Cover Feature Class Of 2013: Palma Violets

It might only be late afternoon, but upstairs in Brixton Jamm, there’s already a party raging and the air is thick with smoke and blasting music. Palma Violets, DIY are tactfully informed, have “made themselves at home.” The band’s keyboardist Pete Mayhew has set to work in a neighbouring room, and is crawling across the floor wielding marker pens; busy fashioning a makeshift sign from a sheet. Bassist Chilli Jesson is also deeply engrossed in the complex task of styling his hair. He abandons his tub of gel cheerfully to greet us with a rather princely bow, before gesturing towards the sofa and slamming shut the door to block out the deafening row next door. He then perches on the arm of the sofa, and attempts to take possession of our phone. “What are these?” he says, peering scrutinisingly at DIY’s notes. After a quick skim read, and reassurances we’re just here to chat, Chilli retreats, evidently satisfied. “I think we probably are the worst interviewees ever,” laughs frontman Sam Fryer, by way of introduction.

Palma Violets shouldn’t be so hard on themselves. Despite being slightly chaotic, and having an apparent aversion to staying in the same place for more than three seconds, they are also highly amusing and full of enthusiasm. The UK tour, Chilli tells me, has been “fucking amazing” and he has especially enjoyed converting the sceptics. “People have been coming down saying ‘I’m going to hate them’ and all this hyped shit, and are leaving going, you know, this is actually alright, I can dance around to it. They like it.” “We’re still trying to process what’s actually going on,” adds Sam. “It’s lovely that people want to give us a go.”

Palma Violets seem made for the live show, with crowd-surfing, topless girls, and a particularly humourous moment at their Bestival show where a roadie had to sit on stage holding a cable jack in place. Drummer Will Doyle fondly recalls the set; “that was fun – bit of a Spinal Tap moment with the keyboards.” It’s these infamous on-stage moments that are tallying up the comparisons to a certain famous musical bromance. “The Libertines, for me personally,” Sam tells me, “that kick started everything, the whole sunflower of my musical experience.” “Rough Trade!” yells Chilli, when I ask why Palma Violets receive so many comparisons to a certain other four piece. “I don’t even think we sound like The Libertines,” he growls, pacing around. “At the end of the day,” interrupts Sam, “I think it’s a bad thing if you’re compared to one band, but if you’re compared to a whole range of the greatest bands in history -” He is cut off mid-flow as Chilli begins to reel off musicians. “We’ve been compared to every single band, from The Swell Maps to bloody Echo And The Bunnymen; we’ve been compared to about 50 now.” Will pauses from his task of encouraging Pete to cover the band’s sign in crudely drawn phalluses; “Nobody can put their finger on us, it’s good.”

‘We’re still trying to process what’s actually going on’

Chilli has resumed his position on the arm of the sofa, and has also spotted my screen-printed jacket. “The Clash, fucking wicked!” he says, “I’ll buy it off you!” Palma Violets, it turns out, love The Clash, and listened to them constantly whilst growing up. Their high-energy sets, they agree, take a lot of cues from The Clash, far more so than some of the reverb-drenched shoegaze bands they often get compared to. “At the end of the day, we’re more punk I guess,” Sam nods. “We never sit down at the beginning and say ‘we will crowd surf’ though,” he adds, before Chilli interjects. “No, it’s literally just a spur of the moment thing. You just jump around, and the crowd will do everything else, they just need that push.”

The emotion that Palma Violets seem to capture most of all is immediate, full-on, boundless energy. “When we write the songs, we write as if we’re going to perform them, our friends are going to jump around to them” Sam says. “We love the stage. And the chicks too, the chicks are great!” adds Chilli. “But no, for us [the band] was always a live thing. We just wanted everyone to come and see us live and judge us then, rather than listening to 30 seconds of our song on the internet. We don’t like the internet.”

“Music definitely needs shaking up, it’s not in a very good state,” says Pete. Chilli concurs by way of leading a chant. “Change! Change!” The interview threatens to descend into chaos for a second, before Chilli directs it back on track. “No, it’s looking up, like Childhood [tonight’s supporting act] are fucking incredible. There’s a whole wave of new bands now - a year ago there were only about 10 bands getting people excited.” Palma Violets, the band tell me, is largely fuelled by the feeling that music just isn’t the same any more. “I met Sam at Reading festival,” Chilli begins, “and I saw him playing all these great songs and I was like ‘this guy’s a genius’. Turns out he’s not really a genius. But he writes fucking good songs. We all just got together and went for it. Bang. Me and Sam were seeing all these bands and they were just shit. No feeling! That was the main thing. No-one seemed to every give it everything. We formed out of frustration.” Sam interjects “Let’s write some songs with feeling and emotion”. Chilli stifles a laugh. “All the emotions.”

Pete steps back from his sign, proud of the microscopic, almost illegible letters he has used to write the support band, Childhood’s name beneath the heading Palma Violets. I tell Palma Violets I think their sign is cheeky. Unsurprisingly Chilli is delighted. “Cheeky?! We are cheeky!” he grins. “When we ‘co-headlined’ with Savages,” Sam says, trying to maintain order, “it would be like [shouts] “SAVAGES!” and [mumbles] “Palma Violets!” Chaos ensues. “It would be like that!” Chilli shouts, pointing accusingly at the makeshift sign. “That tour was big for us because we’d never really played on a stage before, we’d never had to be professional before.” Fittingly it is at this precise moment that the neighbouring party attempts to infiltrate our side room. “Do you mind!?” Chilli roars, “we’re working here!” As he slams the door decisively, I commend him on his newfound professionalism. “This tour’s just been like a fucking party,” he grins. “They’re our friends, they’ve been our friends for years, and now literally it doesn’t seem to fit. It’s amazing, on tour we’re like ‘yeah!’. We’re like fucking dogs!” Will arches an eyebrow and sighs. “Dogs?” he asks, incredulously. Chilli rephrases. “Excited puppies, we’re like excited puppies.”

Palma Violets, Sam tells me, are halfway through recording the debut, and Steve Mackey is producing it. “He’s a secret genius. He’s excited, we’re excited, and we’ll make a fucking good record,” Chilli gushes. “He let us bring our friends down [to the recording studio] and dance around – as it should be!” Recording, the band tell me, is going well apart from some minor gripes. “I read an interview the other day with some band, and they said, ‘we’re recording our album in St Johns Wood’ [where Palma Violets are also recording] – ‘the food was lovely’. We didn’t get any food, we had to fucking order Dominos,” rants Sam. “Bastards!” Chilli shakes his head and adopts a thick cockney accent. “Ain’t like it used to be. When people talk about the glamorous side of music, they mean that period of getting signed, [that] was the madness side!” “Try and stay unsigned for as long as possible, you get so much free shit.” concludes Will, in a solid piece of career advice.

‘Nobody can put their finger on us. It’s good.’

Palma Violets are the somewhat unruly class clowns in DIY’s Class Of 2013, so naturally we want to know what they have planned next. Sam reveals a complex, and somewhat surprising plan – the services of Jarvis Cocker. “He’s just got this great talking voice on the radio!” he enthuses. “On Sunday Service, I just really want him to play our song, and just hear him introduce it.” Sam adopts an uncanny impression. “‘This is the Palma Violets with ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’’. I think it would be magical. I’m not forcing him to do it, but Jarvis, if you read this interview, please do it.”

Other than their ‘main aim’ of recruiting Jarvis Cocker, there are other lofty ambitions to be fulfilled. “I’d like to beat Muse to the moon. Space race,” says Sam with a completely straight face. “I think we can, we have more ambition. We already have a song about it; it’s called ‘Neil Armstrong’.” Will points out that the band’s next music video could be on the moon. “You’d need an unlimited budget,” ponders Sam. “Actually, if Rough Trade gave us unlimited budget, I’d shoot our video on the Titanic. Like, underwater.” On that note, our neighbours burst through the doors to survey the finished sign, and my time chatting with Palma Violets draws to a close. “I think we’ve been very honest today,” laughs Chilli, “we’ve told you it how it is.” Chaotic, hilarious, and charismatic, Palma Violets also clearly have ambition and drive - to make entertaining, energy-filled guitar music. However credible their planned mission to the moon might turn out to be, there’s little doubt about it; Palma Violets are about to take off all the same.

Taken from the December 2012 / January 2013 issue of DIY, available now. For more details click here.

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