At the beginning of July, after two years of radio silence, three quarters of ragtag South London urchins Palma Violets posted a message to the band’s Facebook page: ‘New music coming soon. Follow Gently Tender. Sam [Fryer], Pete [Mayhew] and Will [Doyle]’. Predictably, as the first real acknowledgement that their former outfit had actually split, it caused a fair few shocked faces among fans. But Gently Tender – completed by new guitarist Adam Brown and The Big Moon’s Celia Archer on keyboards – has in fact been brewing in secret almost the whole time.
“There was a definitive ending, in February 2016,” says Sam of the Palma’s final movements. “We were writing for the 3rd album and it got to the stage where we realised that there was something about the creative partnership that just wasn’t working. When we were 18 we were on the same page, talking about the same things all the time, very excited by each other. And five years on I think we’d become almost the opposites of people. We didn’t leave on a bad note, but it was just time to move on.”
Chilli now has a new outfit, too: Crewel Intentions. “I think there’s something to be said about the history in the two band titles,” chuckles Sam. “That tells a story in itself…”
“We’re not necessarily screaming out for a mosh pit anymore, we’re happy just to stand here and play and enjoy it.”
But if their chosen monikers hint at certain characteristics, then musically Gently Tender – titled after The Incredible String Band track - are just as lush and joyous as their name might suggest, too. If Sam’s songwriting always represented the more languid, softer side of his former band, then now those traits are coming to the fore and exploding out in a layered, hyper-melodic spree. “A big part of the sound is backing vocals and singing in unison like we’re a big folk choir,” explains Sam. “We’ve been working on a sound which ended up being very ambitious. When I write songs for this band, I visualise the live before I visualise the recording and I think the home for this band eventually is big festivals and big stages.”
Influenced by “70s folk and old soul bands”, the first movements towards these lofty hopes comes in the form of debut single ‘2 Chords Good’ – a woozy, tumbling affair that takes Sam’s stream of consciousness half-spoken vocals and places them over joyous, harmony-laden expansive backing. There’s a load more tracks already in the bag too, but for now the quintet are keen just to take their time, second time around. “We’re not necessarily screaming out for a mosh pit anymore, we’re happy just to stand here and play and enjoy it,” concludes Sam. “And we know people will enjoy it as well.”