year-old kid.
By the time they recorded their self-titled album, McGorey had already been playing guitar for two years. In third or fourth grade, he brought a guitar to school to play Lola for his class (“I was really into the Kinks,” McGorey says). His father, Chris McGorey, said his teacher liked him so much that he brought McGorey into the staff room to do an encore for the faculty.
Visual Purple was McGorey’s first band, with his friends Paul Rambo on bass and Matt Carlson on drums, and their biggest gigs were at the sixth-grade talent show and their Dare graduation ceremony ( a photo from the Dare show serves as the cover image for the album), where they played almost all of the original songs except Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall (which a teacher tried to cut, in because of anti-education lyrics, says McGorey’s father).
“I thought they were very original,” says Chris McGorey, a musician himself. Chris McGorey, who describes himself as “the George Martin of Visual Purple”, recorded the trio in 1996 with “a decent mic” and the four-track tape recorder he had previously used for his own projects. “I was extremely impressed that they wrote all their own material,” he says. “It was a raspy, happy sound. Kevin was singing unfiltered, straight from the pre-teen’s heart!
In 2016, McGorey’s father dug up the tapes (“I’m one of those people who keep everything in hopes that it might be unleashed on the world, at some point,” he says) and gave them to him. Then in 2020, during the pandemic, McGorey decided to put the songs on YouTube. Sallant, a friend of McGorey’s, heard them and had the idea to release them as cassettes. There was no Visual Purple reunion gig tied to the release (McGorey still plays music professionally in Detroit, but Rambo and Carlson have moved on), but internet buzz has spread, including a recommendation of Cryptophasia, a music newsletter written by Jenn and Liz Pelly, twin sisters and music journalists in New York. The Pellys have described Visual Purple’s music as “outrageously sick raw noise pop”.
Visual Purple’s album name and title refer to Bill Nye the Science Guy, and the song titles are simple subjects: Ghost, Sneakers, Fur Coat. On Glue, a soulful pop song reminiscent of Guided By Voices (a fact seen on the Bandcamp page description), McGorey describes a predicament: “I was just fooling around, but now I’m stuck with this glue / The glue is all over me / The glue take that off me Noise, a song about the band themselves and an irate neighbor, starts strong with an intriguing melody over a slightly distorted guitar, before picking up speed with rustling drums and layers of grungy guitars.Looks like it could fit comfortably on C86, the 1986 NME compilation that represented a pivotal moment in indie music.
Visual Purple’s album is slated for another cassette release and may eventually see a vinyl release as well. But there’s no additional material to come – it was their one and only recording. “It’s not like they have another secret album,” Sallant says. But McGorey has been playing music continuously in the decades since Visual Purple’s disbandment, most recently releasing songs as Vinny Moonshine, on a label called Metaphysical powers. And he found inspiration for his current musical career by releasing his oldest material. “People’s reactions seem like a real joy, so I like that,” McGorey says.
For the members of Panchiko, there’s a similar sense of revelation that comes from connecting with fans in a way that wouldn’t have been possible when their music was originally released. “I think we have more connection with the fans,” Ferreday says. “Before, we had no connection with the fans. We didn’t even know they were there. Because we know they are there and we talk to them all the time, you care more.
“It’s a position that a lot of people in bands would kill to be in,” says Wright. “And we don’t want to mess it up.”
“We always realize it’s a privilege,” says Davies. “And we owe so much to those people who invest their time in loving what we do.”