Sydney four-piece PALMS are an outfit who make songs that come from the heart, created by former Red Riders members Al Grigg and Tom Wallace who have since been joined by Dion Ford and Brendan Walsh.
Forming just a few years ago, the band has played some killer shows for not only themselves, but also for bands such as Surfer Blood, King Kahn, Bad Dreems and Mining Boom, as well as for huge collectives like Vice and Converse.
In saying that, they’ve also just hit the road with Australian buddies Cloud Control in support of their sophomore effort Dream Cave; before Palms release their own, very first record Step Brothers due out this Friday, 30th August via Spunk Records and on vinyl through Coconut Tuff.
To give you a taste of what to expect, Spunk have informed us that Step Brothers is “a collection of short, mostly loud songs written in one bedroom, recorded in another, about wanting someone else to let you into their bedroom”. Intrigued to find out more, we were lucky to be given the opportunity to speak with Palms frontman Al Grigg which eventuated into a conversation about music making, touring, Mexican food and feelings.
As noted, Al and Tom [Wallace] of Palms were previously a part of the late Sydney outfit Red Riders. Prior to moving onto Palms, what made the boys and the other Red Riders members call it quits?
I think we realised that Red Riders had run it’s course. Matt [Chapman], the old bass player, was leaving to go join the corporate world – and I’m a big fan of bands who just stay as the same lineup the whole time and we’d already lost one member, so rather than like limp on as a shadow of what we were, to just call it a day I guess. I think we kinda like explored everything musically that we were going to be able to under that banner, so yeah, just called it a day.
Considering the versatility of the name Palms, how did the band get its name?
Well we had all these other names like “Reality Bites”, “Strange Days”, all these really silly like standard dumb names. But I think we liked Palms because it was pretty but just nothing? You know, it could be a palm tree, it could be the palm of your hand, you could more give it whatever meaning you wanted to rather than it actually be something that would daze pretty hard on you.
As you may or may not already know, there is another band called Palms based in the United States. I asked Al if this could potentially lead into name changing.
I reckon we probably, maybe had it first. I don’t really know, it’s sorta funny that people keep bringing it up with me, I think I just don’t really care. I’m not trying to be rude or anything, it just doesn’t really bother me. It’s sorta like, I wanna call my band Palms, so I’m going to. World domination [laughs] isn’t really on our to-do list, so I can’t imagine it really being a huge problem for us. It’s more like “you stick to your turf and we’ll stick to ours”. That’s probably just me being super naive, but that’s how I see it anyway.
Not only Red Riders and Palms, Grigg is also a member of Sydney outfit Straight Arrows. Considering the unique sounds and vibes that come from each of these three groups, surely it must be refreshing to be a part of such different projects.
Yeah, totally! I mean, I just feel if you’re a creative person, it’s sorta good to have as many creative outlets as you can. I think they all kind of feed off each other and inspire one another. I kinda feel like Palms is somewhere between Red Riders and Straight Arrows; it has the sorta like lo-fi vibe of Straight Arrows, but then it has the sort of indie rock thing that Red Riders had, so yeah. I think it’s good, good for the creative juices.
Palms are to release their debut record Step Brothers this Friday, 30th August. Just how long did it take to write and record?
It’s sort of funny, one: it never takes that long to write a song; like if it doesn’t come to me pretty much complete, I usually get pretty frustrated by it, chuck it and just never go back to it. So, the actual song-writing didn’t take so long. And even recording, we probably recorded for about three days all up, but those were like three days scattered across about almost twelve months. So it sort of took a very short amount of time but it also took a really long time.
And we kind of had a whole different album written. It was funny, me and Tom kind of had this whole other Palms album written, ready to go and then I just sort of had this huge creative burst. Just more when we started to play more shows and I suddenly had written all these songs in one go. So now the album – it’s eleven songs but only three of them were going to be on the original album.
Does Step Brothers tell a specific story?
Well, it’s just fairly mundane, fairly boring like I just got obsessed with someone and just couldn’t get past it, so the whole album is sorta just about that. That’s probably why I wrote so many songs in just one go. Feelings are essentially only just interesting to yourself, like other people’s feelings are kinda like boring? Like, who cares? The way that is was recorded in this sort of lo-fi way, just Owen [Penglis] who recorded it, his attitude is just like, “yeah yeah, good enough”, it stops you from taking the song too seriously and it stops the lyrics from being too self-important. And it’s kinda funny, people constantly say to me, “Oh the album is so much fun, it’s just energetic”. I’m just so glad for that cause I was really worried that the lyrics were just too emotional or something [laughs]. It’s kinda cool that nobody really sees that or cares, it’s just a fun, party album, cause it’s much more enjoyable that way than like some morose, sad tale from me.
“It’s just interpreted differently then”
Yeah, yeah. Don’t listen to the words [laughs]. Just have a good time.
Is there a particular track on Step Brothers that Al resonates with the most?
Yeah, ‘This Last Year’ for sure. Musically I really like that kind of style. It’s anthemic but then it also rips some super awesome solo on it. But yeah, musically I love that one but also I think lyrically, all the weird, confused feelings, I feel like I really nailed the exact feeling in that song. So I guess that’s really the centrepiece of the album musically and thematically and lyrically and all that.
To make things a little tricky for Al, I asked what one record he would choose to listen to for the rest of his life, with the rule being that he couldn’t listen to anything else. After a lot of umming and ahhing, he finally made his decision!
Ahhh damn, I’m just going to say The Replacements – Let It Be. It’s got like silly songs, it’s got heartfelt ballads, it’s got punk-rock songs, it’s got classic-rock tunes. Yeah, I guess it would be that because one: It’s probably my favourite album, but also it’s got variety. And they’re my favourite kind of albums. I usually like variety of an album where you’ve kind of got a few sad numbers, a few slower ones, some fast ones.
“I guess like Pavement, or something like that would be similar”
Yeah well that was the other album I was going to say, an album like Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain by Pavement, because that’s kind of a similar vibe. You know, it’s a little bit mellow, it’s got some of those, but silly as well and it’s got some rock songs on there, yeah.
As Grigg has been in a few different Sydney bands, I asked for his favourite Palms gig thus far.
Oooh, yeah maybe that King Tuff show we played at GoodGod. It was just crazy, like there was just so many kids there going nuts and head-banging, it felt like this crazy punk show or something, the microphone was going everywhere.. Yeah, it was nuts.
I’ve never fronted a band that people reacted like – that kind of stuff happens at Straight Arrows shows all the time, that sort of wild energy, but it’s never happened at shows where it’s like my band sort of thing? So it really felt like a Straight Arrows show, it was mad [laughs]. It was awesome to see all these people really into it. It was maybe like one of those turning point shows for the band where suddenly you realise that people actually like your songs and want to see you, yeah, it’s cool.
Palms have just set off with Cloud Control around Australia as they’re touring with the band in support of the Dream Cave tour. What is Al most looking forward to on this tour?
There’s a Mexican restaurant [laughs] in Byron Bay called OzyMex. To say that’s the thing I’m most looking forward to is probably ridiculous but any time anyone ever offers me a show in Byron Bay I always say yes because I know that I get to go eat OzyMex [laughs] so yeah.
But otherwise, I’m just really looking forward to touring. I’m actually most happy when I’m playing shows, and I’m always in a good mood when I know I’ve got a lot of shows coming up. I love the lifestyle of drifting place to place.
I wish that Australia was in a way more like America where you could play every night for like six months or something. This tour with Cloud Control is 13 shows, and it’s like, that’s a big tour in Australia. We’re doing our own album tour in I think around October, and we’re doing like three shows [laughs] in Sydney, Melbourne and Bris.
And to wrap things up, what else is in store for Palms from now until 2014?
Yeah, we’ve got this tour, our album coming out, and then we’ve got our own tour, and yeah we’ve just got a few random shows booked at the moment. Just probably more touring. I really want the next Palms album to come out like not stupidly soon, but I definitely want to do something pretty soon. Probably first half of next year. Hopefully get to work on some new demos and yeah! Just more music!
Words by Hannah Galvin.