When Palace appeared seemingly out of nowhere last year with their debut EP, Lost In The Night, it was instantly apparent that they were a band destined for huge things. The reason for this lies in band’s self-assured and definitive sound. Merging modernity with classic alt-rock tones, Leo Wydnam’s laidback vocals and Rupert Turner’s blues-tinged guitar pair together to create something entirely new – and impossible to ignore.
I’ve joined Palace in their North London studio-cum-squat – the “Lost Boys Cave” as their PR described it. The band lovingly labeled it as a “slightly functioning studio” - it’s disorderly and ramshackle but bursting at the seams with charm and mismatched furniture. About sixteen people use it to rehearse and some of them live there too. It’s just the kind of place you’d hope to find a band like Palace, rather than some polished and soulless space that’s rented by the hour.
Greeted with hugs and - throughout our interview - frequently diverting into anecdotes about couples getting engaged to their music (“we had a message on Facebook saying, ‘Cheers guys, I think it was the song that swung it’”), live musical interludes and joking discussion of integrating parkour and Arthur Miller performances into their sets, the band are quick to warmly welcome outsiders into their group. Their ridiculously quick wit and humour is perhaps not what you’d expect from a band that sounds like Palace. “We do enjoy fucking around a lot, but all that stuff goes out the window when we’re on stage – it just becomes about the music”.
YouTube comments suggest that they could be classed as ‘Dad Rock’, something they don’t take to too kindly: “Dad rock?! That’s the first I’ve heard. We’ve been described as sex music before, but ‘Dad Rock’ makes me think of really cheesy rockers with mullets playing Status Quo. It’s for the teenage son who doesn’t know what to get for Father’s Day so he gets him the Best of Top Gear Compilation CD… I don’t think we’d fit on the Top Gear Compilation”.
While some may see it as ‘Dad Rock’, others have latched onto the bluesy elements of Lost in the Night, and labeled them as such. “It’s quite hard to pin down – we don’t really know what to say. Alternative rock with a hint of blues kind of sums it up - it’s not one thing or the other. I don’t really think we’re a blues band. It was quite easy to hear blues on the first EP but everything on the album that we’ve just started to work on is going to be really broad and varied. There’ll be a mishmash of genres on there, but when you listen to the record you won’t think, ‘they’re a blues band’.”
The ambiguity of Palace’s genre is what makes them so enticing – made up of so many different elements, it’s difficult to compare them to any one other band. They cite their sound as being something that emerged organically once the four musicians started playing together. “We worked out quite quickly that we wanted to make it big and spacious sounding - which naturally makes it sound quite modern - but with that we combined some slightly bluesy guitar. There are a lot of influences in there but [the songs] just come out how they come out. I don’t think we’ve ever tried to write a song like anyone or had it in our minds to replicate anyone directly. It just came out that way naturally.”
Though releasing their second EP Chase The Light less than a year after their debut, the band’s development between the two records is easily heard. “The new EP is quite a clear progression from the first one. It sounds like a very natural next step but it still has ups and downs of quieter and louder tracks – there’s quite a mix in terms of dynamics. I think it’s more advanced in terms of how the songs are constructed. It’s definitely progressed.”
Perhaps what is so absorbing about Chase the Light is the juxtaposition of dark melodies with romantic lyrics and tropes, something the band’s singer, Leo is keen to explore in his writing – “[Chase The Light]’s quite dramatic and dark. I think there probably are more elements of hope in the new EP. It’s fun exploring darker textures and lyrics and the darker side of things but then mixing it up with more romantic lyrics and playing with that combination.”
With lyrics like “We feel pressure/To find something of substance/You’re my hurricane/I wanna be something/You’re my oxygen/So settle down”, ‘Settle Down’ captures all the terrifying, overwhelming elements of falling in love, soundtracked by a nostalgic spaciousness that really captures the essence of the entire record.
Despite a couple of injections in the spine and some inventive drunk heckling in Amsterdam (“There was a group of drunk lads in Amsterdam just shouting “Hat boy!” and “Get off the stage you bearded twat!” at Rupert”), the band’s stint as Jamie T’s support on his European tour was a great success. "We were really nervous before thinking that we weren’t a match and that his audience would hate us, but we so quickly learnt that it was just completely fine and people really appreciated it. The first venue was massive for us, so it was mental walking out to a crowd of a thousand but the Jamie T fans in Europe seemed really intrigued to see the support band - all the cities were so responsive, it was really cool.”
It’s not hard to see why Jamie T’s fans took to them so well, and the band are starting to make big waves back home, with the roaring success of two sold out Red Gallery shows and an impending date at Scala. It’s well deserved and from the looks of things, only the start of things to come, because Palace is the band you’ve been waiting to hear for years.
Words by Victoria Parkey
Photography by George Dunne