R5 Productions Presents
1201 N. Frankford Ave
Philadelphia, PA, 19125
Doors 8:00 PM / Show 9:30 PM
This event is 21 and over
The story of the Palma Violets' rampaging second album -- "Danger In The Club" -- actually starts somewhat inauspiciously. Namely, with them about to implode on a farm in Pembrokeshire in Wales.
It's the hot, late summer of 2013 and the band, having been on tour more or less continuously since 2012, are in a bad way. Fractious, bored and irritable, they're fed-up with everything -- not least each other. Counter-intuitively then -- after a typically riotous set at Reading Festival -- they demand their tour manager drive them to a barn "somewhere in the middle of nowhere."
The idea is to work through some issues but the decision has something of a kill-or-cure air to it. In the sense that when they get there they're either a) going to strangle each other or b) somehow rewire the inter-band settings so they start to like each other again.
"Things had become a little frayed," admits bassist Chilli Jesson now. "I think we needed to confront what was happening full on. We needed to learn how to be a band again."
"We needed to be together as a strange as that sounds. I don't know what would have happened if we'd all gone our separate ways," adds singer Sam Fryer.
Confront things they did, not that the situation transformed overnight. To start with they mostly argued. That, or take turns to walk in the nearby hills on their own. Gradually though the febrile atmosphere began to calm and their attentions slowly turned back to their music. From the friction came occasional sparks. They might not have realized it but they were starting to create "Danger In The Club."
What helped was that conceptually they were all in agreement about the factors that they wanted to shape their next record. They knew they wanted to avoid all the classic second album clichés (how hard it is to be on tour etc). They also understood it was vital to retain the simplicity, directness and youthfulness of their first record. The music that they were listening to at the time -- Dr Feelgood, Brinsley Schwarz, Graham Parker -- was flowing into their traditional mainline of The Gun Club, Cramps and Nick Cave to create an appetite for something primal and exciting.
"We knew we wanted to make a young-sounding record," declares Jesson. "We listened to a lot of pre-punk while we were making the album. We all like its rawness and simplicity. A lot of bands want to over-complicate their second album, we know that we didn't."
"It's not that we haven't progressed," cautions Fryer. "In a way these songs are far more complex that anything we've written before but I think we retained a sense of spontaneity. A sense of fun too."
"Danger In The Club" is certainly faithful to those wishes. Driven by an infectious, frequently unhinged energy, it's by turns propulsive, garagey and exuberant. The vibrating freneticism of tracks like "Hollywood (I Got It)," "Danger In The Club" and "Gout! Gang! Go!" offset by the intimate, emotional balladry of "The Jacket Song" and the more experimental songwriting of "No Money Honey." Occasionally, it sounds like Squeeze rattling through the "Nuggets" boxset.
A lot of credit for its vibrance and excitement must go to producer John Leckie. It was him that the band eventually turned to -- because of his work with The Fall and Magazine -- when they finally decided they'd accumulated enough new songs to begin recording. Not that he made it especially easy for them.
Relocating to the Dog House Studio -- an idyllic spot on the Thames, two miles north of Henley -- in May 2014, they were shocked to find that Leckie intended to drill and cajole them into honing the music still further. As a result, over the course of two intense weeks, the album began to take a radical new shape as -- given fresh confidence by Leckie's approach -- they began to expand the palette of what they were doing. Much of what you hear on the finished record (eventually tracked over a month at Rockfield in Wales) was generated in this period of heightened experimentation.
Throughout though, the thematic core remained the same. Palma Violets are proud of being an English band and wanted that sense to be palpable on the record. Like many young English bands, they'd travelled to America as part of touring their first record. As Mark E Smith once memorably noted the minute most UK groups get there they act like "peasants with free milk." Palma Violets, though, weren't overawed or in thrall to it. They had more complex, nuanced feelings about it -- documented on two stand-out tracks that feature on the album ("Secrets Of America" and "Hollywood (You Got It)").
"Don't get us wrong," clarifies Jesson. "we had the time of our lives while we were there. It's just everything's not always exactly as it seems. Going to America made me feel closer to home in a weird kind of way."
"It's easy to get swept up in it," continues Fryer. "Its size, its history but equally there are parts of it that aren't so straightforwardly enjoyable. I guess it made us realize that we didn't just want to swallow it whole. It made us think seriously about the positive things about being an English group and what that means to us and I think you can hear that on the record."
You definitely can. "Danger In The Club" reverberates with a renewed confidence and sense of self-identity. If "180" was, in Sam's memorable words, "like a squirrel trapped in a box of foam," then "Danger In The Club" is a much sharper and definitive statement of intent -- broadening out and shading in what it exactly means to exist in Palma Violets' universe. The final word on that should go -- as ever -- to Jesson.
"I'm very proud of this record. It's taken a lot out of us and it's not been easy. It's important that people know that but -- having said that -- we feel that we've reaffirmed our identity but expanded it at the same time. I can't wait for people to hear it. I want them to be as swept away by it as much as we were when we were making it."
Michael Ian Cummings and Noah Rubin formed SKATERS in 2012, and spent a year trading demos between Los Angeles and London with guitarist Joshua Hubbard. A few months later, the three met up in a Chinatown (NYC) loft to created their own art zine,YONKS, and record their debut EP, Schemers, which was given away for free on the band's website and drew immediate critical praise. SKATERS are currently putting the finishing touches on their full-length album with producer John Hill. They will be returning from 25 UK dates to tour the U.S. in June before coming back to NYC on July 19 to headline The Bowery Ballroom.