London Student

Palace: ‘Imperfection in music is a very beautiful thing’

Tice Cin interviews Leo Wyndham, the frontman for the London alt blues band Palace, talking poetry, touring life and music that hits you in the gut.

TC: I first came across your music when you performed at Sofar Sounds back in October. I’m a fan of your work so when I had the chance to interview you for London Student I jumped on board!

LW: In that little church? Ah, that was awesome. Thank you so much, that’s so lovely to hear.

TC: Yes – the atmosphere was amazing! How’s the tour going? Tonight you’re playing in Munich?

LW: Tonight yes, I’m actually in Munich right now, sitting in a launderette. We had a day off yesterday in Munich – it’s really beautiful and we’re playing a sold out show!

TC: It’s surprising that you’re at a launderette on the eve of your show!

LW: You get so little time to bumble around. This is the first day I’ve had to sleep in and wander around. I’m cleansing myself of the last week of craziness.It’s amazing and completely mindblowing. All the shows so far have been sold out. We played to 500 people or so in Berlin the other night. It’s crazy to see how intense things have got with the band. After the show, we speak to the fans and it’s so passionate and intimate. We’ve had loads of people coming up to us and they’re crying from the show.

TC: I’m not surprised!

LW: Our minds are constantly blown from the intensity of it all. It’s so cool to see people connect with the music. We are all feeling so happy at the moment seeing how far we’ve come, y’know?

TC: Your music has helped a lot of people through some hard times, myself included. With songs like Bitter and It’s Over easily reading like poetry. Who writes your lyrics?

LW: That would be me! A lot of it is autobiographical about things I’ve gone through. It’s all about my life and what’s going on there. I love writing lyrics; it’s become a very cathartic thing for me to help get over certain problems, fears and worries.

TC: Do you ever get time to write songs on tour?

LW: This is a weird one. I was talking to our guitarist Rupert yesterday and at the moment we haven’t even had a moment yet! The tour has been so exhausting and full on but in sound checks we try to have jams and flesh out ideas. But also I recently broke an acoustic guitar at Sofar Sounds in Barcelona. We were playing and I snapped one of the tuning tags off in the middle of the gig.

We’re on tour in Europe with our really good friends, Island, and in sound checks we’re having these huge ten man jams. That’s the closest we’ve come to writing music so far but we will definitely get round to it soon!

TC: You have some amazing support artists lined up for your UK dates! I’ll be at your gig at 02 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on April 27th, what does it feel like to be working your way up the ladder of venues around Europe?

LW: We don’t really have much time to think about it. Every step we’ve been going with the flow. It happens so fast that sometimes you don’t really have time to think about it and take it in. When we played Brixton Electric I just cried because I felt so overwhelmed by it all, seeing all of those people and our friends. It is strange seeing the venues get bigger and bigger – especially with the iconic ones like Shepherd’s Bush which is one of my favourite venues in London. When we started we said it was our dream to play there and now we are going to. It’s insane. I’ve been going there since I was 14 years old and to be on that stage… I’m probably going to spend the whole gig bawling my eyes out like some kind of nerd. But it will be so special.

TC: You worked in a studio in Tottenham for this album, So Long Forever. I grew up there! I find it really interesting that artists are starting to work in an area that gave birth to grime music. Is it an inspiring place to work?

LW: I love Tottenham – it has its own character. We’re off Broad Lane in an area full of artists, people who work in the circus and lots of bands like Django Django. It’s such a creative spot. We share this old warehouse space with 15 other musicians for next to nothing. We basically turned it from a crack den into a studio and we recorded pretty much all of our stuff there. It’s an inspiring place with all of our friends around us. We even have an amazing local pub called Mannion’s and it’s the best old band pub in the world. We’re at our most happy in the Tottenham studio, doing our own thing. It’s run down in so many ways but that is part of its charm.

TC: It must keep the music raw?

LW: Imperfection in music is a very beautiful thing we think. When you get overproduced records where everything is clean, perfect and pure… we don’t really relate to that that much. Scuzziness in our recordings is very important for our sound. Especially in the first two EPs – they’re not perfect playings by any stretch, or perfect recordings but that’s what we like. People are drawn to that. I think because it’s real and a bit more honest.

TC: I think that’s why people get so emotional hearing your music. Your gigs are spaces where people have these experiences of euphoria. People don’t mosh or hurt each other, they’re just taking everything in!

LW: That’s a funny one. Part of me has always wished that I made music people could go crazy and mosh to, but I’ve accepted that that’s not us or our sound. More and more on this tour I watch people in the crowd and a lot of them just have their eyes closed, swaying and struck by the music. I really love for the music to move people.

TC: What does it feel like to give that effect?

LW: It’s a weird concept: creating and manipulating sound in ways that move people. It’s a powerful thing, to realise that you can do that. Hopefully we will always do that. If I could have anything from putting our music out, I’d love it to be that people are emotionally connected and feel something in their stomachs.

TC: What’s next? What are your goals when the tour is finished?

LW: We go with the flow and hesitate to project too much. One thing I’d love to do is tour America. We had a great response from over there so hopefully that can happen. But apart from that we will keep making music and building up the fan base.

Perhaps taking a little bit of time to sleep in between!

Yes definitely! You always crash after a tour because you’re drinking a lot, staying up late and getting up early. We’re going to have a little bit of time off and then it will be straight back to writing.

TC: Like a phoenix from the ashes, straight back out there!

LW: Yes definitely, feeling some inspiration from Tottenham in the summer!

TC: Has the spoken word scene in London ever inspired your work?

LW: Actually, I’ve gotten into it recently for inspiration. My friend Jamie Lee, from the band Money, told me that I should give poetry a try because that’s where he gets inspiration for his lyrics.

We have a night in London at the George Tavern and every time he gives a spoken word bit for about half an hour. He got me into poetry!

TC: Yes he’s a bit of a creative genius. He’s performing this week at the launch of a band called Shaking Chains. There’s so much going on this week. What will you be doing now?

LW: Right now? We’re staying in a lovely hotel for once. There’s even a steam room. I’m going to steam and swim like some kind of twat and then we play the show and then off to Zurich. Munich is so beautiful and it’s such a lovely day.

TC: Sounds like the perfect day!

LW: Yes, apart from the laundry!

TC: I’ll set you free so you can enjoy the sun. Good luck with the rest of your tour!

If you’re interested in music that froths with blues vibes and dances on your heartstrings, Palace’s UK tour, including a gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 27 April, starts next month.

Featured image: Flore Diamant.

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