Palma Violets Talk Blooming on Sophomore LP “Danger in the Club”

It was a manager’s nightmare. After releasing a power-packed debut album and ascending the charts, the young English garage rockers Palma Violets were out of steam, exhausted from a grueling international tour. Internal struggles surfaced; the band feared they could never live up to the success of 180their first release. Desperate, the Clash-inspired Londoners retreated to a farm in the deserted hills of Wales to repair relationships, write new music, and (whether they liked it or not) chop down firewood in the forest.

From the outskirts of Stonehenge emerged Danger in the Club, an album that glides over the hurdle of a sophomore slump. As an homage to their time spent secluded in the hills, the album opens with “Sweet Violets,” a track on which the band recorded the owners of their farm singing an old folk song. From this introduction, it becomes immediately clear that Danger in the Club isn’t just a poor imitation of 180, as the band feared their second album would appear to be. Without discarding the raw energy of 180, Palma Violets crafted an LP that is both spirited and controlled. The album layers chant-like vocals and violent, repetitive guitar riffs on songs like “Peter and the Gun” and “Hollywood (I Got It)” with pensive, stripped-down moments like “The Jacket Song,” which was recorded in one take in the early hours of the morning.

Following in the footsteps of bands like The Libertines or Arctic Monkeys, Palma Violets have lodged themselves in the perfect position to continue to develop, yet still have fun along the way. Fellow London-bred, young rockers The Vaccines, who experienced a similarly rapid rise to fame, aptly titled their second LP The Vaccines Come of AgeAfter honing their songwriting skills alone in Wales, it seems that Palma Violets are coming of age as well, learning that they have the potential to write more than just head-banging singles like 180’s Best of Friends.”

On Tuesday, May 12, Palma Violets will return to Philadelphia to play Johnny Brenda’s on a two-month tour of the United States. We spoke with co-frontman (bass/vocals) Chilli Jesson about living in a secluded farm, lucid dreaming, and developing confidence as a songwriter.

Rock On Philly: What do you think divides British rock and American rock?

Chilli Jesson: Well, um,  America is… bigger [laughs]. The drives are longer, and you kind of really got to slog it, you know, in America. It’s weird. We might speak the same language, but it’s so foreign, you know? Everything’s a bit bigger, and it’s so interesting. From state to state, it’s so different, like countries within one country.

ROP: Have you noticed any particularly striking cultural differences on tour in America?

CJ: Culturally, yeah – the ages of the audience who can drink. Here, people have been drinking since they were eighteen, but twenty-one? It’s quite strange. That’s the biggest [difference] I see.

ROP: Speaking of ages, you guys are pretty young to have put out two albums, toured across continents, and played major festivals – do you remember when you first discovered your passion for music?

CJ: Probably pretty young, but I never really wanted to be in a band. I met Sam [Fryer, Vocals/Guitar], and I taught myself the bass, and then drums, but I always loved music.

ROP: What British bands influenced you?

CJ: Probably The Clash. Big influence. And British.

ROP: On the new album Danger In The Club, you recorded the entire album on a farm in Wales – how did the band decide to do that?

CJ: Literally, our tour manager just dropped us there. We were fighting again… That was it. We just did.

ROP: What was a typical day on the farm like?

CJ: Getting up whenever we wanted, chopping down wood for the fire, you know. There’s such nothingness… You really have to live together. We hadn’t done anything like that before.

ROP: Are you able to describe a moment where you felt like being on the farm helped you bond more with your bandmates?

CJ:  Yeah, definitely, when we wrote the first song for the new album. I think the tension was that we didn’t know if we could write a good song again.

ROP: I heard that the song “Sweet Violets” was something that the people who owned the farm would sing as a farm song. When did you first hear that, and what made you decide to put it on the album?

CJ: They started singing that song to us, because obviously, our name is Palma Violets. We just recorded it and captured it in the moment. When the record was done, we decided that would be the most fitting introduction to it

ROP: Were there any other songs on the album that had unconventional origins like that one did?
CJ: I suppose “The Jacket Song.” It’s a slower acoustic one. It just came at six in the morning – John Leckie, the producer, was like “What song is that?” And then we all just got together and played one take at six in the morning. And it sounds like that as well.

ROP: When you were on the farm in Wales, were there any very vivid, strange experiences that you remember?

CJ: These very lucid dreams kept happening on the farm. You know Stonehenge? That’s around where we were staying, and you’re supposed to have more lucid dreams around it. I don’t know if I believe it, but they were some of the most lucid dreams I’ve ever had.

ROP: Do you think that the dreams influenced the tone of the album at all?

CJ: The song “Peter and the Gun” was a dream of Sam’s. Peter is a murderer, you know? Following him around the hills of Wales, and yeah. It wouldn’t influence me too much, because that would freak me out [Laughs].

ROP: Was there anything else that freaked you out during that experience?

CJ: Well, when Sam’s coming out with murderous tunes like that, you know…

ROP: Did you learn anything new about yourself as a musician while recording the album?

CJ: Confidence in writing. I never really felt like I could be writing songs. I wrote a few on the first album, but I really got a grip on how to write music.

ROP: After the first album, you toured pretty intensely, which caused some internal issues. Now, going into the second album, do have any new insight about how to tour effectively?

CJ: Get some sleep. It’s healthy.

ROP: Did you play Philadelphia the first time around on tour?

CJ: Yeah, we played a really great gig, and then we stayed in an Airbnb in New York. But we drove back [to Philadelphia], because the person who booked us didn’t know we were coming back, and thought we were leaving a day early. I just saw my suitcase being flung out the window. So, yeah. Philadelphia was a great show, but not the woman in New York.

Check out the music video for “Danger in the Club,” the album’s title single below! Be sure to pick up a copy of Danger in the Club here!

Featured Photo via Rolling Stone

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