The Boisterous Bloom Of Rock ‘N’ Roll Anti-Wallflowers: Palma Violets
By Laura Bishop; Photo by Tom Beard on April 16, 2013
I recently had the pleasure of catching up with Chilli Jesson: one of the frontmen and bassist of UK garage darlings, Palma Violets. Despite the distance between us (how many miles separate LA and Geneva, anyway?) it was a warm and talkative Jesson who greeted me on the other end of the line setting a relaxed tone to the rest of our wired encounter.
Palma Violets recently shot to fame after winning NME awards for both “Best New Single” and “Best New Band,” only narrowly following the release of their debut LP: 180. To say the band has been “hyped” is an understatement. A creative, candy-inspired band name emerged from the outfit’s Lambeth studio space back in 2011 with the simple reason that the boys all had a soft spot for the ‘70s-style sweet treat Parma Violets.
Being keen festival goers, half of the band met at 2009’s Reading Festival where the notion of becoming a group was far from the minds of these budding young musicians. “Festivals are a place where you can be most real; you’re your most true self. It’s a special kind of environment,” muses Jesson.
All fitting within the age range of 19 to 21, these boys are babes in the woods of the rock ‘n’ roll legends they’ve been compared to. Too many names have been thrown around to settle on just one particular sound or artist, but Jesson doesn’t seem too phased: “I guess it’s a good thing that there’s so many mentioned because it means that people can’t quite put their finger on it.”
It’s true there are elements of similarities between Palma Violets and The Clash/Libertines/Vaccines/Nick Cave—just to name a few—but the gnarly garage rock sound that Palma Violets produce also encompasses a gritty psychedelic undertone not seen in many of the aforementioned acts’ back catalogues.
The story behind the LP’s title, 180, comes from an art space found by Chilli and lead vocalist, Sam Fryer, when the pair went out in search of lodgings.
“We were just two mates with a few ideas,” says Chilli. “We wanted a space to do something creative. Not necessarily anything in particular, just a space of our own...it became a rehearsal room when we realized we could write songs together.”
And so was born the fifth member of Palma Violets. Housing was only a miniscule part of this little studio’s worth: it nurtured the growing Palmas, acted as a rehearsal space and held boozy private concerts for the lads and their chums as they found their sound and established a solid following. Chilli informs me that the band still hold the keys to the hallowed studio, using it for their own purposes and lending it out to friends while on tour.
Having been on tour for most of 2013, it’s understandable to assume there must be some downsides to living in your bandmates’ pockets. The early years of your twenties are hard enough away from the revolving road of tours, festivals, gigs and events, so what makes Palma Violets violent? Apparently it’s the superfluous things.
“We tend to argue about stupid shit. Last night we had an argument about who wanted to eat pasta,” laughs Jesson, who believes it’s important to have tiffs to relieve tension and avoid built-up resentment. “It can help you open up and really get to the core of the problem; everyone’s vulnerable during an argument.”
It’s about time I asked the question everyone’s been waiting to have answered: who’s the ladies’ man of the gang?
For the first time, I hear snickers and muffled outcries on the other end, suggesting Chilli is not the only Violet on the line. Jesson stifles a chortle and remains coy for a heartbeat before informing me of a superbly alliterate term of endearment the Palmas have bestowed upon the band’s keyboardist: “Pete the Pillager.”
“He sees something he wants and he will get it,” Jesson says with complete clarity, something I sense Jesson himself feels about the success of his beloved Violet vigilantes.
There’s something unique about Palma Violets and their approach to fame and success. Trolling their Twitter page pre-interview, I notice there’s a strong focus on keeping it casual and mingling with their growing base of fans directly. Staging DIY concerts akin to those they used to host at Studio 180 is important to the boys who recently played both house parties and student commune gigs in Texas around their SXSW schedule.
“They’re some of our most fun shows,” says Jesson, who goes on to explain the importance of playing to the band’s peers: the ones that play their music and help spread the seed that Palma Violets are nurturing into being. It seems that despite the continuous rise of these anti-wallflowers, their roots remain in the soil that nurtured them; their fans are with them on this journey towards unknown heights. F
Join the mob and see them bloom; Palma Violets play The Echo this Wednesday, April 17, in Los Angeles.