Interview: Wild Palms

Wild Palms - Photo courtesy of Wild Palms

Wild Palms - Photo courtesy of Wild Palms

With a band like Wild Palms, change is always a constant.

The London-based foursome – made up of Lou Hill (vocals), Gareth Jones (bass), Darrell Hawkins (guitar) and James Parish (drums) – has only been on the scene for a short while, but already, the band is no stranger to subverting labels and proving itself to be much more than critics initially thought.

“Everyone kept kind of, earmarking us as like, spikey post-punk, and we pushed ourselves quite hard to change,” Hill said.

Of course, not all the fans have been able to take this aural change in stride, with critical opinion being split positively and negatively.

“We tried to create something quite, you know, glistening and beautiful, and I don’t think people expected it,” Hill said of the band’s decision to break away from a label they were stuck with early on. “It’s an album with subtlety, so, you have to have, like, the patience and let it, you know, kind of build upon you and give it some time, [and] I guess some people were expecting the other side of us and maybe didn’t get what they wanted, so it split people because of that reason.”

Yet the members aren’t terribly disheartened or discouraged from experimenting; although the debut album, “Until Spring,” – released on One Little Indian – had a very specific kind of presence, the band has already made the decision to do things differently once more on the follow-up.

“It’s, again, completely different from the first one,” Hill said of the already-begun writing process for the second album. “So I guess the people who like the first album may hate the second one, and then the people who didn’t like the first one might like this one. I don’t know.”

Aside from sound, one of the main differences in approach between the two albums is also the length of time taken to write the songs, and the amount of time the band wants to lapse between the recording and eventual release of the album.

Whereas “Until Spring” was released nearly nine months after it was completed, the hope for the sophomore album is that it will come out immediately after the band wraps up recording.

“This time around we’re writing [the songs] in much, kind of, closer succession,” Hill said, specifying that Wild Palms wants to make a cohesive sort of record, as opposed to just a collection of songs. “We’re actually writing for a second album rather than kind of writing for live purposes…there’s definitely, like, a big corresponding thread running through them.”

He admitted it has a lot to do with the fact that the four are much more on the same page now, with an idea and direction of where they want the music to go and what they want it to accomplish – something which was lacking in the past.

“Before we went into the first album, we didn’t have a major grasp of what we wanted it to sound like completely, and so this time everyone’s got very kind of…headstrong opinions on, especially, individual instruments that we play, what we want it to sound like,” he said. “I guess the first few months were quite difficult because Darrell, the guitarist, was really kind of going down the route of quite heavy noise, basically, and then the drummer really wanted to do kind of hip-hop drums, and, you know. So we were all kind of reeling off in different ways, and it took us a little while to eventually bring those influences in and make them work.”

Hill’s insight, however, doesn’t just extend to the other members of the band, but also pertains to himself.

“[I’m] trying to evolve with the rest of the band as well, so yeah, I’m doing things differently as well, which is, you know, always nice to kind of switch things up a bit,” he said.

In particular, he referenced the fact that he no longer plays any instruments, such as keyboards, instead focusing primarily on singing and the meaning behind what he sings.

“You have to have some sort of emotional investment in [the lyrics]…I don’t know how people could just, you know, write lyrics down in an arbitrary way really,” he said, sharing that he is also giving much more concentrated attention to the melody and rhythm of the lyrical lines themselves.

And it’s the actual writing of the songs that the band loves to do the most. Whereas touring and playing in different cities can be hit-and-miss, Hill shared that “the writing of the music is a more constant buzz” for all of the members.

“Usually what happens is that I guess it’s a bit of a cut-and-paste operation, because you know within your consciousness individually there’s bits of stuff that you’ve done that you like, and if someone’s got a guitar riff or a beat or something then we [piece them together],” he said. “And I mean, writing is so difficult because, you know, you’ve got basically four men all with their own egos, in a room, trying to write music. But we’ve been kind of best mates for years, so it’s OK for us, [especially] when you have that moment when stuff starts clicking.”

Additionally, Hill cited the idea of getting back to the basics as something the band is primarily focused on right now, because all four have acknowledged that playing raw, stripped-down music is what they do best.

“I think we tried to get too clever for our own good at one point…[and now] it’s just basically kind of getting back to when we first got in a band and kind of, you know, trusting each other to make the right decisions,” he said. “It really really is just kind of us four in a room making music together.”

Wild Palms plays tonight at White Trash Fast Food in Berlin. The show begins at 22.00.

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