Share a hotel room with Palma Violets for half an hour and then say there’s no life left in rock and roll.
Mention the Vans Warped Tour and they’ll immediately be finalising plans to tour their own Rock N Roll Circus in the US, on one bus, with Parquet Courts, The Ming City Rockers and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros invited along for the ride.
Casually ask about alternative recording locations and within a split second their minds will wander to a dusty Cuban street, writing songs with Father Christmas, the haze of local distractions as tangible in the air as Austin’s pop-up barbecues.
Stick some Champions League football on in the background and hell, you might as well give up altogether.
It’s true, Palma Violets are an uncontainable bundle of energy. They burst into our Media Lounge at this year’s South By Southwest Festival like a litter of puppies let loose from the back seat of a car, eager to sniff out and investigate what games there are to play in every corner of their new surroundings.
This energy is all over debut album ‘180‘; an irresistible collection of British youth anthems in the grandest of Rough Trade traditions, which delivered a Top 20 place on the UK charts back in 2013. On May 4th, they return with ‘Danger In The Club‘ – after two years on the road it’ll tell the story of a band which eventually found the time to back up, but not calm down.
“We’ve been working on this record for about eight or nine months,” the group told us during an exclusive interview. “First album was about a month, this one is over three different places, three different times. It’s all come together. We fucked up basically because we played all these shows and we never wrote a song. So we were playing these ten songs and loads of different covers, and then we got off the road and we didn’t have any new material. And as a band you’re nothing without songs. So as soon as we started writing again it all became a lot easier.”
“It took a long time to actually learn how to be in a room and write together. We went out to a farm in Wales and spent about a month there and by the end of that we’d managed to get about eight songs together. The first one is just capturing a moment in time, everyone’s first record should be like that. But with this second record we went in with John Leckie and we were rehearsed before we went in. We thought about what the songs needed, what songs we’d throw away and not work on, and we came out with twenty really good songs.”
It’s hard to begrudge them getting lost in the touring bubble. To witness Palma Violets on stage is to witness them truly come alive. It’s in the spotlight, tight and together, where they really make sense, really look at home, and where their fire burns brightest. “You just play on instinct,” they say. “When we started it was all about the live show. Every week we’d play in our basement to our friends – we’d gear up to that moment, that’s all we thought about. And when we came to record the album, well both albums, it’s just how we play it live.”
More shows have already followed the South By visit, and they’ll be back in the States soon for another tour, next time ready to poke at the underbellies of brand new towns. “We leave on the 29th and then we’re back in May for a month. It’s a big tour. We’re going to do New Orleans, loads of wicked places, places we haven’t done before. We’ve just done the east and west coast, we haven’t done the south.”
‘Danger In The Club’ as an LP is very much a collaborative process, built from ‘fucking campfire songs’ into the breakneck sound which is now very much Palma Violets’ own. “Me and Chilli will have an idea, a vision or something and then we’ll bring it in,” Sam Fryer explains. “Normally if one person has got the idea the other person will have the belief and they’ll actually end up understanding the song a lot more than the person who’s writing it.”
“And then Pete and Will come in and make the thing actually work,” Chilli Jesson adds. Its title-track right now stands as the thing they are most proud of, as far as Chilli is concerned anyway. “Musically there’s so much but it sounds so simple,” he says. “But it’s a song I never thought we’d be able to write, let alone play live.”
2012 saw them labelled as ‘The Best New Band In Britain’ by NME when the brilliant single ‘Best Of Friends‘, wrapped up with a contemptuous glint in its eye, thrillingly announced their arrival. Nearly three years on and with the second album primed and ready to launch, the question of legacy is already peeping back through the clouds – as they say themselves, things move fast these days.
“You keep making great records, not records that are ‘of their time’,” the band tell us. “We want the record to be relevant in twenty years time. It’s a very transient moment we’re in as well. Lots of stuff up in the air in the age we’re living in, so it’s a good time to have an opportunity to change things. Stick to what we know, that’s the main thing. There’s a new style of music every week, a lot of stuff will slip by the wayside in this age.”
The London four-piece are a reminder, just when it’s needed, of the joy of rock and roll. A reminder that it is still the best gig in town. That it provides a vehicle to escape from normality and to realise dreams. A reassurance that there will always be a beating heart behind good old guitars, drums and keys when bands such as Palma Violets are driving that message home. For the wider world, it might just be this which proves to be their ultimate legacy.
More immediately for us though, it’s all about getting the Ei8htball Media Lounge furniture back in its right place.