Chaotic Hudson Valley noise rock band Palm make loud, erratic songs with lyrical catch. Founding members Kasra Kurt and Eve Alpert talked to us this week about upcoming album Trading Basics and their recent move to Philadelphia.
Check out Palm this Friday, 9/18, at Cuisine en Locale along with Pile, Krill, and Warehouse! Show starts at 8:30, all ages, $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
Boston Hassle: What is the story behind Palm? I understand you’re from the Hudson Valley but your roots are in London?
Kasra Kurt: Me and Eve met in London when she was 13 and I was 14. We were both into music and would go to shows together. Really hit it off at a Yellowcard concert in 2004 but only started jamming years later. I think it was born out of us liking some of the same bands. We got second to last place at the school Battle of the Bands that year. Hugo entered the fray when we were all at college in upstate NY and at some point we convinced Gerasimos that he should play bass with us.
BH: There’s a lot going on in your songs, which should come off as wholly chaotic. Yet there seems to be an underlying order. How do you find that balance?
KK: I don’t think we’re always successful at striking that balance but we definitely try. It’s difficult because a lot of the writing is collaborative so ideas can get messy pretty quickly. I think the Palm tracks that work best have one or two formal motifs – usually rhythmic arrangements – that we maintain more or less throughout and which allow us all to be expressive individually without compromising the ‘song’.
BH: The complexity of your music takes some serious musical talents. Are any of you formally trained in your instruments?
KK: I’m not sure that we play especially complex music. Perhaps as a whole it can sound like there’s a lot going on but the individual parts are, for the most part, pretty simple. None of us are formally trained but we all started on different instruments to the ones we play – Hugo’s first instrument was guitar, Eve and Ger started on piano and I grew up playing drums. That probably informs our approach more than any music education we’ve had.
BH: There is a definite jammy aspect to parts of your songs. Is your writing process pretty improvisational?
KK: It’s definitely a mix. Usually a song will start with a seed idea and then we’ll work on it extensively together. By the time we’re finished the initial idea is barely recognisable. Hugo, in particular, has a tendency to interpret riffs in pretty unusual ways and we’re all kinda stubborn so often we’ll keep playing the same way regardless of what the other members do. I’m really into that dynamic dissonance – like we’re all pulling a song in different directions. Other times songs emerge from jams. Either way it’s all super collaborative.
BH: The Hudson Valley seems to have a pretty interesting experimental music scene. What’s it like there?
KK: I love it up there but it’s small so there’s not really a ‘scene’ in the true sense – at least one that I was aware of. Most of the ‘experimental’ artists we knew were kids we went to college with.
BH: You just relocated to Philadelphia. How come? How do you think the urban setting will influence your music?
Eve Alpert: I think we were just looking for a change. Kasra, Gerry and I had been in the Hudson Valley for six years. Hugo had been in New York City. He was back and forth to practice with us. Philadelphia’s affordable and exciting with a lot of things happening. We’d spent some time here in the past and made a few friends so it made sense.
BH: You began as an instrumental project. What ideas or sounds were you experimenting with then? What made you decide to incorporate vocals? Eve and Kasra have amazing voices and I love how you play with the distinctions between them. How do you approach writing for those distinctive vocals?
KK: Palm started as an instrumental band because none of us were vocalists. We hoped someone would come in during band practice and sing over our songs but that didn’t happen so after a year or so we decided to split up the duties. It’s probably only in the last few months that we’ve stopped sulking about having to sing and tried to make it work. More recently we’ve tried using vocals as a compositional tool as opposed to an after-thought. Abstract arrangements can sound cohesive with a strong melody tying it all together. It allows us to push further in a certain direction and in that sense it can be liberating even if we’re not confident singers. We’re still working it out to be honest.
BH: Your first album is being released in November. What can listeners expect from Trading Basics?
KK: I dunno ! I’ve heard those songs too many times to have any perspective. I guess I hope listeners get the sense that we’re having a good time trying new things and taking risks.