Entertainment & Arts

Palma Violets riding the wave

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Media captionSinger and bassist Chilli Jesson and guitarist, Sam Fryer speak to the BBC's Sabrina Sweeney after their live session at Maida Vale studios.

Just eighteen months ago, London indie rockers, Palma Violets formed after a chance meeting at the Reading Festival.

With their eagerly anticipated debut album, 180, released this week, the foursome - who've been compared to Joy Division and The Libertines - are enjoying the excitement and praise that's been showered upon them by fans and critics alike.

"We just take it a day at a time. How boring is that for an answer?" says frontman, Chilli Jesson, when we meet at Maida Vale studios after the band's live recording for BBC 6 Music.

"We don't read the magazines. We just go out and play."

"[It's] really exciting," adds Jesson, who shares lead vocals with fellow frontman, Sam Fryer.

Until now, the band have been riding high on the success of their debut song, Best of Friends, NME's top track of 2012 and their second single, Step Up For The Cool Cats.

Image caption The foursome begin a UK tour in March

"I can't wait for the record to be out because we've been playing these songs for a while and audiences don't know the words or the lyrics or any of the songs, apart from the two singles, so it's a lot easier when you've got a record out and people have heard it.

"I can't wait for people to hear the record and then come see the live shows, because I know that feeling of going to see a live band when you love the record," he adds.

Nick Cave and The Clash

Both on and off-stage, Jesson and Fryer display a special chemistry, ignited back in September 2011 after a chance meeting at Reading festival, when they bonded over their eclectic musical tastes and the likes of Nick Cave and The Clash.

"I was playing guitar to my friends around the campfire and he was just a lonely straggler," reveals Fryer.

"It was a Velvet Underground song and (Chilli) really liked it and said (he) wanted to be my manager."

Fast-forward 18 months and it's clear it was more than just a drunken stumble in the dark, when new festival friends make promises they can't remember and rarely keep.

Their raw, energetic excitement which is flamboyant yet unshowy, sees them jump around stage and stumble into each other like soul mates who've been playing together for years.

"There's too many groups that I've seen that just stand there and look good. I think we look all right. But we give it 100%.

"We both went for two years to shows. I had to save up and buy tickets, so all those kids who come down [to see us], I want them to have the best show that they possibly can.

"I think that's every single member of the band who gives it everything and if [we] don't, we'd be quite upset with ourselves," he adds.

Image caption Frontman Chilli Jesson says playing America was "special"


NME elevated Palma Violets to dizzying heights when it named their debut song, the punkish sing-along Best of Friends, the best track of 2012. The buzz saw them touted as one of the bands who could bring British indie guitar music back into the charts in 2013.

They also made the longlist for the BBC's Sound of 2013.

But not all the critics have been so enthralled. The Guardian's Alexis Petridis described 180 as "undercooked", with their free-form song writing "leaving you with the distinct impression of a band throwing disparate ideas at the wall in the hope that some of them stick".

Jesson and Fryer admit they don't have a song writing process, but care enough about the music to "chuck" anything they're not all entirely happy with.

"We never like to have a formula," says Jesson. "That's why our songs don't usually develop in a natural way. It's not always verse, chorus, verse, chorus. It's really natural."

"It's just spontaneous," adds Fryer. "Sometimes it's all of us shouting at each other in a room, other times we'll work on it on our own at home and we'll form an ear round that. We're always arguing because (Jesson) wants to punk it all up and I want to make it all epic and intense," laughs Fryer.

"Because we got that lovely place, studio 180, we were able to write songs pretty quickly and it all came about really naturally," he adds.

Label courtship

The band say they crave creative freedom and it's one of the reasons they say they're thriving under the management of Rough Trade records, the independent - but by no means small - label, known for nurturing raw talent.

Image caption Best of Friends was NME's best song of 2012

"We knew we'd never want to sign to a major label," says Jesson, adding: "They're all sharks.

"I don't think we would have worked. We needed time and space and [to have] people like Geoff (Travis) and Jeannette (Lee) who run the label, who love our music and are actually hands on.

"They've been in the industry for 30 years and Jeannette was in PiL (Sex Pistol John Lydon's band), so we've got a lot of rock and roll advice, which is good."

Palma Violets recently played a roll of US gigs including shows in Brooklyn, a place they "fell in love with".

"The people are a lot more appreciative and the bands really give it something," enthuses Jesson.

"The first band we played with had travelled from Vancouver to play a show and they [got] there and bang, they [were] on. That's the kind of attitude I like," he adds.

So has the magic of America lured them into breaking the notoriously difficult market?

"We just hope for the opportunity to go back, just because we love that place," says Jesson.

"I've always dreamt about New York and we write about America in our music subconsciously. It's a place we really dreamt about going so [playing there] was really special," he adds.

Palma Violets debut album, 180 is out now. The band begin a UK tour in March.

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