[An L.A. native, L.A. Weekly columnist Jeff Weiss edits Passion of the Weiss and hosts the Shots Fired podcast. Find him online at passionweiss.com, follow him on Twitter and also check out his archives.]
Sometimes, the name says it all. Dream Panther are part chillwave haze, part carnivorous attack. A bong rip buoyed by a glass of iced tea to snap you from stoned lethargy. A hypnagogic blur of multiple genres, caffeinated schemes and shifting formations.
Don’t ask them to describe themselves. Both Gregg Sheran and Caleb Stone refuse to subscribe to any musical ideology or singular aesthetic.
“Describing music in 2015 is the worst,” groans the Bay Area–bred Stone, the beat producer and drummer who joined the band a few years ago, after several au-ditions that didn’t quite take.
“There are so many types of music. I want to make dope, lasting shit and make bread,” counters the West Adams–raised Sheran, who founded the band five years ago as a solo bedroom-production experiment — mainly because he couldn’t find any musicians he wanted to play with. “If it’s chillwave, reggae, rock, electronic or trance, so be it.”
Over the last several years, Dream Panther have been quietly inescapable, playing DIY and underground shows and the occasional backyard house party — filling the gaps between early Toro y Moi, Flight of the Conchords and Atlanta’s Awful Records. Their songs span gauzy instrumental séances, blissful synth-pop and raunchy, experimental rap. The latter is the predominant mode of their welcomingly raw and weird new EP, MVP, featuring local cult rappers Antwon and Speak, trap metallurgist Trinidad James and rising Atlanta trickster Father.
Several Dream Panther remixes for Sheran’s first cousin, the OVO-signed iLoveMakonnen, have cracked six figures on SoundCloud. Makonnen’s success snapped the band out of inertia in the wake of their last release, 2013’s wondrously chill Beyoncé’s Child.
“I learned so much just from watching [Makonnen] and his growth. He’s so positive and lacks pretension,” Sheran says, as a May Day parade roars by, a few blocks from Stone’s DTLA apartment. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist but realized through him that you need to just put stuff out, move on, grow and be positive. I still have so much unreleased stuff. I’m sleeping on myself hard.”
“You need to rework them into EDM superbangers so you can really get cash,” Stone jokes.
“I don’t know about that,” Sheran says wryly.
The pair’s banter is ripe for a Pineapple Express sequel. Stone has a restless drummer’s energy and sardonic wit, and constantly digs for obscure new rap on the Internet. Sheran, whose family hails from Belize, is as laid-back as a Sunday afternoon. He sports a tropical colored snapback and Adventure Time T-shirt. He ignores the radio and most pop culture.
Both are in their mid-20s and boast the eclecticism of those scarcely able to remember the era before the Internet. For now, Dream Panther operate as a catch-all for both the band itself, which may or may not have a third member, and each member’s solo productions. (Stone has also produced for Kali Uchis, Speak and Boogie).
“There’s a satellite bassist who may exist somewhere,” Stone says. “We’re under the impression that he is alive, but you never know with these kind of guys. He may have spontaneously combusted.”
“He’s floating around somewhere,” Sheran adds.
The production duo is plotting a busy year. There’s a sequel to Beyoncé’s Child, which will be called Beyoncé’s Other Child, Beyoncé’s Second Child, Booty Mountain or Memory Drunk. They’re debating starting a label called Sheran Stone. Then there’s the water company that Sheran wants to start with his cousin.
“I’m just making music for the kids,” Stone says. “I want to make high school more bearable.”
“Exactly,” Sheran nods. “I want the kids to be stoked on what we do and buy our water, music and shirts.”
“We have a Big Cartel store, a Bandcamp and a PayPal,” Stone notes, laughing. “Our business practices leave a lot to be desired.”