I climbed in to the back of the Palma Violets tour bus, moving a box of spaghetti in the process. I was lucky enough to be there catch Sam Fryer (vocals, guitar) and bassist, Chilli Jessen, for a whirlwind tour through why they’re named after sweets, what it’s like to be Britain’s newest hyped guitar band and playing on the moon…
You guys are a very recent phenomenon; how did it all start?
Chilli: We’ve never heard it called that before! Sam: Well, friendship wise for me and Chilli it was at Reading festival. Whilst around a campfire… I was having a bad time and he was playing some really good songs.
Sam: No, I was having a bad time, you were having a great time. So maybe we were both having a bad time…
Chilli: He was playing some amazing songs and I was like this is so special…
Sam: No, I was just playing some songs and he said ‘I want to manage you’ and I was said okay. I can’t really take you seriously because you’re younger than me but I’ll go for it anyway’. And we then ended up finding an office together—the office that turned out to be Studio 180. It didn’t really work out with this whole managing thing so we we’re like ‘nah’ and just started to write some songs. We then got Pete [Mayhew, keyboard] and Will [Doyle, drums], and we’d been in school together. We wrote about 5 songs and started playing shows in our basement and all our friends would come along and dance. Chilli: And yeah people just started coming down to the basement. The ethos was like, it’s all free, cheap drinks, party and yeah, just keep off that boring East London circuit and do our own thing.
Why did you call yourselves Palma Violets—is that significant or completely random?
It was completely insignificant. I always wanted a band name that meant absolutely nothing, that no one could read into but it turns out that they are my favourite sweets.
But you’ve ended up spelling it differently?
Oh but that’s just Pete being a genius, because Pete is the genius of the band. We saw there was a band in Scotland already called Parma Violets and he was like ‘why don’t we just change it to an ‘l’?’ And that meant we could use palm trees… We were going to use palm trees in our first ever merchandise and yeah, I prefer the ‘l’ instead of an ‘r’. And it adds a bit of spice.
You’ve gathered a lot of hype and high profiled support very fast, did you expect that?
I think what got everyone first was being signed to Rough Trade. Everyone in the indie world loves Rough Trade because of The Strokes, The Libertines and The Smiths. NME does especially so they were all excited to hear the new British guitar band and so people heard us straight away. We didn’t know that people were going to catch on to us that quickly. It’s been really that quick. But, it has been amazing. Really good.
Does it add some extra pressure to know that you’ve exploded that fast so people are expecting great things?
We don’t really see ourselves as exploding or anything. We’re kind of well shielded from all press releases and that. Apart from today when we were reading all our hate mail.
You get hate mail?
Well not really mail, more all the comments under Facebook and YouTube. It’s one of the funniest things you could ever do. It’s just so good. There’s the hate and then there’s like people who back you up. There’s massive essays on why we shouldn’t exist and then massive essays on why we should and people just seem to take so much time out to do it. Anyway, there’s no pressure. None.
You’re debut single ‘Best of Friends’ has just come out, why did you choose it as your first?
To be honest we really didn’t know. That was the song that just followed the whole verse, chorus, verse chorus thing. It’s our most conventional song and had the potential to be a ‘hit’. I think we’re like 150th in the charts or something. So for indie that’s a massive hit. It’s just the song that gives instant gratification. I mean, as soon as you hear that first chord on the radio it’s exciting and that’s the vision we all had and really it was an obvious choice.
How is the album shaping up and how have you found the recording process?
We’re hating it. Let’s be honest, being in a studio… It’s not the most fun place to be; live is really where it is at. We’ve done half of it and we’ll finish off the other half as soon as the tour is finished. We’ve done the newer half and we just haven’t done the older songs yet; it’s a case of getting them down. And at the end of the day, it will be wonderful. We’re recording with Steve Mackey who’s a lovely guy, very comfortable and he understands our sound.
Do you have a favourite on there so far?
Sam: All our songs are my favourite but I go in and out. Some days I go ‘oh this is a shit song’ and then the next day I’ll be like ‘oh this is a great song’.
Chilli: Um, ‘Three Stars’. I’ll just throw that one out there… That’s a world exclusive.
Well, I will take that and run with it then! As it is the penultimate day of the tour, how have you found it?
What – the whole tour? Wow. It kind of doesn’t feel like the tour any more because Childhood [previous support act]aren’t with us. Anyway, it’s literally just bee going on a road trip with your mates, like going on holiday for an entire month. With Savages it was really different but with Childhood we’ve been listening to their set night after night and just keep learning – we learn off each other.
Well you’ve already become known for your extreme shows, what’s been the weirdest thing to happen at them?
Sam: Weirdest? At Sticky Mike’s [an afterparty show at The Great Escape Festival in Brighton] I got electrocuted and my hair literally went on end. That was pretty strange. And on that same night I fell over the drumkit and whacked my head on the wall—but that time I didn’t cut it open. I’ve actually cut it open on this tour already. Well Chilli’s had some punch-ups with the crowd. You just attract all the nutters; the nutters just want to beat you up.
Chilli: Yeah, they really don’t like me. I’ve had a few fights on stage.
Sam: But, yeah, really nothing that extreme.
So what is next on the horizon for Palma Violets? Are you going to try and take over the musical world?
Actually, yeah if we take over the world we can then play on the moon. Yeah. I’d love to play on the moon; we can beat Muse up there. Because they think they’re going to get there… But they’re not. Yeah, we’re one step ahead let’s just say. Way ahead of the game