Gig Review and Interview with... Palace @ The Rocking Chair, Sheffield, 23/10/14

Palace are a fairly unknown entity. At least that's what the basement of Sheffield's, 'The Rocking Chair' would suggest. Barely filled with 50 people and a turquoise complexion of shimmering lights, it's where the London quartet kicked off their UK tour.

The intriguing quartet who only really came into their first tints of the limelight through the support of Jamie T, make no grand opening to the stage and instead opt for an ambient opening entitled, 'Dragonfly'. Think Maccabees 'Given To The Wild' on a minute scale, and you can just about imagine frontman Leo as Orlando Weeks' doppelganger.

With that, they ease gently into tracks from recently released EP, 'Lost In The Night'. Leo gradually finds his feet in the quavering vocals of 'I Want What You Got' which gently pitter patters into 'Ocean Deep', a smooth and sexy track suitable for an indie-smattered crooner. Meanwhile, 'Bitter' is ironically the sweetest thing Palace have produced, doused in woozy-indie vibes and blues tinged anthems at it's roots.

For those who have come along for an exceptionally good priced evening of music have not been disappointed. Those who have already been lured in by the beauty and mystery of Palace though, are rewarded with a bundle of new songs. 'Black Heath' is high and wirey, much like some of the wild-Western twangs touched on in the EP. Quite differently, 'Tomahawk' unleashes an effortlessly funky jam, sandwiched either side of Foals and The Maccabees respectively. On the other hand, the range of vocal pitch throughout 'Shark' points towards early Kings Of Leon.

The dreamy, saloon bar fading reverberations come back with the band's cover of Chris Isaak's 'Wicked Game' that allows the trembles of the bass to shine through, before they finish on another well known gem in their crown, 'Veins'. It's a fitting end to the start of something special. Not only have they produced a five-track EP of wonder, but they're already armed with more material and their live show is one that can only radically grow in the coming months.

Making their mark on the walls of 'The Rocking Chair', as well as Jamie T and the rest of the music industry, Leo points and laughs at their chalk graffiti, suggesting that band members 'Matt' and 'Wills' looks like Busted heartthrob 'Matt Wills' has joined them. Aside from the topic of early 2000 pop bands, I caught up with three-quarters of the band afterwards to speak about their love for Jamie T, Foals and why they're not in any rush to make an album...

How did that go for you guys?
Leo (vocals/guitar): It was really fun. I think freedom of being outside of London was like -

Matt (drums): - Am I allowed to speak?

L: Yes! Haha, I think it's fun playing to a new crowd and a new place and it suddenly feels like we have this whole new element of freedom.

M: I thought it was wicked, I really loved it. Totally, totally different vibe to playing in London, it was just more fun and we were relaxed.

How was it different playing in St. Pancras Old Church in London the other day for your EP launch?
L: Well we were in a church so the front six rows were seats and everyone was kind of sitting down like Sunday mass...

M: It was an absolutely amazing venue, very atmospheric and everyone was kind of quiet and respectful. The sound was very echoey and it was very different so it was probably the complete opposite to what we just did. Which is why this was really awesome.

L: Yeah it's awesome to just cut through the beauty and elegance of a church and to suddenly be like, 'fuck it, let's play in a basement!', but we want to be able to play the gritty side of it, that's what we wanna do.

The EP's just come out. It's had a great response! How was it to make it?
L: Yeah it's been great, we recorded it pretty much all ourselves, in a-

Not in a church?
L: No, in a cave!... but no, our friend started up a studio in Tottenham, and we recorded it all up there.

M: It was pretty relaxed actually.

Many people will have first heard of you through supporting Jamie T in the summer, was that pretty surreal for you?
L: It was crazy.

M: We were a bit scared because he’s the polar opposite to us in terms of sound but his new record is unbelievable and a lot closer to our sound so I guess that’s kind of why it happened. We were really scared ‘cos we were huge fans of his first album and knew it was quite rowdy and all the fans were outside and quite pumped and topless like ‘arghhh!’ and we were just there like ‘shit, we’re gonna get killed...’ but actually it went really well.

L: Before we got on stage they were heckling us a little bit, like ‘come on, what you got you pricks!’ but then we started playing and people got into it.

Perhaps not Jamie T then, but were there any major influences when making the EP?
L: There’s little splices from different places.

M: I think weirdly, it just sort of happened. No one was really thinking about it, it just comes out. We all have similar influences but they’re quite separate, ranging from old folky stuff to 70s prog stuff, to new Foals and Wu Lyf sounds.

L: But there was never like, let’s make this sound a bit like ‘this guy’. 

M: We never really spoke about our influences, it’s more just a subconscious thing.

I picked up a few Foals and Maccabees vibes, have you ever got that?
L: Actually yeah we did hear that, and it’s fucking cool.

M: We love Maccabees, we love Foals! They’re one of the best live bands. I’ve only ever seen them in foreign festivals when it’s like really hot and it’s kind of made for that environment. 

L: They’re so fucking good live. I’d say that was the beginning. I personally wanted to, in some small way, emulate what they do, in terms of the very detailed sparse guitar playing.

Let’s go back to the beginning then, how did Palace all start?
M: I was actually talking to Will, the bassist, about it today. We’re almost exactly two years old when Leo and I first said, ‘let’s have a jam’ and then Rupe and Will came along. We’d been talking about starting a band for years.

Rupert (guitar): I came in on the bass.

L: Oh yeah, Rupe came in on the bass! We were a three-piece for a while - 

R: Which sounded pretty shit.

L: Yeah it sounded pretty bad, so we put Rue on guitar.

M: We spent a lot of time jamming in crappy studios in Camden, just sweating it out in these tiny little boxes and then slowly things just kind of clicked. Then the EP came out this summer and it’s kind of gone a bit mad. When we first started we were only rehearsing sort of once every two months. It was only recently we were like ‘shit...’

As soon as Jamie T contacted you perhaps?
L: Yeah Jamie T was like, ‘fucking hell, rehearse a little bit more!’.

You played a few new tunes tonight, what’s the plan going forward?
R: Yeah, get the tour down, and then hopefully get a second EP.

M: There’s a lot of talk about what the good thing to do is, a lot of talk about ‘the death of the album’, but aside from all of that I think the EP has really worked for us.

R: It suits our kind of music.

M: Yeah, we’re not in any hurry, we hope we’ll be around for a long time so we’re gonna do another EP at some time and just take our time.

As for the rest of the tour is there any particular venue coming up that you’re most looking forward to?
L: Not really, I don’t think...

R: I think it’s just great to be on the road to be honest.

L: And just going to places that some of us have never been, it’s just fun. The whole thing is just kind of what you dream of doing when you’re young, just going on the road with a band.

R: But Sheffield is obviously our favourite...

Keen to please each city and each crowd, you can catch Palace at the following venues on the remainder of their tour:

Oct 31 - Southampton, The Cellar
Nov 1 - London, The Laundry
Nov 4 - Bristol, Start The Bus

By Josh Shreeve (@JJShreeve)

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