Palma Violets: “We had to learn how to be friends again”

Lambeth’s Palma Violets are currently gearing up to release one of the most hotly anticipated second albums of the year, the refined, bombastic and young at heart Danger in the Club. Set for release on May 4, the record sees the Palmas take the core sound from their stellar debut, 180, and build on it by means of hectic grandiosity, raw power and a sense of newfound raw energy. We recently spoke to co-frontman Sam Fryer about the upcoming record, as well as life on the road and the (strained) relationships between band members which preceded the recording process. 

Sam Fryer is in a good mood. “Good morning!” bellows the Palma Violets co-frontman over the phone, even if it was lunchtime a couple of hours ago. We swiftly begin our discussion by discussing the concept behind upcoming album Danger in the Club, a record the band are “extremely proud of”. Following some drawn-out thought, Fryer decides that the aim was to “make a record full of songs we really wanted to play live, as well as making a record we all loved.” It’s a pretty straightforward reason for wanting to record an album, yet the album (which was recorded in Wales with legendary producer John Leckie) almost never happened, as Fryer later tells us. “Wales really helped with getting us out of the concrete cities” he starts, before adding, “We were quite distant from eachother and needed to know where we stood”. He concludes his explanation by reassuringly saying that the band is “better than ever before now”. The inter-band relationships were so strained at one point that they couldn’t even speak to one another, something which you could say is common when you spend so much time on the road together. It’s inevitable that you eventually get sick of your bandmates, but Palma Violets overcame it and went on to produce one of the finest records of 2015 – Danger in the Club.

Our focus shifts to two of its songs in particular, the drowsy pub-rocker Peter & the Gun and future indie anthem Gout! Gang! Go! The former, their longest song to date at just less than five minutes, was conceived at Rockfield Studios in Wales together with the legendary producer John Leckie. With Peter & the Gun, the aim was to embrace influences such as Dr Feelgood, Brinsley Schwarz and Graham Parker, all of whom were notable acts in the notorious pub rock scene of the 1970s. All three bring with them a ramshackle, chaotic element which eventually made a heavy mark on Danger in the Club, with Peter & the Gun’s shout-along outro one of the best examples. The short-but-sharp Gout! Gang! Go! was also thought up in Wales, having received its live premiere a couple of months later during a European tour (it is still a set regular 18 months later). It’s one of those songs which just screams summer anthem, its boundless energy and simple format mixing in well with the repeated line of, “take me to the wine,” which is paired with references to the Devil, pots and pans and genies. Moving away from Studio 180 in Lambeth (where they recorded their debut album and cut their teeth in the live scene) ended up being a good thing for the band, even if two songs were recorded at their former home-come-studio (further work was also done at the Doghouse in Henley-on-Thames). “We’d already left 180 and written most songs in remote Wales, which is where the record was really born” begins the talkative Fryer, before telling us about how they actually ended up there in the first instance. “We wanted some more songs, and our tour manager (Milo) recommended us a place in Wales. Without any hesitation, we got on a bus and went straight there”. Upon arrival, they were greeted by a “friendly hippy couple” who “showed us the place and let us do what we wanted to do”. Instead of getting straight to work, they decided to spend about a week or so getting adjusted to their surroundings, and to eachother, by taking walks in the idyllic countryside and having long-winded inter-band discussions. “We needed to learn how to be friends again” he concluded.

Before and during the whole process of creating Danger in the Club, the band also spent time in the United States of America, something which ended up having a subtle influence on parts of the record, two songs in particular. The polished, showtune sheen of Hollywood (I Got It) reeks of the false American Dream concept, whereas Secrets of America delves deeper into the problems Fryer and the rest of the band (co-frontman Chilli Jesson, keyboardist Peter Mayhew and drummer Will Doyle) had with the country. “Although the US didn’t have a particular influence on the record, we did have our problems with the country”, before going into detail about the falseness of the whole American Dream idea. One line on the record which highlights that idea is, “Hollywood, I can do anything at all”, from the album opening Hollywood (I Got It). It’s a song which is all jazz hands and bombast from its opening, punk-y verses to the handclap mid-section and sarcastic references to the aforementioned American Dream. It’s the most “out there” song on Danger in the Club, a record which Fryer described as “raw power, euphoria and danger”. They couldn’t have made the record by themselves though, with legendary Stone Roses producer John Leckie at the production helm. On how they came to work with Leckie, Fryer said that employees at Rough Trade (Palma Violets’ record label) “knew John, who came to Studio 180 and listened to the songs we wrote. He said he was really interested in making a rock & roll album again.” And what an album it ended up becoming…

But what’s next for Fryer and co.? 2015 will see them tour relentlessly, something which they didn’t do as much of in 2014. Our chat took place just after their headline stint on the NME Awards Tour (together with the Fat White Family, Slaves and The Wytches), something which was good for the band. “It was strange being back on the road,” started Fryer, adding, “You meet a lot of people on the road, and when you’re not touring you tend to forget how many people actually like your band when you’re busy recording”. The rest of the year will, as Fryer himself claims, encompass “lots of festivals, but not as many as before, as well as a big UK tour in September and October”. Having been festival veterans in 2013, the band are this time choosing to focus on shows of their own as they slowly build a growing fanbase around the world. Whether or not Danger in the Club will go down as a success is yet to be seen, although we have a good feeling that Palma Violets are about to release the best album of the year. This year is the year of the Palma, just wait and see for yourself.