Sunday, 23 April 2017

Palace - Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds, April 6th 2017 (LIVE REVIEW & INTERVIEW)

With their debut album ‘So Long Forever’ (Fiction Records) deservedly garnering its fair share of critical praise, it seems the initial hype surrounding Palace is beginning to feel vindicated. Having first tripped over the dreamy languid splendour of ‘Kiloran’ a couple of years ago, the richly textured expanses of their first long player proves they are no flash in the pan...

Catching up with the genial quartet of Leo Wyndham (Vocals/Guitar), Rupert Turner (Guitar), Will Dorey (Bass/Vocals) and Matt Hodges (Drums), ahead of their Belgrave Music Hall date, part of a month long UK tour culminating with a headline appearance at the Shepherds Bush Empire on 27th April, followed by a bunch of festival dates this summer. Having also recently completed their first headline European tour with most of the venues selling out along the way, the band seems to be firmly established on an upward trajectory.

When pressed about their recent mainland excursion the band were in agreement, Rupert elaborating, “Europe was amazing, we started in Barcelona which was hot and sunny, finishing in Bologna a few days ago, pretty much all sold out too. We’ve never played in Spain before so it was really cool to get out there for the first time. We didn’t really know what to expect but the crowd gave everything”, Matt adding “Venue sizes were two-fifty to five hundred [Berlin]. Usually we do two-week tours; this was our first proper long one. We’re in that slightly tired phase but we’re getting through it”.

Naturally the chance to play the 2,000 capacity Shepherds Bush Empire in their adopted home city is proving exciting if not a little daunting , Matt endorsing “The Empire is such a cool venue, we’ve always dreamt of playing that, it will be very special.”

Palace have also managed to strike a balance between the hurly burly of our nation’s capital, the bohemian bolthole of their North London rehearsal space providing much needed respite, plus at the same time creative stimulation from other musicians who happen to also be using the facility. “London’s always a bit of a crazy place and our studio is pretty weird at times” adding, “It’s our musical base, there’s a lot of activity at the moment and a lot of people have been through. All sorts of different types of musicians; blues, reggae….every time you walk in there’ll be some amazing funk groove in one room, someone’s tooting away on a sax or someone screaming and playing heavy metal. [Also] handy if you need someone to help you with a harmony, it keeps you inspired if you’re surrounded by musicians although you normally have to wait until after 3pm because they won’t be out of bed”.

Talking about the band’s origins, Matt and Leo provide the history lesson, “We were all at school together down in Dorset although the band only started about 4 years ago. It’s not something we planned, it just sort of happened. We were all doing different things then started rehearsing once a week before playing an open mic show [after moving to London] and [following an enthusiastic reception] thought we should take things a bit more seriously. Things happened quickly, we were picked up by a booker after only a few months and here we are”. Leo admitting his greenness during the band’s early days “I didn’t really know what I was doing at first, I’d never been on stage, didn’t know what monitors were. In the first year we gigged a lot and practised and got more confident.”

The new material has taken the band on a darker turn whilst maintaining an uplifting sound, Leo penning most of the words with the band collaborating on the arrangements; Matt expanding “Someone normally comes up with an idea. Most of the lyrics are this guy [pointing at Leo]. Sometimes Leo comes to the studio with a whole completed song ready to go, other times it’s just a riff or a vocal melody we work on together.”

As well as Palace are also championing other live music. Leo elaborates “The George Tavern is an amazing six-hundred year old pub is Shadwell where we put on a [monthly] night called Palace Presents. Sometimes we play but most of the time we curate and get other bands in, it’s really fun.

When asked if the current digital landscape helped them the quartet’s response is mixed, “It’s a kind of double edged sword. We put demos on Soundcloud and that’s how we got noticed; for young bands starting out it’s an amazing way to get out there. The flip side is that it’s very saturated place, there’s so much stuff, there’s a lot of competition and lots of crap music too.”

In terms of next steps, the lads seem pretty sure of their immediate future “We’ve been writing a lot of new stuff but nothing’s released yet. We’ve been playing a few new songs, testing them out on the audience; just to mix it up a bit. People seem to like them which is a positive sign. We’re starting to think about the next album, looking at producers, we’ll be doing some demos quite soon, it’s all happening.”

Naturally the live arena is where Palace material comes over best, acquiring a whole new lease of life, Leo agreeing, “The songs are in their best form when they’re live. People always say after the show, I love your records but live, it’s just another level up.” Tonight proving no exception as The Belgrave fills with an army of devoted followers to watch the band perform their baker’s dozen set list, the expansive sound effortlessly permeating every inch of space. Highlights include the pop-tinged harmony drenched ‘Have Faith’, the ever excellent ‘Kiloran’ having been requested by the audience during the closing bars of ‘Tomahawk’, Rupert’s fab slide guitar on ‘Veins’, not forgetting the audience participation at the end of ‘Holy Smoke’; someone even throwing a sock on stage at one point, the evening ’s only slightly creepy moment.

Finally, the band’s message to those bands just starting out is simple enough “Get your music out there, work fucking hard, keep writing and write what sounds good to you, play what you want to play. You don’t want to be touring stuff you hate for years to come.”

Words - Mike Price