Interview with Palace

We spoke to frontman Leo Wyndham and drummer Matt Hodges of Palace before the show: So, you guys have known each other for a long time, do you think that has had an influence on your bond as a band?

Leo: Yeah, definitely. I guess the chemistry with how we play together and being relaxed and having fun – it all plays a big part. We’ve known each other since we were like 13 or 14.

Matt: It’s just like being on tour with your brothers, you know? You can say anything, do anything.

With regards to describing your ‘sound’, words such as ‘bluesy’ and ‘indie’ are often used. How would you describe it?

Leo: I guess we would say… kind of atmospheric. Atmospheric rock with a vintage twist, maybe? Or something like that.

Very niche!

Leo: It’s quite niche. Sex rock? Haha. No, I don’t know, something like that.

Matt: It’s hard to put it into a bracket. People like to be able to stick it into a category but sometimes it’s not that easy. We take lots of influences from different genres and musicians.

Do you prefer the freedom of not being ‘pigeon-holed’ to one genre, so to speak?

Matt: I don’t know, it’s just not something we think about at all. The songs come out how they come out, and there’s never any intentions of making it be like a certain genre or sounding like someone else.

In the past you’ve been likened to a number of musicians/ artists such as Foals, Fleet Foxes and Jeff Buckley. What’s your opinion on these comparisons?

Leo: I find it all kind of weird. I mean some of it, like the Foals thing, is quite off the mark. Even though we love them, we don’t think we really sound much like them.

Matt: We are huge Foals fans so it’s a massive compliment, but they’re so different I don’t know where that even came from.

Leo: Yeah – and maybe instrumentally there is a lot of influence from Jeff Buckley. We all love his music, so that’s definitely in there. I think that’s more valid. Jeff Buckley, we’ll take that.

Matt: Yeah, happy with that haha.

Leo: We’ve had worse comparisons before. Someone said we sounded like Morrissey – that’s kind of weird, we’re not that.

Matt: I don’t think you sound anything like Morrissey haha.

Leo: No, no.

Do you ever make intentional homages to your favourite artists – or is it subconscious influence?

Leo: No, I think it’s subconscious, it’s all stuff that we grew up listening to. I mean this is not really an influence but we all love the same kind of music – me and Matt went through this huge ‘Smashing Pumpkins’ grungy stage when we were like 15. You accidentally end up writing something that sounds similar to that vibe. But we never sit down and think “let’s write a song that sounds like someone” or anything like that.

We noticed the differences between the single “Bitter” and its re-upholstered album version. You seem to have changed quite a lot and come a long way from the SoundCloud days. How is it having a good studio to produce your music in now?

Leo: Yeah, I mean the first one we did ourselves…no we didn’t. We’d never recorded anything really and you can hear us playing, we’re pretty… shit… genuinely.

Matt: We’d only played the song about three times hahaha.

Leo: Yeah. But, it’s really scrappy though – if you listen to the instruments,

Matt: Yeah, it basically was a demo.

Leo: You can just tell with the new one that we’re better at playing and tighter. But then its produced in a better way, I think.

Matt: All the songs in the first EP were only supposed to be demos. We were playing thinking “oh it’s fine, ‘cos we’ll record it properly” and then we never did haha.

Leo: Yeah exactly. It goes to show sometimes you can produce things in sexy studios but sometimes it’s just the stuff that is a bit craggy and rough around the edges that has feeling. People always respond to those early recordings we did really intensely. Like ‘I Want What You Got’ we basically did ourselves, in our own studio and you can hear it is a bit underproduced. It’s more accessible, I think. If something’s too clean and overproduced it can kill the emotion in the song.

Do you think the way you perform your music has changed with your transition to a more layered and well produced sound?

Leo: Yeah, I guess it’s just more confident. In the early days, we’d never really been in a band, I would just stand there and wouldn’t speak between songs. Basically, you would just see my hand and my mouth moving. Then you just get more confident, learn to enjoy it, get into it and feed off the audience. Yeah, the early shows are so funny, you can see we’re really wooden. I mean, I still get really nervous. (To Matt) You don’t get that nervous, do you?

Matt: Yeah, I still do but…

Leo: …You just get wasted.

Matt: Yeah, I’m just so drunk haha.

Do you find songwriting and performing quite a cathartic process?

Leo: Yeah, definitely. I think It’s an amazing outlet to put your voice and your words out there, because I wouldn’t necessarily have had any other ways to do that. It’s weird because when you write a song that’s very emotional and sensitive, it can be very painful and intense when you first sing it. Then overtime you almost cure yourself of that thing because you’ve sung it so many times. The performance is a healing process. You contain something and then you can throw it out there in a very safe environment where you have the cover/blanket of the instruments.

Would you say that’s the case with your new single “No Other”?

Leo: Yeah that’s a really intense song. It’s about going through some difficult things a couple of years ago and meeting someone that just changed everything. It’s the intense feeling and expression of loving someone and it healing you.

Do you find it quite prying when people ask you about the substance behind your music and the subjects you’re writing on?

Leo: No! No, it’s fine, because in a way it’s re-visiting it and thinking about where the songs came from. Sometimes, weirdly, you almost can’t quite remember haha. But yeah you write the song in a moment and within the feeling of what you’re going through at the time. The time goes on and it takes on a different meaning. That one’s (“No Other”) very heartfelt and I think most of them have a real feeling of putting something out there and being emotional. I think as a band that’s what we connect to, making the audience feel something. You can see that when we play – sometimes people in the crowd are crying at songs.

Do you produce the lyrics followed by the music? Or vice versa?

Leo: Like which way around? I think it’s the music but it’s all at the same time in a way, because you’ll come up with chords and then very quickly it will give you a feeling so you write it almost at the same time. But sometimes, you’ll be experiencing something and you’ll want to sit down and write very specifically. Some people can do that weird thing of writing lyrics and then fitting that to music – I can’t do that, that’s weird.

Is there a reason why you chose to make your October single “Heaven Up There” longer than your other tracks?

Matt: I think it was the melody and the chords. It started with that amazing intro and it felt like such a good opportunity to just go for it. I mean, right from the start everyone felt like it deserved to be really long. Especially because there’s so much in the industry about having to make sure songs are short because people have got short attention spans, or that it has to go on the radio and it has to be under a certain amount of time. It got played on Radio 1 the day it came out – the whole 7 minutes 20.

Leo: And everyone said, “you gotta cut it down, you gotta cut it down” and we were like “…no”.

We were watching the music video for “No Other” and found it really interesting; we also noticed a similar style with your album art. Is it important for you to keep up a certain aesthetic?

Leo: Yeah, we’re really into drawing, art and making films. So, the aesthetic side of things is very important to us. My little brother does all the art work, the paintings and covers. Actually, in the first EP, that’s his self-portrait. We really take that stuff very seriously – it all has to match up in some way. That animation was done by a friend of ours as well, he actually just came up with that idea.

Matt: We really liked his style, we thought it was almost child-like and simple. It felt like a really good way of not doing something too cheesy, because it is a love song, but something quite innocent and simple. It is weirdly poignant in places like it’s quite sweet.

Leo: You can do the music but then being able to do things like come up with videos and the artwork, it’s just really fun.

Matt: And it kind of slightly changes the music as well.

Leo, does your brother draw inspiration from the music as he produces the album art to accompany it?

Leo: Yeah. Yeah, definitely – he gets a feeling. He used to be in the band as our first ever bass player, and he’d never played it before. He plays on the recording of “I Want What You Got” and “Veins” and a few others. But yeah, we just didn’t have anyone to play and I was like: “please will you play bass?”. He used to come to the house two hours late.

We’re all highly anticipating the new album. Any comments on it?

Leo: Well, annoyingly we can’t say exactly when it comes out but it’s not that far away. Although, there’s a few new songs coming out before then so you’ll have new stuff, like tasters.

Matt: Try before you buy haha.

Leo. Yeah exactly. But, the new album? I think there are a lot of good songs, this one’s got really epic ups and downs. I mean, I really love “Heaven Up There” but then there’s one Matt loves called…I don’t even know if we can say but fuck it… “All in My Stride” – which we’re actually playing tonight.

Matt: Yeah, it’s probably my favourite on the new album.

Is it quite similar to the last album ‘So Long Forever’ or more of a departure from it?

Matt: It’s more… a natural progression. It’s just a bit more sophisticated.

Leo: Yeah.

Matt: It feels like we’ve upgraded from beer to wine. There’s just more detail in it that you can really hear. The feel of it’s the same but I think the songs are better. We’re really proud of the new album it’s gonna be awesome and we just can’t wait for you to hear it. It’s crazy how long it all takes, it’s just politics more than anything else.

Leo: Yeah, we always want to get everything out.

Matt: The last song that’s going be on the new album we finished demoing in December 2017. So, at that point we had all the songs.

Leo: Yeah, how mad is that?

Matt: It takes time. But we hope that you like it.

Leo: Oh my god yeah, we almost wanna leak it to the fans, just put it out there, but the label would kill us!

Do you find it quite hard to follow what the label dictates?

Leo: I guess we don’t know much about strategies and all the certain technical stuff that you have to do. But our label very much lets us do our own thing a lot of the time. We don’t do anything we don’t want to and we’re very much in control of the visual side of things. Our label is good like that, they trust us.

What kind of music are you keeping up with at the moment?

Leo: I’m listening to someone called Townes Van Zandt at the moment. Low-key obsessed, he’s the best person in the entire world. Will change your life. He’s like 70s, country-folk. Listen to the song called “She Came and She Touched Me”. It’s like so beautiful, mate, his lyrics!

Matt: I’m trying to remember my Spotify playlist at the moment. I’ve been listening to that Parcels album quite a lot.

Leo: Oh, yeah.

Matt: It’s quite cool. Do you know those guys? Parcels? They’re an Australian band. They’re just amazing musicians and their production…

Leo: Oh, and Franc Moody as well, listen to some Franc Moody – they’re amazing.

So, as a last question, if you could collab with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?

Leo: Maybe…Sam Cooke? I just saw a documentary about him as well. It’s so good, it’s amazing.

Matt: That’s a really good call.

Leo: I don’t know how we would work…

Matt: Well I think I would say the same because we would need both of us to try and persuade him. “Sam, sorry about my friend Leo…”

Leo: …But listen to this!

Matt: Good cop, bad cop. Or else bad cop, bad cop.

Leo: Kidnap haha.

Written for The Mic Magazine: Nottingham in Collaboration with Becky Waldock, February 2019

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