Palace – Interview – 2016

Considerable hype is forming around Palace, winning musical fans from all walks of life. Their smart indie sound first showed its face in 2014, becoming a mainstay of cool emerging bands. Fast-forward a couple of years and the four-piece got signed to Fiction Records, have a couple of EP’s under their belt, and have supported the likes of Jamie T and Ghostpoet on their travels. At the beginning of November the band will be dropping their debut album So Long Forever, which we are extremely excited about, so ahead of their release we spoke to lead singer Leo to find out more about the band.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in London and then moved down to a tiny little village in East Sussex not that far from Brighton. I’ve lived there since I was four years old till about 20.

Do you think where you lived has influenced your music and how?
Possibly – I am always interested in writing about things to do with the outdoors, trying to get nature into my lyrics. So perhaps subconsciously, living in the countryside has had an influence.

What kind of music were you brought up on?
All sorts, my mum and dad had very good taste in music. In the car, there was always a lot of Led Zepplin, Joni Mitchel, lots of The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Lots of classic 60s music like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. Astral Weeks by Van Morison featured hugely when I was younger, and it is still one of my favourite albums ever.

Can you remember the first album you bought/owned?
The first album I bought myself was Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio. I would have been about 9/10 years old and I went to Woolworths and they said I couldn’t buy it as I need an adult with me, because of the Parental Advisory sticker, so I asked some random 18-year-old to get it for me. I was obsessed with ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ after seeing it on Top of the Pops. I then went through a big faze of Queen, for some reason, buying load of their cassettes.

How did Palace form?
We are all old friends and have known each other for a very long time. We have all been very much into music but never played as a band together. Me and Matt, out drummer, one day decided we have got to get this going. So we originally did it just as a bit of fun, everyone was doing different things and working at the time. We got our friend Robert on guitar and my brother Wilby involved who had never played the bass, playing these songs that I had written on my own. We played one gig at an open mic night, very much still all for fun, and the people’s reaction was absolutely crazy – it was like nothing we had ever imagined. They were saying we had to pursue this. From then we started to believe that maybe we were onto something good. Before anyone heard our music, we had no idea if the music was any good. It was all down to those twenty-five people or so at this tiny little venue in Camberwell, London who said we were alright. We then got picked up after our second ever gig when we were supporting one of the guys for Smashing Pumpkins, one of our favourite bands – it was all hard to process at the time because we were so wrapped up in it and it was all very exciting.

Can you remember your first jam; how was it?
We actually have video footage of it. It’s pretty terrible, but funny. It’s the perfect indication of where we had come from and how it all started. I didn’t have a guitar tuner and had hardly been in a band, the drummer had never been in a band – it was a bit of a shambles but fun. We brought a load of beers in and had a scuzzy jam. There was no thought to try and make it big, it was just for us.

Is there a story behind the name?
Wilby, who does all our artwork and is a bit of a creative wizard, was in the band for our first two EP’s. He came up with the name after months and months of trying to get one to stick. He texted as a joke one day, Palace, and I was like “shit, yes that is the one”. It doesn’t really mean anything but it just feels right for us. We owe so much to Wilby, he’s like the band muse if there was ever one.

What are the band’s main influences?
The two people who had the sound we wanted to mesh to create our sound was Jeff Buckley and Wu Lyf. Matt and I have always been obsessed with Jeff Buckley and all his live stuff. The power, emotion and drama of his songs is something we would love to emulate even just a tiny bit. We wanted to borrow the epicness of Wu Lyf’s music. We also love John Martyn and John Fahey who have weird guitar tunings and can tell a story with their guitar. There are so many different people – someone called Karen Dalton and Fairport Convention. Will Dory, our bassist, is into lots of very old reggae.

Tell us a bit about So Long Forever?
We didn’t really go into it with a theme or anything like that. It was only when we were recording the album, sat back to listen to the songs and then realise what the theme was. The album is very much about loss – there is also love and death that play parts in it too. It slightly sums up the last two years, partially in my life. We have a track called ‘So Long Forever’ and the name of it summed up the rest of the album, this idea of a “fuck you, farewell” kind of thing where you say goodbye to something and never see it again. There are more positive songs on there as well.

What has been a musical eye-opener and how has it affected you?
Hearing Jeff Buckley for the first time when I was about 15 years old completely blew my mind and made me want to write songs, after hearing his voice and lyrics. I had always played the guitar but never really sung until hearing the power his voice holds. He is definitely the key figure who inspired me in music. There is also a guitarist call John Fayhe who is a 60s folk musician. He uses weird guitar tunings and after re tuning my guitar to learn one of his songs, four years ago or so, it completely changed my guitar playing. So much so that all the Palace songs are in weird tunings. He’s opened a lot of doors for us.

If you could work with any artist from the past or present, who would it be and what would they bring to Palace?
Rick Rubin because he is an absolute legend and has worked with some of my heroes. It would be really interesting to see what he would do for our sound. Then Stevie Ray Vaughn also to coach my guitar playing.

What music are you listening to at the moment, any recommendations?
I’m listening to Blaenavon, The Growlers. I recently rediscovered The Police. I’m really into this rapper called Denzel Curry. There is also a band called Show Me The Body who are great.

What are your future plans till the end of the year and after?
We are going to New York for the first time, playing a few shows, which is extremely exciting and is going to be amazing. In November we are touring the UK ending with a huge show in London and our album comes out the beginning of November.