by Hywel Davies
Not many people would disagree to the level of importance and influence Palm Reader have had on the hardcore scene today. Two outstanding pieces of contemporary rage in the form of 2013’s Bad Weather and 2015’s Besides The Ones We Love, have already made light work of the competition. Their third instalment sees them challenging their own aesthetic and putting that angst to the test.
Braille is out today and if you’ve already had a few spins of it, you’re fully aware of the evolution of the band’s dynamic. Without a doubt this is a huge turning point for the five piece that will either have you screaming with joy, or if you’re somewhat of a soulless sceptic, a little apprehensive; though we can’t really imagine why you would be?
It’s always healthy to question change and to always have an open mind especially when music is concerned. Whatever you think of the album, this marks an important step for Palm Reader and could even determine the rest of their career. The point being, this album has created new avenues for them explore that continue to push themselves and put the true concept of hardcore through its paces. If that doesn’t get you excited, then maybe music isn’t really your thing.
The long road they’ve undertaken here has been nothing short of a shit storm, but finally the world will bear witness to all the pain, turmoil, blood, sweat and tears that’s been poured into this absolutely gorgeous album. Guitarist Andy Gillan knows this all too well when Vulture Hound got chatting with the mind behind one of the UKs most crucial acts.
Vulture Hound: Hey Andy! Thanks for speaking with us today. I remember when we spoke a months ago you said that this album wasn’t going to be something that fans were not going to expect. After listening to it, I see where you’re coming from but is that still the case you reckon, given the positive reaction you had with your single ‘Swarm’?
Andy Gillan: I think so, yeah. I think people may have expectations of another hardcore album. It has elements of it but it’s not a hardcore record.
VH: Seems like more a natural progression…
AG: Yeah, it does. I definitely think so and it seems to be going that way. If you listen to all three albums back to back, it defiantly fits in place. If you took the first one and then listen to this one it might be a bit much, but if you listen back to the second record and compare it to that, it’s nothing that’s going to be unexpected. It will make sense, it won’t be like we’ve gone and done a ska country album [laughs].
VH: Do you think fans need to be shaken up now and again to get the blood pumping?
AG: I think so, otherwise you end up like Iron Maiden. Like, AC/DC and I say with all the love in the world, Angus Young has admitted that they’ve released the same album 15 times, albeit in comical fashion. Iron Maiden, unfortunately, don’t seem to be aware of it at all and I think they’re a fucking terrible band, so I’m quite happy saying that.
VH: What would you much rather: Bands being more ambitions or fans have more of an open mind?
AG: I’d much rather bands be more ambitious. There’s one band in particular which will remain nameless because they’re very close to my heart, but their last three records have been all the same and that kind of sucks. Some bands can get away with it like The Bronxs who’ve released the same album five times in a row, and it’s been fucking sick every time. I prefer when bands do things like Dillinger [Escape Plan] and Converge. Every album they take a bigger step and they’re still the same band. I much rather people take much more of a risk and if this album doesn’t do all that then obviously it didn’t hit the mark, or we overstretched. In which case we will do one of two things: One; either retreat back into the Palm Reader camp a little bit more or two; we’ll just give it the good old, “Actually, we don’t give a fuck what you think and we’ll take an even bigger step.” It may be suicidal for a band to do that but again we’re a pretty hard-headed bunch of dickheads.
VH: Can you describe the journey that you guys went through to put this album together? You said previously that a lot of angst went into this album.
AG: We had a lot going on. So, we all moved in with each other up to Nottingham for two and a half years. During that time, we had a whole host of relationship troubles as well as several family members dying and we thought that if we all move in together it would be wicked, because we were ‘bffs’ and all that shit. Then gradually we felt the unbridled stress of never being able to escape the people that you work with. We go on tour and we come home and the same four people would still be there. It caused quite a lot of tension which we had to work through for the sake of the band and the record. I think that’s displayed somewhat on the album.
VH: In any way was this album therapeutic or did it take you to a more uncomfortable place?
AB: Oh, it definitely did! It was definitely a kind of catharsis. The month before we actually went in to the studio, I was pulling my hair out; I genuinely didn’t think the album was good enough. That’s where Lewis [Johns, producer], came in and put a lot of my fears to rest. I think getting the album recorded and finally fucking released has been massively cathartic for us. As much as we do love each other to bits, I personally want to kill everyone in my band ha, ha! But after we recorded it, it was a huge sigh of relief. Both a bone of contention and the whipping boy for all of our personal grief has finally been laid to rest. We’re all nice and happy it’s finally done.
VH: On that note, Lewis has been there for you since the beginning. Which begs the question, how central is the mind of Lewis Johns to Palm Reader?
AB: I’ve never met someone who loves the Santana song ‘Smooth’ in all my life; he’s an impeccable character. All jokes aside, when we’ve gone into the studio with him, he’s been absolutely integral at keeping us reigned in – especially me. As soon as we get to the studio, my brain goes absolutely bananas and I want to put a million tracks of guitar, percussion and keys, like, “Oh, let’s get a choir in; let’s get Will from Black Peaks to drive up from London to put a sax solo on here.” He’s absolutely brilliant at reigning us all in and especially keeping us focused. Like, we’d be thinking about putting another snare here or there; another wash of the cymbals; have a dog barking in the background; but he does the whole, ‘It doesn’t really matter. Let’s get the whole riffing done then go through the back track.’ Unfortunately, there is no dog barking. Next time.
VH: Given there’s an element of risk and change on Braille, do you think this will be your most important record to date?
AG: Yes, I definitely think so – or err, maybe? – I think the first one was probably the most important but it’s more important than the last one. Or is it? Then if the first one was good and the second one was good, people will only go, ‘Oh, they’re only a one trick pony.’ I think the first three albums are equally as album in their own right.
VH: Would you say Braille is a good point of entry to get someone into the band?
AG: No! [Laughs]
VH: Why’s that?
AG: It’s more of a reflection of where we are as a band right now. But, I think once we release our next record it will be the best one to bring people into the band. As an introduction, probably the last record would be better purely because it’s a sort of halfway house between where we are and where we were. This album has definitely been my favourite one by a country mile and I think it’s our best one, but as an intro piece, definitely not the first album I’d choose. Probably, I’d say our last record is the – you know, what? Fuck it, yes! Absolutely! This is the best album to date and this is the one to introduce yourselves to the band, simply because this is a better reflection of where we are headed.
VH: Finally, what does the future look like creatively with the release of this album? What sort of foundation have you laid down?
AG: We’ve written two riffs for the next record so far, and that’s it. But I think Braille is the road we’re heading down, whether or not it’s a complete turn off from where we were before or it’s just kind of a bit of a detour. The last two albums have been like really heavy and really aggressive; this album we’ve dialled back a huge amount of those elements but there’s nothing to say that we won’t bring them back in greater amounts for the next record because we don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s never going to get to a point where we just go, ‘Cheers rock and metal world, but we’re going off down country lane.’ It’s always going to sound like us, but it all depends on what hat we’re wearing. I definitely see this is like a bit of a fork in the road.
Braille is out now via Silent Cult.