By Zach Schepis
Photos courtesy of Palm.
Imagine a giant game of musical tug-of-war. On one side you have melodic harmonies with hints of buried pop hooks; on the other end there’s complete sonic cacophony. Now pretend the game is a draw, and you’re listening to the point of the rope where those two musical forces meet.
Voila! We have discovered Palm.
The band of upstate New Yorkers certainly isn’t afraid of picking around extremes, but the result doesn’t necessarily equal oscillation or contrast. Rather, it’s a melding of styles that should seemingly contradict, yet ultimately marries into a strange union. Fortunately, it’s a marriage that works–hear it for yourself on their most recent EP, Into the Bulk, or let vocalist/guitarist Kasra tell you more about it below.
BreakThru Radio (BTR): What’s the story behind how the band was formed?
Kasra (K): Eve and I started messing around with guitars in high school. Hugo joined a couple years later when we were all at college in upstate NY. We played a handful of shows as an instrumental three-piece before plucking up the courage to add vocals. Gerasimos joined on the bass guitar a few months later.
BTR: How about some of your creative influences, musical and non-musical?
K: Once the lineup was finalized we quickly moved away from the sounds that inspired me and Eve when we first started. I got really into bossa nova (Joao Gilberto’s White Album especially), which I think is pretty apparent on Into the Bulk.
We’re also heavily indebted to bands like This Heat, Women, and Broadcast. Nowadays though we draw most of our influence from friends. Off the top of my head: Red Sea, Banned Books, Big Neck Police, Precious, Zs, Hellier Ulysses, Sediment Club, Buke & Gase, and Palberta.
BTR: Your last release was the EP Into the Bulk. Tell us a little bit about what your experience was like creating those songs.
K: When I look back on Into the Bulk now I hear a band still trying to find its sound. The material that we’ve recently recorded and that will be coming out in a few months is much more realized. Like I said earlier, we were listening to a lot of bossa nova at the time but also bossa-inspired bands like Stereolab. I was really struggling with coupling the pure melodic bliss of that tradition with the angular sounds I’ve always been attracted to. Most of the basic parts were written on a classical guitar which comes across I think. Since then I’ve been writing exclusively on electric.
BTR: On tracks like “No Tribute” you seem to oscillate between soft melodies and more abrasive moments. Do you generally find yourself tipping more towards one end of the spectrum than the other?
K: Every time we finish a track I want the next one to be more melodic and more abrasive without compromising either element. It’s a little hard to describe but the very last thing I want is to write a song that’s in between the two ends of the spectrum; rather, the goal is to have both extremes (the hyper-melody and the anti-melody) emphasized to the max with nothing or very little in the middle ground. And I don’t even mean contrasting parts (i.e. a pop-y section followed by a noise section)–what I’m trying to get at is the idea of having both extremes at the very same time.
BTR: How do you envision that happening?
K: I think it’s about reconsidering what makes a part abrasive or melodic. From my experience, most bands are fronts for solo-artists. That’s definitely cool but it’s not what we’re about. The rhythm section is where most of Palm’s expression comes from. It’s where a lot of the dissonance comes from and where some of the more serene moments come from. More often than not, the guitars are playing the role of traditional rhythm sections, i.e. repetitive, un-dynamic.
There’s also a lot of room for abrasiveness in arrangements. I like it when I hear bands pulling in different directions at the same time. This Heat really do that well. It often sounds like each member is trying to write a different kind of song. Juxtaposing that with moments of locked-in, four-minds-as-one solidity can be cool.
BTR: This might be far from the mark, but is the song “Utility” a retaliation against technological convenience?
K: Yeah, pretty much. More specifically, it’s situated at a time (think 100 years ago) when technology’s capacity to destroy became apparent and techno-utopian optimism in liberation by the machine was challenged. Not that it’s gone by any means…
BTR: Do you ever find recurring themes returning to the songwriting process?
K: Definitely more so in terms of writing music than writing words. We’re always trying to push things forward but we clearly have recurring interest in repetition, counter-rhythms, loopy guitar parts, etc.
BTR: So far you’ve released two three-track EPs. Are you going to continue with this pattern, or is a full-length record in the works?
K: We have a 10-track album coming out this year! Really excited to share it.
BTR: What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you as a band since you’ve been together?
K: We played a show in Pontiac, MI at the same time and in the same building as Nick Jonas. Got man handled by his big men when we tried to say hi.