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Interview: Palma Violets

Having formed little more than a year ago and with less than a week to go before they embark on their first UK tour as headliners, everything seems to be falling together nicely for Palma Violets.  They’ve just signed to Rough Trade this year, they’ve played the likes of Bestival and Reading this summer and their first proper single was featured as Zane Lowe’s ‘hottest record in the world’ a few weeks back.

“We’ve never really paid too much attention to the hype, but the Zane Lowe thing was kind of surreal,” says Will, the band’s drummer, “We were all sitting around the radio and couldn’t quite believe what we were hearing.  We knew that he was going to play the single, but he also did a proper little monologue about us before he played it – it was all pretty unbelievable.”

The rest of the four-piece is comprised of Sam Fryer (lead/vox), Chilli Jesson (bass/vox) and Pete Mayhew (keys).   Will, Sam and Pete all went to the same school before deciding to rent out a place in which they could write, rehearse and play live to whoever wanted to see them – “It’s called Studio 180, it’s kind of like our base, I guess.  Upstairs we can work on our own stuff, then in the basement we’ve got quite a good space to put on shows.  It’s not just for us; there have been quite a few local artists who’ve put on things down there.”

In order to afford the rent for their base, Sam and Pete worked together at the British War Museum, and Will got a job as a life-guard, so at least he’s well experienced with diving into crowds of people. “Chilli joined later on,” he continued, “initially, he wanted to be our manager but we needed a bassist more, so he picked it up and we took it from there.”

You can see Studio 180 for yourself in the video for ‘Best of Friends’, a dingy pad to say the least but one that the band can clearly class as home.   They’ll be leaving it behind come the 3rd October when they venture up to the Deaf Institute for the fourth stop on their 22-date October tour.  “We’ve played Deaf a few times,” Will explains, “it’s definitely one of the more memorable venues out there.  I’m a big fan of disco balls so the giant one in the middle of the upstairs room is something I look forward to revisiting!”

Their style has been described as ‘zombie-rock’, a reference to the grungy, driving tone that undercuts all of their songs.  Influence-wise, it’s hard not to recognise the echoes of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Iggy Pop, especially in ‘Tom the Drum’, which is arguably their best track thus far.  I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t included on their forthcoming debut album which is due sometime around February 2013, just after the Christmas rush.

Instead of counting their chickens, the band seem very modest when asked about this prospect – “We never expected to come this far this fast and I still don’t think we’re as good as people make us out to be.  We need to work on a couple of songs, but everything should be ready for early next year.  This tour should help us to work out exactly how we want each track to sound in the studio.  It might well be the case that we strip some back when it comes to recording.”

As for the name, they obviously like confectionary from the 1970s – “We didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously and when somebody asked what we were called, Sam just said Palma Violets and after that it kind of stuck.  At the end of the day, we weren’t too fussed about what we were called.”

Whatever their collective name may be, Will, Pete, Sam and Chilli have carved out an opportunity for themselves to become big players in the next wave of UK indie bands.   If they get the right producer, the album could be a very interesting release indeed.  Don’t get me wrong, they’ve managed to get themselves into a very credible position already, but they don’t seem content to rest on their laurels.

You’re definitely not wrong in thinking that guitar rock is an overly saturated genre, but that is purely testament to the fact that Palma Violets have managed to break ahead of the ensuing pack of denim-jacketed wolves.   Let’s see how far they’ll go.

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