MINA KITSOS chinwags with Palms’ Al Grigg about switching bands, swapping guitars for USBs and trading a kebab for an album.
I know what you’re thinking — wow, these guys look a hell of a lot like noughties chart-crushers Red Riders. Well, you’re half right. After hammering the last few nails into their alternative-rock-band-gone-sour coffin, lead man Al Grigg and drummer/“girlish backing vocals” provider Tom Wallace decided to embark on a new sonic expedition. With the addition of bassist Brendan Walsh and riff-master Dion “Danger” Ford, Palms was born – pushing that lo-fi brand that is best served on maximum volume.
Although audiences have had to warm to a whole new sound, Grigg says the Red Riders residue has been a positive force for Palms. “You’ve already got people following you [who] are interested to hear your music because you have this history. But it’s kind of funny – it’s a whole new generation of kids now.” Grigg, however, isn’t bothered by the occasional mix-up or request for the odd RR tune. “Occasionally, people will shout out for a Red Riders song … But I guess that’s the thing – if you make any music or art you want it to have continued life. It’s cool that music you’ve made is still kicking around, people are still enjoying it.”
Of course, with a new band you need new material – and Grigg and Wallace had that covered. “When we started doing Palms stuff, it was just me and Tom. We had generated pretty much an entire set of songs that we thought would be our first album,” chuffs Grigg. That idea, however, soon went down the drain. “I met someone, got really caught up on them, and then I wrote all these songs for them and about them,” Grigg admits. And with track titles ranging from ‘You Were Mine’ to ‘Yours Mine’ and ‘End of Forever’, Drake is being given a run for his money. “There are only three songs on that record that pre-date that person. The rest is all about them.”
It’s this same raw sentiment that runs through the Sydney outfit’s debut LP Step Brothers, a record that strikes a balance between soft melodies and gritty beats. With the ear of a local bigwig producer – Straight Arrows’ Owen Penglis – the cuts see Palms channelling a pared back aesthetic that would not be out of place on an 80’s vinyl. Grigg says recruiting Penglis’ help on the album was a no-brainer. “We like lo-fi music, and it seems to really suit the songs, in a way. They’re such personal, small songs. It made more sense.”
Paying (according to Palms) the price of a kebab to record the album wasn’t the only advantage. Step Brothers was recorded in Penglis’ pad, a huge difference from what Grigg was used to. “You’re writing songs about your everyday life and you record them in someone’s house. There’s a good kind of continuity. Sometimes you go into a studio and it’s such a foreign world, in a way. I always feel a bit weird – it’s something on the clock and a different scenario.” Moonlighting as a band member of Straight Arrows, Grigg says Penglis’ sonic fingerprints were there from the start. “He has been a big influence on my songwriting and my attitude towards music as well, so it felt like a pretty natural progression.”
As for the change of pace, Grigg is somewhat relieved. “Me and Tom, with our last band, it wasn’t very enjoyable. We had a lot of concerns, we worried about things a lot and put a lot of pressure on ourselves and on the album. With Palms, we just wanted it to be fun, and with no pressure or expectations from a record label, it was just easy. So when we put it out, I wasn’t really that concerned,” he admits. “Without sounding like it’s a totally selfish pursuit, for Palms, it’s about us and our enjoyment and if other people get into it and like it as well, that’s awesome.”
Fresh off the back of DZ Deathrays’ Black Rat Tour – a fitting follow-up to a support slot on Cloud Control’s Dream Cave Tour late last year – Palms have been keeping sweaty, even trying their hand at DJing. Most recently, the boys manned the decks at Breakdance Spectacular, a day festival run by Bluejuice’s Jake Stone. It’s okay if you missed it though — Grigg is keen to spin cuts more frequently. “It’s the easiest way to make money. By the end, we were just standing there looking at each other, laughing, because we just got paid in cash, Jake gave us drinks, and we were playing music we like. And all we had to bring was a USB — it was so much better than being in a band,” he laughs. It wasn’t all breezy, though, with a Red Riders hit still seeping through the mix and that inevitable sense of AWKWARD. “The guy before us was playing ‘Ordinary’, and after we got off stage, the next guy, to embarrass me, played ‘Ordinary’ as well.”
Fear not, though. Grigg insists there are more live shows on the way. “Playing live is my favourite part of being in a band. It’s pretty full on when you go away for the weekends, and then you’ve gotta come back and work for a few days and then go away. By the end of it, you’re ready to break down. [But on stage] you look around and you’re playing with your friends. I’ve never understood people that are in bands with people they don’t like. It’s pretty hard to not have a good time.”
Already halfway through recording their sophomore album, which Grigg thinks could be ready for next summer (YAY!!!!), Palms have been in talks with independent record label I OH YOU about another little venture that’s up their sleeve. “It’s in such an embryonic stage, but me and Dion wanna get a few of our friends’ bands and play in a warehouse and call it Mates — do a Palms invitational thing, where our friends’ bands play and we all get to hang out.” Count us in.
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