Palma Violets

Palma Violets

For a long time if you wanted to hear the most exciting new band in Britain, you knocked on a tall black door off the Lambeth Road. An aging British Rail building - part art studio happening, part squat – Studio 180 was where south London’s Palma Violets were gestating, away from sunlight and the world at large. A thrilling rock'n'roll four piece channeling The Clash, ? And The Mysterions and the Bad Seeds, from September 2011 they were holed-up here writing songs "their friends could dance to" and occasionally putting on celebratory, ecstatic parties about which word quickly spread.

It should be noted that the news of these parties / shows was spread in a manner that harks back to the days before the internet – aka “word of mouth.” For until a couple of months ago, Palma Violets had no online presence, no music recorded, and no press team working for them, “We didn’t want to put ourselves on Facebook, Youtube or the internet because we hadn’t recorded any songs,” explains singer Sam Fryers. “We were making this noise together in a room for fun and that’s where you had to experience it.”

If you got through the door of Studio 180 in that early period, what greeted you was an intoxicating sense of chaos. Beer being sold out of a dustbin in a makeshift kitchen, experimental artwork protruding from every wall, kids milling about, seemingly all friends, just waiting for the moment the band would start to play, normally around 11 at night, but sometimes a whole lot later.

In an airless basement that could hold 50 people, the band would finally appear in a hail of feedback and organ noise, before blazing their way through a short, incredible set: their sound a primitive, wild rock’n’roll music offering echoes of ‘60s garage and soul but with a defiant Englishness at its core, the band themselves radiating a ferocious energy, encapsulated in the tense and tactile interplay between bassist Chilli Jesson and Fryer but driven forward by the incessant beat of Will Doyle’s drumming. After a period of parching drought in British guitar music, this was akin to stumbling across the oasis in the desert just before you and everyone else died of dehydration

“The best way to see a rock’n’roll band is to go and see them play live,” elaborates bassist Jesson. “That’s all we wanted people to do.” “And of course, we hate being in recording studios,” laughs Fryer.

Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for record labels to catch on and in the first few months of 2012, Palmas Violets were courted intensely. From the outset, though, they only ever wanted to sign to one, and that was Rough Trade. As Jesson recalls, “When Rough Trade came down, it was so special. It was like they restored our faith in music. I mean they actually talked about music for a start. Geoff Travis was the only person who picked up on the fact that we were doing a cover of The Riveiras’ ‘California Sun’. The other guys talked about supermarkets and shelving and how we were going to penetrate the market.”

The feeling was mutual, as Rough Trade bosses Jeannette Lee and Geoff Travis are quick to point out. “There’s a difference between trying to do something and actually doing it,” notes Travis succinctly. “The Palma Violets just have it.” Adds Lee, “It may sound corny but it really is to do with the chemistry of the group. In a whole lifetime of listening to music, you probably come across something this special about 10 times ever, that special glue that holds a classic band together. I knew as soon as I saw them that they had to be with us.”

It was Rough Trade then that released the band’s debut single last fall. The A-side “Best Of Friends” is a raucous and exhilarating blast of primal rock’n’roll, featuring Jesson singing the lead. The B-side “Last Of The Summer Wine” – recorded later with Pulp’s Steve Mackey – showcases the other side of the band, drenched as it is in keyboard player Peter Mayhew’s oscillating organ surges and singer Fryers’ heavily reverbed and deeply evocative vocal.

When it came time to record the album Palma Violets headed into the studio - located on an old boat in East India Docks – with Rory Atwell (formerly of testicicles). He worked on half the album with them and the rest was recorded with Steve Mackey from Pulp at the Fish Factory and RAK. With their limited experience - and by limited we mean zero – in a proper studio, Palma Violets had no idea what an over dub was nor did they care to know. They would often show up to the studio with a bunch of stragglers, enough beer to go around and disco lights which in-turn illuminated 180 directly onto record.

As already noted, there’s a difference between trying to do something and actually doing it. For The Palma Violets, everything they do comes from a real love of music and a need to communicate feelings on a forceful basic level. They’re not a product of 2012 moodboard culture, they’re a pure elemental force.

Guards was formed in New York City when Richie James Follin returned from a European tour to a recording studio with nothing in it but a broken electric 12-string guitar and an omnichord. He wrote and recorded a few songs for his little sister to sing on, but ended up singing on the songs himself. He enlisted the help of his friends (Caroline Polachek of Chairlift, James Richardson of MGMT, Loren Shane Humphrey of Willowz) and family (Madeline Follin of Cults) to guest on some songs and they spread the word without his knowledge via twitter and the internet. Then, he decided to give the songs away for free.

Richie James Follin is 27 and he is originally from southern California. He started the Willowz (lead singer and guitarist) when he was 19 in 2002 and has released 4 records with them as well as a solo record and multiple other projects. He also plays guitar in Cults.


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