Written for Epigram
In the middle of their UK tour, bassist Will Dorey and guitarist Rupert Turner of indie-blues band Palace sat down to chat to me in the bar of Bristol’s Thekla. It’s been a monumental year for the London four-piece – they’ve toured the UK and the width and breadth of Europe and released their debut album So Long Forever. But the success hasn’t gone to their heads; they seem just as laidback as the riffs that fuel their music. Our conversation begins with how they begin writing their tracks. “Sometimes, one of us could be just cooking a meal for the rest of the band and then gets an idea – if they’re stirring a pot of lentils, for example, they’ll suddenly get an idea and they’ll decide to bring that to the band and we’ll discuss it, and ask ‘what were you cooking?’ and they’ll say ‘lentils’, and from that we’ll build the song”, says Rupert.
Nothing about Palace is contrived – Will adds that they “just write songs [they] like mostly”. Although “there is a theme of loss running through So Long Forever, that was more from Leo’s lyrics than anything else. We just went with things we liked really. It wasn’t really that we wanted it to be a dark sounding album or a happy-clappy hippy album.”
Rupert nods and smiles in agreement – “It’s just music that we want to do – that’s the simplest answer really. We weren’t trying to sound like anyone, or trying to do anything like that”. Palace are certainly a very independent band with a sound of their own. Although Will was “listening to King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard on repeat basically” whilst writing So Long Forever, by his own admission, the album sounds nothing like them. Rupert continues, “there’s no specific artist that because they played guitar, I wanted to, too, it was just generally liking music”. Will jokes “I thought it was Chris Rea who did it for you! Mozart and Chris Rea – the two dudes of rock”.
The band’s pride in independence goes beyond their music. It’s clear in their project Palace Presents, a monthly night of live music curated by the band, held at an independent venue in London, The George Tavern. It started off as “just something else to do as Palace really. It’s done at the venue where we used to do our first gigs, and it’s just taking on the night from our friend who used to run it. He moved away, so he stopped, and we decided to carry it on. We get to play our friends’ bands and support them, and get bands to play who we want to see live, so it works out quite nicely really.”
However, they don’t do absolutely everything themselves. Their affection for frontman Leo Wyndham’s brother, Wilby Wyndham is evident. Not only was he their original bassist, but he is also the man behind all of their album art. “Really, he’s got a natural knack of knowing what works for us… he’s like the fifth Beatle, but of Palace. He’s the man behind the scenes, but still has a large part to play. Plus, he came up with the name, Palace. Apart from the songs, he is Palace”, says Rupert.
For me, as well as many other long-term fans of Palace, the single ‘Bitter’ was an entry-point; whilst it has grown to be one of their biggest tracks, it was re-recorded for the album, because the band believe although “it is one of our more successful tracks [and] it’s a strong song, we thought we could do a better recording of it, because we didn’t really like the original recording. We thought it was played really sloppily, but then other people don’t really like the new one and prefer the old one!”.
Before they head back to their soundcheck, Will and Rupert tell me of the time they “were walking in Munich from the hotel to the venue and someone, out of a car, threw an egg at our drummer and hit him in the head – and all the egg fell down his face!” – but it’s easy to imagine that this is the only mishap the band have had so far. Egg-wielding passers-by aside, So Long Forever has been an undeniably brilliant opening chapter for Palace.