Palm Reader have been toiling away in the hardcore circuit for what seems like forever. Their records have always received high praise from critics, but none more so than their third full-length and most recent effort, ‘Braille’. Could this be the album that gets them the recognition that they’ve so long been denied?
We sat down with guitarist Andy Gillan and drummer Dan Olds in the park behind The Garage in Highbury, London, the upstairs room of which they’ll be playing tonight, to talk about working on ‘Braille’, firing shots at Matt Tuck (Bullet For My Valentine) and Josh Franceschi (You Me At Six), and whether they think this could finally be their time to shine.
DP!: You took quite a bit of time out to work on ‘Braille’. It was obviously worth the wait, but what was going on?!
D: So, we released ‘Beside The Ones We Love’ in 2015, and we did a bit of touring up until May 2016, and then we had maybe like two months off doing anything to do with the band. Then we all just thought “Fuck… gotta write another album.” We started from scratch, whereas usually we’d have bits from the last record to start on, but this was completely from scratch. We moved to a new place as well, we moved from Woking to Nottingham, so it was just starting our lives there and trying to write a record at the same time was very stressful. But I feel that for this record it was good to have that time, because I don’t think we’d have produced what we did if we’d rushed it.
DP!: The influences for this record seem to be quite vast. You can hear a bit of The Dillinger Escape Plan, and a bit of Every Time I Die in there too. Where did you guys take influence from in particular?
D: We all have very very different music tastes. Andy likes soundscape-y, post-rock stuff. Posh (Josh Redrup, bassist) is more of a hardcore punk kind of person. Josh likes funk and all that sort of stuff. Everyone brings what they’ve been listening to to the collective Palm Reader table. There’s probably only about ten bands that we all collectively agree are good.
A: And Palm Reader is not one of them!
DP!: ‘Breach’ and ‘Dorothy’ are the instrumental interludes on the album. When you were writing them, did you think about how they would fit in on the record, and how they would translate live?
A: ‘Breach’ is a collection of, like, ditties that I just had knocking around. I quite like to take myself off to the practice room early in the morning or late at night, and then just sit and piss about with different sounds and so on, and that all sort of just became a thing. Maybe one day I’ll remember how to play them all linked together! Pretty much every album has like a track 7 or track 8, or God forbid a track 12, which is just too much, and it’s usually like “meh, skip.” So, rather than cramming in 10 or 12 noisy bastard tunes, we thought it would be nice to break it up a bit. There’s a song that didn’t make it onto the album. We ditched it two weeks before we went into the studio because it wasn’t up to scratch. We’ve gone back and listened to it, and it definitely was not good. That track could have been in lieu of ‘Breach’ or ‘Dorothy’.
D: We wanted to pick the best things instead of saying “That’ll do. We’ve written a song, so it needs to go on the album,” like I fear some bands do, and it definitely translates in their work, which is quite sad.
A: ‘Dorothy’ is a bit of a personal one. Both my grandparents a couple of years ago were ailing quite badly, and when I took them from my parents’ house back to their house, my Gran was not doing well and I thought it was the last time I was going to see her, so I kind of wrote it for her. It will never be played live, because I can’t play keyboard very well!
DP!: In tracks like ‘Intertia’ and ‘Internal Winter’, there’s a common theme of inner turmoil and cognitive dissonance running through the record, but it definitely seems like a less angry record than ‘Beside The Ones We Love’.
D: Yeah, I think two different things made that happen. ‘Beside The Ones We Love’ we wrote most of it in about two weeks in a dark hole in Birmingham where we never saw the sunlight, so it was just sort of how we were feeling while we were writing it. ‘Braille’ had a little bit more space and time to write it, and Josh was having quite a hard time as well, because he lost some family members in a very short space of time. I can’t really express his feelings for him, but it was quite a dark time for him. ‘Internal Winter’ came from his granddad passing away, and it was sort of like a second part to ‘Noble Host’ (from the album ‘Bad Weather’), because that was written about his granddad and then ‘Internal Winter’ was about his passing. So, Josh went through a bit of a horrible time and it came out lyrically.
DP!: The word I constantly hear to describe Palm Reader is ‘underrated’. You guys have been together since 2011, why do you think it is that you haven’t broken the mainstream yet, and is that even your aim?
A: The term is “critically adored, publicly ignored.” We haven’t ever slotted into or even come close to what’s in vogue. We knocked about with loads of hardcore bands.
D: Yeah, in 2011 to 2013, that was when hardcore was like the cool thing to do, so you had loads and loads of bands saturating the market, and that’s when we happened to be a thing. We obviously had the new shiny industry toy thing that every band has, but it was when the UK hardcore scene was in quite a shitty place.
A: The Gallows hangover.
D: So, we didn’t get the same push that some, albeit very deserving bands, right now are getting. And now, because we’re not the shiny new car, we’ve sort of had to take a bit of a back step to try and make it grow. But this album especially, ever since it came out, I don’t think we’ve had a badly attended show. For us, things are noticeably getting better in terms of crowds. It’s nice to see people paying attention to ‘Braille’, whereas I don’t think many people paid attention to ‘Beside The Ones We Love’. It almost feels like after seven years we’re starting over, just with an extensive back catalogue, so it’d be nice to grow on that for whatever we decide to do next. It feels like this is our first album and the other two were warm-ups.
DP!: Matt Tuck (Bullet For My Valentine, vocalist/guitarist) recently said that heavy music, metal in particular, has gone “a bit stale”. Would you agree or disagree?
D: 100% not! It’s like fucking Gene Simmons saying “rock’s dead.” It’s not, it’s 100% not. You’re just living in a bubble where you’ve become too successful to care about the underground.
A: You can throw that same comment into the same shit bucket as Josh Franceschi (You Me At Six, vocalist) saying that rock needs to “raise its game” because it’s stale or boring or whatever, and then the next day dropping their FIFA menu music single which was just absolute dog shit.
D: They say these things because they’re worried about their own songs, and therefore they have to push the shock angle to try and get people to pay attention to them, so they can push their bad songs during the time they get the most press. I’m very confident in saying this, because we’re never gonna play with Bullet For My Valentine or You Me At Six, and they’ve produced utter shit, but they feel the need to get the public eye by using shock tactics instead of actually writing good songs. You’ve got bands like Conjurer and Loathe, and I hadn’t been paying much attention in the past couple years, but now these bands have got me paying attention to underground metal. They had me thinking “Shit, they’re REALLY good. They’re better than anything I’ve heard before.”
A: I think something that helps a lot of bands like Loathe and Conjurer, and I don’t want this to be a pissing contest or whatever, but when we were just cutting our teeth there were a lot of cut and paste hardcore bands everywhere. There was the Every Time I Die thing, the whole beatdown thing, and because there isn’t a massive thing that everyone’s into at the moment it gives a lot more breathing room for these sorts of bands. There’s not a hundred people looking at a hundred bands, there’s a hundred people looking at like, thirty, so the bands that deserve it are able to get actual recognition and attention which is what should happen anyway. Instead of “Verb The Noun are really good. Oh, there’s another band with a nautical theme name and they’re really good, but they’ve split up, and now they’ve come back and they’ve got backing tracks and now they’re kind of djent-y but kind of not.”
D: The UK music scene is in a really good place right now, and I really don’t want it to go back to its old ways, like someone who’s just got out of rehab and starts doing drugs again. You’re doing really well, come on.
A: There’s a bit of 90s grunge-ish shoegazey stuff coming out at the moment, and because it’s not aggressive music it means everyone that’s not in the limelight can grow organically. Like, I can’t even imagine what Conjurer’s next record will sound like. It’ll be fucking insane.
D: Matt Tuck is just stuck in a bubble of fucking US radio rock.
DP!: So, what’ll be next for you guys?
D: Start writing again! We’ve had a couple months off to enjoy ‘Braille’, but now it’s back on it.
A: The funny thing is people are like “Fucking hell, but you’ve just released a record,” and we’re like “Yeah, but we recorded it in April last year!” We’ve had some time off, and so now’s the time to get back on the horse to do whatever. We’ve kind of got a rough idea of when we’re gonna record and when we’re gonna release, and the pressure’s off a little bit now, but now is the time to write a record that’s either as good or better than ‘Braille’. We want to keep releasing better records, but everyone releases a turkey at some point.
D: Not everyone! We’ll hopefully follow that trend.
A: Let’s release a turkey in like two albums’ time.
D: No, let’s never release a turkey!
A: Once we’re getting paid enough, let’s release something crap. We’ll release something stale for Matt Tuck.
The band’s third studio album, ‘Braille’, is out now through Silent Cult.
Lottie adores hardcore and is an ardent advocate for the emo revival. When she’s not writing for DEAD PRESS!, she’s occasionally scribbling away for her own terrible blog, but usually playing video games.