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Q&a Palma Violets - "Hype? We took it as a joke" the band on success, songs & stage invasions

Q&a Palma Violets - "Hype? We took it as a joke" the band on success, songs & stage invasions
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Having released their debut album 180 in a blaze of expectation in February, Palma Violets have spent the rest of the year cementing their reputation. From raucous gigs that end in stage invasions, to playing fans’ house parties after those shows, the Londoners have made it their mission to get close to their audience as possible – not just at home but around the globe. Ahead of a spiritual homecoming at this weekend’s Reading And Leeds Festivals (23-15 August), co-frontman Chilli Jesson (right) takes stock.

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How the devil are you?

“I’m not too bad. We’ve just come off a long stretch so it’s nice to come home for a bit.”

You seem to have around the globe in the last few weeks.

“It’s been crazy. We literally circled the world in two weeks. It’s brilliant though, Korea and Japan were amazing. I never thought I’d go to those places. The thing that amazes me is that we’re quite a London-based band so for it to go over there, to have thousands of people turning up and everyone getting into it, is amazing. It’s such a different crowd. They’re so appreciative of artists coming over. You go and meet everyone and it’s quite incredible. They have a lot of respect for musicians there unlike anywhere else in the world – especially London! It’s like being in the 70s, or I’d imagine it to be anyway.”

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And by contrast you were also just in America, where there’s lots of bands. How was that?

“We love America. It feels like a second home now, I suppose it becomes that for a lot of groups. We just played a place called the Echoplex in LA, which is probably one of my favourite all time shows. There was just that feeling, that energy. The last time we went over the record wasn’t out, this time everyone seemed to know the words. It was just a perfect evening and we played with a really good band called Twin Peaks, a really good garage group from Chicago. It was just of those perfect gigs. Chaos in a room!”

In the past, well-tipped British bands have in the US from the weight of expectation. Have you encountered any of that?

“It’s worked really well for us. There is a thing with British buzzbands going to America and the media there being quite hostile towards them, for some reason all the interviewers we meet say we’ve bypassed that. I’m not really sure why, but it’s pretty incredible. There seems to be a mutual respect. I’m just going by what they’re telling me and the kids turning up. All the shows were sold out and from what I’ve heard usually it takes a lot longer to build a reputation in the US, but it’s going really well over there.”

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Any idea why?

“The thing we did in America is the same we did here. We made a point of it. Usually bands from Britain go over and play those famous New York clubs. We’d play the American version of [Palma’s own south London rehearsal space/ venue] Studio 180 throughout America, spaces set up really cheaply by kids. We’d do the US tour and then play house parties on the days off. We’re young enough so that sort of thing is great for us. They’re all our age. There’s a very personal connection with the audience, which is great. That’s all I ever wanted from a band. So we just tried to build it in the same way we did here.”

Is there a sense that people are getting you there because there isn’t the same hype?

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You might have seemed a bit scenester/ post-Libertines when you appeared in the UK, whereas musically you’ve probably have more in common with say The Fall?

“The ethos that build around the band, the free shows at the beginning, that was the punk ethos, but music-wise you’re right. There is that element. The amazing thing is we haven’t really had our songs for long because it was all so quick. Now we’ve only really learnt to play the songs, seriously I’m not joking! People usually go for years playing the same songs before they get signed and they know what they’re doing. We’d been a bit tongue in cheek until now. We’re really enjoying it in a completely new way. Especially having played the festivals. You can’t be too ramshackle when you’re trying to hold an audience together. It’s worked out really well for us.”

So at the Reading And Leeds Festivals this weekend we can expect a fault-less, Bon Jovi-esque display?

[laughs] “Absolutely! I can’t wait. Reading is such a special place for all of us. That’s where we met and all our friendships were formed. We played there last year with one single out and people turned up! That was incredible, but this time round we’ve got a whole album. It’s the festival we’ve been most looking forward to playing. You know what Reading crowds are like, they’re the best crowds in the world. I went there every year from the age of 15. It’s a really special one.”

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You follow that with a UK tour this autumn. Again people know the album now…

“That’s a great thing. We’re writing some new stuff which is sounding great so we want to try out new things and make it really interesting. I want to make it really special, really make an effort. Pick support bands that will be great for the vibe. Expect a proper rock’n’roll show. It’s easy to cop out and do it nice and easy like every other guitar band. I really want to make a point of doing it well.”

The end of your shows seem to follow a pattern – there’s a massive stage invasion – are the nation’s bouncers looking forward to the tour?

[laughs] “The less bouncers the better! We ask for less bouncers and no barriers, it’s the best way to do it. I should get my mates to come and bounce instead.”

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Do bouncers sigh when they see you rolling into town, thinking “it’s going to be a busy night”?

“We had one night up north somewhere, this guy really didn’t like it. There was a massive fight… it’s fucking great looking back at it. The kids come up and stage and they revolt, I love that sort of thing.”

So the more professional Palma Violets aren’t bored of the stage invasions then?

“Oh no! I love that, people are getting into it. Gigs for me were always a release, that how it should be. People come down and they like the music, there’s no better feeling than going to a great rock’n’roll show.”

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When you last toured the UK you were boasting how you’d play gigs, then go and play house parties. Six months on are Palma Violets still keeping up the pace or have you calmed down in your old age?

“Oh no, not at all. We’ve just got better at it, man! Especially with all the flying and shit. You’re sat on a plane for hours, so you sleep there and then go out. We just hang out with the fans, they know where all the best stuff is anyway.”

You mentioned you were planning to try out so new stuff, so have you had any thoughts of where you’re going next?

“Writing is hard on the road, but I’ve just been given this guitar by Jeannette [Lee] who runs our label and it’s sparked something. I’m writing loads of stuff. I’ve always liked the privacy of my own home before, but I’ve really enjoyed it this time around. It’s been really productive. We’re going to take a couple of weeks off really soon to go in Studio 180 to go through these new ideas. There will be new songs ready for the tour.”

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By rights if you started off as a ramshackle punk band, you’re second album surely has to be prog rock?

“Absolutely! More chords, more notes, a lot more synthesizer in there. You kno the deal!” [laughs]

Finally, looking ahead. After all the new band polls and the weight of expectation at the start of the year, do you feel Palma Violets are in a good place right now?

“Oh man, we never listened to any of that hype stuff. We took it as a joke. If you take it seriously you die out. We took everything with a pinch of salt and just rode over that hype thing that happened. Especially in London! The record is out now, it’s doing what it needs to do and it’s touched people in the right way. Finally we’re over that, I feel like now we’ve established ourselves a little bit. It’s a good feeling right now.”

Paul Stokes@Stokesie

For more head to Palmaviolets.co.uk.


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