Last Thursday, I sat down for a quick chat with Leo from London blues-alt. band Palace, just before their headline gig at Voodoo that night. Even after 29 nights on the road, he was an absolute gent and covered everything from the band’s best gig experiences to which musician he’d want as company if castaway on a desert island. Check out our discussion below!

Is this your first time in Ireland and Belfast?

Yeah, it’s my first ever time. Our drummer Matt and guitarist Rupert have been a couple of times, and me and Will (the bass player) have never been. So yeah, it’s amazing. It kind of seems ridiculous to have never been to Ireland, but it’s pretty cool that the first time I get to come here I get to play shows. It’s great, I’m loving it so far – very tired, but I love it.

Yeah, I was going to say – you had a gig in Dublin last night, right?

We had a gig in Dublin and we’d just done about 29 days in a row with, like, 2 days off, so we’re screwed – but you get going again for the shows and have a great time. Ireland’s just a really cool place; the people are so nice, it’s very vibey, there are good pubs…all the things we like, really.

Speaking of your gigs and when you’re on tour – how do you keep performances fresh? Especially after 29 dates or something crazy like that…

It’s a hard one. Sometimes you have shows that just, for no particular reason, feel a bit stale. But we tend to mix the set up, bring in different songs…we’ll try different things on stage, play some shows sober and then some where we get a little bit drunk. Even just little things like breaking routine help. The shows tend to stay reasonably fresh anyway, as the fans in each different city tend to give you a different vibe, so you feed off it in different ways each time. There’s always an element of freshness to it, and we really try and work hard not to have shows that are just the same every night, definitely.

Where would be the crowds/places that have given you your most memorable gig?

Ever? Well, a few really stand out. We played to like 30,000 people at a festival called Musilac in France – in terms of numbers, it was insane. In terms of vibe and people, last night [Dublin] was amazing, genuinely. Berlin is always incredible, the vibe there is amazing: they all sing along and get really rowdy. Yeah, Berlin’s up there, and Amsterdam too. Those two are probably our favourite places to play as every time you go there, the crowd’s always so passionate. They get really into it, and it’s great.

Speaking of your tracks – how would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard you guys?

It’s funny, ’cause even we kind of struggle with this, but what we go back to (and this probably sounds really stupid) is big, ethereal, epic blues rock. There’s elements of blues, but it’s atmospheric, slightly folky and ethereal – a mashup of different things, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint. 

Definitely! And obviously you’re amazing in your own right, but you’re very much like the Maccabees, that kind of sound…

It’s funny – ’cause we love the Maccabees so much, they’re one of our favourite bands – but I feel quite a lot of differences in our vibe. In terms of the guitar playing, [we’re] a bit [similar], but maybe in the mood of the songs…a lot of their songs are quite uplifting, and I tend to think our songs can be quite dark and bleak. But anyway, that’s a compliment, I love them. (Oh good, I didn’t mean anything by it!) No, no, not at all, we get a lot of people saying it, and we f*cking love them so I’ll take that any day of the week!

Going back to the idea of gigs, I know you guys have your Palace Presents nights (gigs curated by the band) back in London. What kind of stuff would you have on?

Weirdly, I was planning the next one today. We have lots of our friends’ bands, and really up-and-coming people, but then we’ve had some quite well-established people as well – Flyte, Island, Blaenavon, Money…we get really sick people, it’s really cool ’cause you get to know all these musicians. We build this big network and it becomes a really big family around the night. We had Blaine from Mystery Jets DJing last time, and the next one we’ve got some really cool people, which I’m really excited about. And then in June we’ve got a mental one…I think we’ve just managed to get this really big guy, which is mental.

I’ve really learnt that if you’re just ballsy, have no fear and just say to people who are out of your league, “will you play our night?” Sometimes they just say yeah! We play once in a while, but it’s so nice just to curate it with bands that we love, then sit back and enjoy.

If you could book absolutely anybody for your dream Palace Presents, who would it be?

Ooh…I’d probably have King Krule, Angel Olsen and…who am I obsessed with? The Beatles? *laughs* Gotta aim high, right? We’ve tried to get King Krule, but sadly he doesn’t do that many shows, he’s not down [for it]. But King Krule, Angel Olsen—and the Maccabees, yeah. That’d be great.

Are there any bands that you’d love to collaborate with, as well?

Yeah, I guess so. I’m not sure if we’re the kind of band who’d collaborate with another band. I don’t know how it’d work…but I like the idea of getting a female singer on a track. We know some really cool singers – we have a friend called Azusena who’s getting big and is signed to our label, she has a great voice and we make music on the side a little bit. So I’d love to do something with her and Palace. We’ve got a friend called Alice Phoebe Lou who’s amazing too, she’s got a killer voice, so maybe her as well, that’d be cool.

Just thinking of the album, the artwork is incredible. Am I right in saying that it’s made by your brother?

Yeah, my brother. He’s an amazing artist and actually used to be our bass player, so he was the first bass player in our band and gave us our name – so we owe him so much! His artwork has become such a key part of our band and our vibe: the whole look of Palace is almost as important as the music. We feel so proud to have him involved, and his work’s really built us up in an amazing way. He’s on the cover too—the first EP cover, that’s his face, and then on the album he’s the guy in the middle looking up.

He actually just came on tour with us around Europe for five days, made up for lost time and not being in the band. Tearing it up [with him] was really fun, and we kept him behind after gigs on the merch, telling people “this is the guy who did the artwork!” Everyone went mental, swarmed over to him—and he gets really embarrassed, which is quite sweet, you know? It was great. He’s a cool guy.

So the album in general…it came out in November last year, after quite a while playing together. How does it feel?

Yeah, three years. It’s crazy! I never even dreamed of having an album, really, so it’s quite surreal. We started the band for fun, never planned on it being a professional thing, so it came out of this fun, organic place. Everything’s been a bonus, because we never expected that. Releasing an EP was like “f*ck, this is crazy”, and then another EP…the album’s been completely mind-blowing, really. I still have moments, seeing the cover of the vinyl where I’m like “sh*t”, I can’t believe we created that—and I just have such a sense of pride that I’ve done it with friends.

Were you guys all friends before being in the band?

Yeah, we’ve known each other since we were 13 or something. Really old pals. Me and Rupert, the guitarist, used to play a bit together. Then we left school and thought we’d set the band up for fun. We just got picked up off the back of that, we didn’t know what the f*ck we were doing, really. But we just went along with it and everything kind of just came off the back of that.

So final question (and one I’ve blatantly stolen from Radio 4)…if you were stuck on a desert island, which musician or band would you want to be stuck there with?

Oooh…any but my own? I’d maybe take…probably Angel Olsen, to be honest, or Mac DeMarco. I love Angel Olsen, she’s awesome, I’m slightly in love with her and she’s just really cool and talented. Or Mac DeMarco – we actually met him and his band a few times, and they’re funny guys. Either one of those two. All the other guys would probably say the same. Or Elvis. Why not? Good conversation.

Massive thanks to Leo for taking the time to talk to me – make sure to check out the band’s debut album So Long Forever and if you can, catch them live for some note-perfect, mellow-as-hell alt.-blues loveliness.

Eilís Lee

Eilís Lee

QR's Head of Events and resident Yorkshire lass. Tea enthusiast, lover of cake, English student, and host of Wednesdazed and Confused. Frequently gets emotional over books and Vampire Weekend.
Eilís Lee