A New Band To Watch: Palma Violets, England

Young, talented and unruly:  Palma Violets

Young, talented and unruly: Palma Violets

Out now the debut album ‘180’. Available from: iTunes

Rough Trade’s newest darlings have their sights set high: they’re aiming for the moon.

If there’s a band out there right now that put on a more exciting show than Palma Violets, we don’t know about them.

Quickly becoming renowned for their raucous stage presence – as our most recent review of their Boston Arms show reveals, “as Chili Jesson returns from one of many crowd surfs, he’s almost thrown out of his own gig” – we can’t quite get enough of the Lambeth foursome, so you can only imagine our delight when we discovered, they’ve announced some more tour dates.

Now, the band were already set to head out on the road alongside Django Django, Miles Kane on the NME Awards Tour in February. They also performed at five more intimate shows in March in Exeter, Cambridge, Sheffield, Middlesbrough and Oxford, following the release their debut album ‘180’.

Interview: English band Palma Violets

It might only be late afternoon, but upstairs in Brixton Jamm, there’s already a party raging and the air is thick with smoke and blasting music. Palma Violets, we are tactfully informed, have “made themselves at home.” The band’s keyboardist Pete Mayhew has set to work in a neighbouring room, and is crawling across the floor wielding marker pens; busy fashioning a makeshift sign from a sheet. Bassist Chilli Jesson is also deeply engrossed in the complex task of styling his hair. He abandons his tub of gel cheerfully to greet us with a rather princely bow, before gesturing towards the sofa and slamming shut the door to block out the deafening row next door. He then perches on the arm of the sofa, and attempts to take possession of our phone. “What are these?” he says, peering scrutinisingly at our notes. After a quick skim read, and reassurances we’re just here to chat, Chilli retreats, evidently satisfied. “I think we probably are the worst interviewees ever,” laughs frontman Sam Fryer, by way of introduction.

Palma Violets shouldn’t be so hard on themselves. Despite being slightly chaotic, and having an apparent aversion to staying in the same place for more than three seconds, they are also highly amusing and full of enthusiasm. The UK tour, Chilli tells me, has been “fucking amazing” and he has especially enjoyed converting the sceptics. “People have been coming down saying ‘I’m going to hate them’ and all this hyped shit, and are leaving going, you know, this is actually alright, I can dance around to it. They like it.” “We’re still trying to process what’s actually going on,” adds Sam. “It’s lovely that people want to give us a go.”

Palma Violets seem made for the live show, with crowd-surfing, topless girls, and a particularly humourous moment at their Bestival show where a roadie had to sit on stage holding a cable jack in place. Drummer Will Doyle fondly recalls the set; “that was fun – bit of a Spinal Tap moment with the keyboards.” It’s these infamous on-stage moments that are tallying up the comparisons to a certain famous musical bromance. “The Libertines, for me personally,” Sam tells me, “that kick started everything, the whole sunflower of my musical experience.” “Rough Trade!” yells Chilli, when I ask why Palma Violets receive so many comparisons to a certain other four piece. “I don’t even think we sound like The Libertines,” he growls, pacing around. “At the end of the day,” interrupts Sam, “I think it’s a bad thing if you’re compared to one band, but if you’re compared to a whole range of the greatest bands in history -” He is cut off mid-flow as Chilli begins to reel off musicians. “We’ve been compared to every single band, from The Swell Maps to bloody Echo And The Bunnymen; we’ve been compared to about 50 now.” Will pauses from his task of encouraging Pete to cover the band’s sign in crudely drawn phalluses; “Nobody can put their finger on us, it’s good.”

“We’re still trying to process what’s actually going on”
Chilli has resumed his position on the arm of the sofa, and has also spotted my screen-printed jacket. “The Clash, fucking wicked!” he says, “I’ll buy it off you!” Palma Violets, it turns out, love The Clash, and listened to them constantly whilst growing up. Their high-energy sets, they agree, take a lot of cues from The Clash, far more so than some of the reverb-drenched shoegaze bands they often get compared to. “At the end of the day, we’re more punk I guess,” Sam nods. “We never sit down at the beginning and say ‘we will crowd surf’ though,” he adds, before Chilli interjects. “No, it’s literally just a spur of the moment thing. You just jump around, and the crowd will do everything else, they just need that push.”

The emotion that Palma Violets seem to capture most of all is immediate, full-on, boundless energy. “When we write the songs, we write as if we’re going to perform them, our friends are going to jump around to them” Sam says. “We love the stage. And the chicks too, the chicks are great!” adds Chilli. “But no, for us [the band] was always a live thing. We just wanted everyone to come and see us live and judge us then, rather than listening to 30 seconds of our song on the internet. We don’t like the internet.”

“Music definitely needs shaking up, it’s not in a very good state,” says Pete. Chilli concurs by way of leading a chant. “Change! Change!” The interview threatens to descend into chaos for a second, before Chilli directs it back on track. “No, it’s looking up, like Childhood [tonight’s supporting act] are fucking incredible. There’s a whole wave of new bands now – a year ago there were only about 10 bands getting people excited.” Palma Violets, the band tell me, is largely fuelled by the feeling that music just isn’t the same any more. “I met Sam at Reading festival,” Chilli begins, “and I saw him playing all these great songs and I was like ‘this guy’s a genius’. Turns out he’s not really a genius. But he writes fucking good songs. We all just got together and went for it. Bang. Me and Sam were seeing all these bands and they were just shit. No feeling! That was the main thing. No-one seemed to every give it everything. We formed out of frustration.” Sam interjects “Let’s write some songs with feeling and emotion”. Chilli stifles a laugh. “All the emotions.”

Pete steps back from his sign, proud of the microscopic, almost illegible letters he has used to write the support band, Childhood’s name beneath the heading Palma Violets. I tell Palma Violets I think their sign is cheeky. Unsurprisingly Chilli is delighted. “Cheeky?! We are cheeky!” he grins. “When we ‘co-headlined’ with Savages,” Sam says, trying to maintain order, “it would be like [shouts] “SAVAGES!” and [mumbles] “Palma Violets!” Chaos ensues. “It would be like that!” Chilli shouts, pointing accusingly at the makeshift sign. “That tour was big for us because we’d never really played on a stage before, we’d never had to be professional before.” Fittingly it is at this precise moment that the neighbouring party attempts to infiltrate our side room. “Do you mind!?” Chilli roars, “we’re working here!” As he slams the door decisively, I commend him on his newfound professionalism. “This tour’s just been like a fucking party,” he grins. “They’re our friends, they’ve been our friends for years, and now literally it doesn’t seem to fit. It’s amazing, on tour we’re like ‘yeah!’. We’re like fucking dogs!” Will arches an eyebrow and sighs. “Dogs?” he asks, incredulously. Chilli rephrases. “Excited puppies, we’re like excited puppies.”

Palma Violets, Sam tells me, are halfway through recording the debut, and Steve Mackey is producing it. “He’s a secret genius. He’s excited, we’re excited, and we’ll make a fucking good record,” Chilli gushes. “He let us bring our friends down [to the recording studio] and dance around – as it should be!” Recording, the band tell me, is going well apart from some minor gripes. “I read an interview the other day with some band, and they said, ‘we’re recording our album in St Johns Wood’ [where Palma Violets are also recording] – ‘the food was lovely’. We didn’t get any food, we had to fucking order Dominos,” rants Sam. “Bastards!” Chilli shakes his head and adopts a thick cockney accent. “Ain’t like it used to be. When people talk about the glamorous side of music, they mean that period of getting signed, [that] was the madness side!” “Try and stay unsigned for as long as possible, you get so much free shit.” concludes Will, in a solid piece of career advice.

“Nobody can put their finger on us. It’s good.”
Palma Violets are the somewhat unruly class clowns, so naturally we want to know what they have planned next. Sam reveals a complex, and somewhat surprising plan – the services of Jarvis Cocker. “He’s just got this great talking voice on the radio!” he enthuses. “On Sunday Service, I just really want him to play our song, and just hear him introduce it.” Sam adopts an uncanny impression. “‘This is the Palma Violets with ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’’. I think it would be magical. I’m not forcing him to do it, but Jarvis, if you read this interview, please do it.”

Other than their ‘main aim’ of recruiting Jarvis Cocker, there are other lofty ambitions to be fulfilled. “I’d like to beat Muse to the moon. Space race,” says Sam with a completely straight face. “I think we can, we have more ambition. We already have a song about it; it’s called ‘Neil Armstrong’.” Will points out that the band’s next music video could be on the moon. “You’d need an unlimited budget,” ponders Sam. “Actually, if Rough Trade gave us unlimited budget, I’d shoot our video on the Titanic. Like, underwater.” On that note, our neighbours burst through the doors to survey the finished sign, and my time chatting with Palma Violets draws to a close. “I think we’ve been very honest today,” laughs Chilli, “we’ve told you it how it is.” Chaotic, hilarious, and charismatic, Palma Violets also clearly have ambition and drive – to make entertaining, energy-filled guitar music. However credible their planned mission to the moon might turn out to be, there’s little doubt about it; Palma Violets are about to take off all the same.

Palma Violets debut album ‘180”s tracklist:

1. Best of Friends
2. Step Up for the Cool Cats
3. All the Garden Birds
4. Rattlesnake Highway
5. Chicken Dippers
6. Last of the Summer Wine
7. Tom the Drum
8. Johnny Bagga’ Donuts
9. I Found Love
10. Three Stars
11. 14

How to Appreciate Death Metal

Gojira - L''enfant Sauvage - 2012

Gojira – L’enfant sauvage  album – 2012

Listen beyond the tearing guitars and unusual vocals. Although the rough guitar sound and guttural vocals that permeate much of death metal can take a little getting used to (especially if your ears are accustomed to softer sounds), it’s more than just idiotic noise. There are melodies, patterns, and complexities to be realized and appreciated if enough time is spent soaking it all in.

Watch a live death metal performance. Observe how the group members manipulate the instruments. It can be quite an experience especially since the shows are often small and you can walk near or behind the stage to observe the musicians up close. If you’ve ever tried to play those instruments yourself, you’ll probably be amazed with how skillfully they play. It takes practice and dedication, which challenges the stereotype of metal heads being lazy and careless. You might also be surprised about how energetic some of the performers are.

Remember that in death metal, unlike many other genres, each band almost always writes their own music.  That includes the riffs, drums, solos, and lyrics. Writing your own music demonstrates another dimension of instrumental mastery and talent, as well as making the music more personal and less manufactured.

Don’t take the context and subject matter personally. Death metal lyrics and themes aren’t intended to be taken literally. They document the outer extremes of human experience which other genres don’t dare touch, such as the motivations of serial killers, the activities of the walking dead, death itself, and isolation. Also, many bands will cover other topics not usually associated with death, such as Norse mythology. Many bands explore political and religious issues, and write about historical events.

Keep in mind that some death metal lyrics, especially the gore and brutal varieties, often, but not always, elaborate on the details of extreme acts, including mutilation, dissection, rape and necrophilia. Use your best judgment, including independent online band and album reviews, as well as skimming lyrical content before buying, if you are particularly concerned about the issue.

Be careful not to completely rule out a listening test based solely on lyrical content. Many online music stores have thirty-second clips that can demonstrate the groove of a song, and if the musical content sparks your interest, perhaps the lyrics can be taken more lightly.Look up the lyrics. A common misconception of heavy metal is that all heavy metal bands lyrics are very vulgar, using a lot of bad language. You might be surprised by the complexity and large vocabulary found in the lyrics in some death metal bands.

Look up the lyrics. A common misconception of heavy metal is that all heavy metal bands lyrics are very vulgar, using a lot of bad language. You might be surprised by the complexity and large vocabulary found in the lyrics in some death metal bands

Learn about the sub-genres. Not all death metal is the same. The genre contains many sub-genres that can frequently mix and intermingle with each other. As a result, it may be difficult to ascribe a band under a single sub-genre. Here’s a general guideline to get you started:

  • Blackened – adopts thematic and musical elements of black metal: Akercocke, Behemoth, Belphegor, Dissection, God Dethroned, Firdous Angelcorpse, Sacramentum, Zyklon, Crimson Thorn and many others
  • Brutal: Aborted, Cryptopsy, Blood Red Throne, Deeds of Flesh, Degrade, Deranged, Disavowed, Disgorge, Guttural Secrete, Hate Eternal, Immolation, Internal Suffering, Origin, Skinless, Spawn of Possession, Suffocation, The Genocide Architect, Wormed and many others
  • Death/Doom – slow tempos, melancholic atmosphere, deep growling vocals double-kick drumming: Anathema (earlier works), Asphyx, Autopsy, Disembowelment, My Dying Bride, Swallow the Sun and Winter.
  • Goregrind/Deathgrind – intense, brief, rare guitar solos, more prominent shrieked vocals: Regurgitate, Carcass (earlier work), Terminally Your Aborted Ghost, Dead Infection, Anal Bleeding, Decomposing Serenity, XXX Maniak
  • Melodic – Iron Maiden-esque guitar harmonies and melodies with typically higher-pitched growls: Children Of Bodom (earlier work), Amon Amarth, Arch Enemy, The Black Dahlia Murder, At Odds with God, At the Gates, Carcass (later work), Dark Tranquillity, Desultory, Dethklok, Disarmonia Mundi, Ensiferum, Hilastherion, Hypocrisy, Immortal Souls, Kalmah, Norther, Souls, In Flames (earlier work), Sacrilege, Wintersun, Scar Symmetry, Insomnium, Noumena, Rapture, and Daylight Dies.
  • Symphonic – Eternal Tears of Sorrow, Nightsleep and Septic Flesh
  • Technical/Progressive – dynamic song structures, uncommon time signatures, sometimes includes clean vocals and acoustic guitars, atypical rhythms and unusual harmonies and melodies: The Agonist, Amoral (earlier work), Arsis, Beneath The Massacre, Brain Drill, Cryptopsy, Cynic, Death, Decapitated, Gorguts, Immolation, Job for a Cowboy, Necrophagist, Nile, Ominous, Opeth, Origin, Pestilence, Psycroptic, Sleep terror, Spawn of Possession, The Faceless, Visceral Bleeding, Meshuggah, PsyOpus.
  • Deathcore – Low-tuned guitars, Pigsqueal (bree) vocals, Breakdowns, Includes Metalcore/Punk Elements: All Shall Perish, Betraying the Martyrs, Born of Osiris, Bring me the Horizon (earlier work), CARNIFEX, Chelsea Grin, Cryptopsy (later work), Dr. Acula, Emmure, In Dying Arms, Job for a Cowboy, iwrestledabearonce, KING CONQUER, Knights of the Abyss, Oceano (later work), Suicide Silence, Thy Art is Murder, Upon a Burning Body, Veil of Maya, Whitechapel, and Winds of Plague
Respect the artists. The greatest death metal musicians almost can’t make a living with what they do, and yet the musicians in these bands continue on in spite of their obscurity. Death metal is so non-mainstream that its musicians have to work incredibly hard for their career sales to reach even a million copies (which very few death metal musicians have actually done). Many death metal musicians are highly intelligent people with comprehensive musical training.

Tips:

  • Keep in mind that all genres and sub-genres are under heated debate, so do not adhere to a single definition too seriously.
  • Many excellent death metal bands never had a big record company behind them to support and promote their music. They are hidden treasures. Look around and discover what’s mostly ignored.
  • Many people call Death Metal and other genres with guttural vocals “Screamo”. It is not. Screamo is a sub-genre of Punk.
  • If you’re still convinced it’s just a bunch of noise, and you call yourself a guitarist, download a tablature of just about any Vital Remains song and try to keep up.
  • Another great reference is “Metal : A Headbangers Journey.” It is a great documentary and really shows you how metal has evolved.

Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey OFFICIAL TRAILER

Uploaded on Jul 28, 2011

Banger Films, 2005
dir: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen & Jessica Joy Wise
dop: Brendan Steacy
by: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen & Jessica Joy Wise

Sam Dunn, a 30-year old headbanger-turned anthropologist, sets out on a quest to explore heavy metal’s origins and cultural impact. His mission? To get to the bottom of one burning questions: Why is heavy metal music so beloved by its devoted fans and yet so controversial?

This ground-breaking film examines the history of heavy metal stereotypes and illuminates the truth behind the music. Witness performances and candid interviews with metal icons and members of legendary bands including Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Slayer, Twisted Sister, Motley Cure, Motorhead, Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Ronnie James Dio, Rage Against The Machine and Rush, as well as extremists like Slipknot, Cannibal Corpse and more.

Shot on location in the UK, Germany, Norway, Canada and the US, this documentary is an exhilarating tribute to metal’s dark side, and an outsider’s window into a complex spectacle and fascinating subculture.

 

Black metal documentary from METAL a headbangers journey

Gojira – L’enfant Sauvage album –  playlist