While it’s criminal to rehash the words of a press release in an interview, Palms’ description of themselves perfectly sums up their debut album, Step Brothers – “it’s a collection of short, mostly loud songs written in one bedroom, recorded in another, about wanting someone to let you into their bedroom.” Brilliant. Frontman Al Griggs and drummer Tom Wallace (both formerly of Sydney indie rock darlings Red Riders) have teamed up with Brendan Walsh and Dion Ford to create Palms. They’re four friends having fun, there’s no five-year-plan or stylised PR machine behind them and the resultant album is awash with honesty and devoid of pretention. God may have helped with it too, but more on that later.
Red Riders went from strength to strength quite early, earning support slots with Jet and Franz Ferdinand before their debut album had been released, and while Griggs looks back on that time with plenty of nostalgia, Palms is not his break-up band. “I feel great about all this actually,” he says. “I would never wanna talk down Red Riders, it just felt like it had completely ran its course and right in the wake of that ending I had a massive creative burst. I felt really inspired again and energised by the change … The funny thing about Palms is that everyone keeps saying it sounds more like me than anything I’ve ever done in the past.”
The creative burst was nothing new to Griggs – his writing style has always had a stream-of-consciousness approach – but Palms afforded him the ability to do that with a musically mature mind. “For me anyway, writing songs is a pretty subconscious thing. I never consciously think about what I’m about to do and I never really feel like I get a say in what comes out.” So is there an intangible, perhaps even spiritual element to the process? “Definitely,” he says before giving it some thought. “I don’t think they’re gifts from God or anything – I really hope God is writing much better songs than I am…” The moment is broken by Griggs’ rapturous laughter and an otherwise silent audience in the background of our chat. He has to win Quote Of The Year for that one.
The band that Griggs has surrounded himself with has also been integral to the relaxed vibe of Palms. “On paper I could’ve done Palms on my own but I need someone to say, ‘Yeah man, that’s good’ or also to challenge me when I need to go a bit harder.” Taking that uninhibited creative process into the studio was a breeze for the band. They recorded with Owen Penglis (Royal Headache, Straight Arrows) in his kitchen on a budget of food. “He recorded it in his kitchen and it took us three days – but three days spaced out across eight months,” Griggs says. “We paid him in food, he totally did a favour for us … his pace and his attitude kept it all really alive. We didn’t jam the songs for months and even now we just practise if we have a show. I’ve done that in bands before where you play something to death and when you end up playing it live you’ve just played the life out of it.”
That attitude is Griggs’ new mantra – not just for Palms but for his life in music. “After Red Riders kinda become frustrating we decided that with this we just wanted to do what was fun to do,” he says. “Let’s not bother with the whole game, let’s just make the videos we want to and play the music we want to and not be pressured by anyone.”
BY KRISSI WEISS