Palma Violets: Swaggeringly Sincere English Punk Upstarts Just to Happy to Be Here (in the U.S.)
"There's a lot more free beer here, and it's sunny!"
Who: “We’re going fast, this is wild,” says Palma Violets singer-bassist Alexander “Chilli” Jesson. He’s yelling into a cell phone from the back of a golf cart at Coachella, shortly before his band’s set, but he could be talking about the quick-rising quartet’s young career. Drinking buddies Jesson, 19, guitarist Samuel Fryer, keyboardist Jeffrey Mayhew, and drummer William Doyle, all 21, started developing their brand of vibrantly scruffy punk together in the London neighborhood of Lambeth in late 2011. They had a record deal less than a year later. “There was nothing going on that we liked,” explains Jesson. “So we started playing music so our friends would have something good to dance to.”
They Mean It, Man, But Not In An Angry Way: Jesson cites the Clash, Nick Cave, and the Gun Club as key influences on the band’s debut, 180, produced by Pulp’s Steve Mackey. But where their idols trafficked in myth and rebellion, Palma Violets plant their romanticism in humbler soil: the reeling “Best of Friends” is about tamping down dating expectations, while “14” is a drunken meander about wanting to write a hit song and buying a new car. It’s all set to a combination of croons and howls, tumbling drums, crinkly guitars, and chintzy organ. “If there’s one thing we’re trying to do musically,” says Jesson, “it’s sound like we fucking mean it.”
Silence Kit: Palma Violets took a purposefully low-key, low-tech approach to promotion, holding back on releasing music online, relying instead on playing live and word-of-mouth. (Early fans posted their own videos of live gigs.) “It seems that everyone cops out and starts their career the same way,” explains Jesson. “We just wanted people to find the music on their own. And if it didn’t work, so what? We’d still be having a good time.” The strategy worked. The NME slapped the boys on its October 2012 cover, and christened them “The Best New Band in Britain.”
The Sunshine and the Beer Are Free: Prior to Coachella, Palma Violets embarked on a short tour of the East Coast. After the festival, a West Coast run beckons. Wherever they’re playing, though, the young Londoners are reveling in the simple pleasures. “No matter what they tell you, every English band dreams of touring America,” says Jesson. “There’s a lot more free beer here, and it’s sunny!”