Melodic martyrs Palace return with their second album ‘Life After’ this summer, so Clash writer Laura Copley went to catch up with frontman Leo and drummer Matt on a windy East London rooftop to discuss album themes and bucket list venues...
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Congrats on the album! How are you feeling in the run-up to its release?
Matt: Really excited. We were rehearsing last night and it's so good to be playing new songs. It’s been a while since the first album came out so we can't wait to get this one out there.
Leo: This is us moving on from the old album, it's a new chapter and it's an exciting feeling. We're confident that the new songs are bigger and more epic than before. It's gonna be a big year. Still another month to go though and the anticipation of getting it out there has definitely reached boiling point… if it was in our control we would've leaked it months ago.
The album artwork is beautiful, can you tell us a bit more about it?
Leo: That's my little brother's work, he paints and does all our artwork, he’s super talented. He did our first EP covers, first album and now this one. For this cover we wanted the concept to be plant life and to be something wild, he took that information and then just created this from scratch. I think he found some flowers and just sat and studied them for ages, then he realised it needed to come straight from his head.
All his stuff has a slight psychedelic edge, it's like looking at an acid trip. Every time you look at it something else comes to light, which is kinda what we want people to get from the album, too.
It’s clear from first listen that ‘Life After’ is extremely heartfelt, with that in mind can you explain some of the themes that run through the album?
Leo: Everything we put out is a representation of personal experiences. This album began after I went through a really terrible breakup - I felt very lost and it was a tough time, but it gave me the chance to rediscover myself and meet someone else, my current girlfriend.
'Life After' explores loss, whether that's through death or through relationships, and how we choose to navigate those situations. As corny as it sounds, it's about the strength and the acceptance you find after. Hope really is the main theme.
‘Life After’ constantly switches between acoustic and upbeat – like on ‘Younger’ and ‘Face In The Crowd’ for example. Was this intentional, or something that just happened naturally?
Leo: I think it kind of just happens that way, we don't really want to be known as a band that has one specific sound. It comes quite naturally to us to experiment and try different rhythms and speeds and styles.
Matt: Yeah, ‘Face In The Crowd’ is a nice respite, then it picks back up again afterwards. We wanted it so when you listen from start to finish, you're constantly experiencing different feelings and emotions.
Is there method to the track listing?
Leo: Yeah there definitely is, even though it doesn't matter massively to me...
Matt: I care a lot about it, I think it's really important. Everyone has different opinions and sometimes it's like, ok we like all the songs so it doesn't matter too much, but as we've said, the journey this album takes you on is deliberate and each moment needs to be thought about quite carefully to get that experience across. So, yeah.
Your producer Catherine Marks has a pretty impressive portfolio, how did that partnership come about? Did you find it daunting at all working with such an esteemed producer?
Matt: We had two producers, one called Luke Smith and the other being Catherine. Luke did a couple tracks and she did the majority.
Leo: Yeah we actually worked with her a couple of years ago, we did a trial track before our first album and for whatever reason, it didn't really work that time but we always wanted to reconnect at some point because we got on so well. It wasn't intimidating at all as we'd been to the studio before and worked there and we knew her team, and she's just fucking cool. She has an amazing energy.
Catherine is a real badass and she really loves our music and she is so, so passionate. Catherine made us feel so confident about our material and confident that we were being led by someone with a really clear vision.
Matt: And it wasn't really the pressure of knowing all of these amazing artists she'd worked with, but it was so awesome knowing that Foals had been in the same studio recording. Ed O'Brien (Radiohead guitarist) was there just hanging out at one point when we were doing the mixing.
Leo: Oh yeah I freaked out when I saw him! He was eating his lunch and I was just staring at him. I think he noticed.
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Lyrically, it sounds like inspiration was mainly drawn from experience. Musically, which artists inspire you?
Matt: It's quite varied between us three but Jeff Buckley was a solid starting point for all of us and we all had that in common when we first started playing together. I myself am a huge Radiohead fan.
Leo: There's lots of folky people like Nick Drake and John Martin that I look up to, and as a whole we love bands with great guitarists with a vintage, folky feel.
Our guitarist Rupert is basically an old rocker, a real 'vinyl, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Steely Dan' kinda guy who's really into that stuff so that's a big part of our sound. Very few recent bands though. Radiohead and Foals are probably the most recent inspiration we have.
And do you listen to your own music?
Matt: Haha nooooooo!
Leo: Well the funny thing is I never ever, ever listen to us but the other day I was driving with my girlfriend and she put us on and it felt quite arrogant as there are certain songs where I was like, "fuck this sounds good who is this!!". But yeah having a break and then listening back with this new perspective actually makes me enjoy it a lot more than I used to.
Matt: I don't listen to our old stuff at all but I've listened to this new stuff, mainly trying to work out if it's any good or not.
Leo: And what's the answer?
Matt: ... eh.
You’re touring the album in November, have you had the chance to play any tracks live yet?
Leo: Played a couple. We recently played the track Berlin and that went down really well, we got a really good response from the audience with that one. And already there's this guy online who's learnt the chords to a new song which isn't even out which is a cool feeling.
Matt: And we've got a good run of festivals coming up, we're doing this one in Madrid called 'Madcool' and we're sharing the main stage with Smashing Pumpkins which is a massive moment for us!
Leo: Oh yeah we've loved Smashing Pumpkins since we were like 14, our second ever gig was actually supporting the guitarist's solo show in London and now we're supporting all of them, so that's mad.
What’s been your favourite venue to perform in, and are there any you’re waiting to cross off the bucket list?
Leo: I had two, first was Shepherd's Bush Empire which we did in 2017 and the next is Roundhouse which we're playing November 9th this year. That for me is the biggest thing ever as it's my favourite venue. The coolest people play there. In terms of cool ones we've played, we played a great one in Hamburg, it was super industrial and we had to play on steps so we were all on different levels. Also The George Tavern on Commercial Road, we've done a lot of shows there so it's almost like our home venue.
Matt: Roundhouse is gonna be crazy. Also, the Pyramid stage is definitely on that bucket list…
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‘Life After’ is out on July 12th.
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