INTERVIEW: The Palps | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Genuine originality isn’t easy to come by these days. The world is a very big place, humans have been knocking about for quite a while now, and whether it be directly or otherwise, most ideas are to some extent rehashed from things that came before them.

On their debut album And The Ground Grew Cold…, however, Newcastle natives The Palps have delved into that rich, problematic tapestry of history and emerged with a concept that isn’t just original, it’s positively mind-bending.

The band – made up of frontman Tom Astley, guitarist Sam Covill, bassist Kate Franklin and drummer Ali Bee – deal in a brand of self-professed lo-fi prog rock that strides between genres with confident ease while never losing sight of its admirable ambition, or its sense of intimacy. As Tom puts it: “We’re not rock gods, we don’t live on a different planet, so it’s trying to marry those two aesthetics together.”

While The Palps may not boast the deific status of some of their more-esteemed prog forefathers, they cast a hulking great shadow over most bands with the grandiosity of the themes underpinning their debut. Rooted solely in the North East, it spans everything from the last ice age to the violent race riots that scarred Middlesbrough’s Cannon Street in 1961 to a post-apocalyptic vision of Durham’s Heritage Coast from a distant, hellish future. It’s quite the ride, and for an album with such a unique premise, it’s perhaps unsurprising that the concept blossomed from a suitably niche seed.

If you genuinely believe something can destroy your world, the end of the world becomes a tangible thing

I started getting really interested in the history of witch hangings in Newcastle, in Scaffold Hill, which is near where we rehearse,” Tom explains. “But pretty early on I started thinking about the actual theme – what’s the actual ‘this is what I’m really talking about’ allegory? It was a bit on the nose, thinking about the witch hunts and not being able to see somebody else’s point of view. It felt a bit glib, particularly with what we were going through with Brexit and all that sort of shit.”

Most bands would have kept hammering away at that initial idea, trying to cram a square peg into a round hole in the name of shallow political commentary, but The Palps are too inquisitive and too canny for that kind of thing. Humble, thoughtful and quite clearly impassioned by the music they make, the close-knit four-piece have a refreshing outlook that strives for a deeper understanding of the complex region around them.

It was more trying to get into the head of someone that you would fundamentally disagree with,” Tom continues. “The idea of seeing somebody who would hang a witch or vote for Brexit as reactionary and ignorant is too easy an assumption – it doesn’t tell the whole story. So I was trying to get into the mind of why somebody would do that. That person genuinely believed their world was at threat. If you genuinely believe something can destroy your world, the end of the world becomes a tangible thing. Whether true or not, the feeling that your world is coming to an end is a powerful emotion. To me, that was the spark.”

I think that’s what makes it unique,” Ali adds. “Usually, with a concept album, all of the songs might be about a similar time or a similar place around the same theme. This one has a concept, but it spans millions of years and lots of different places, and lots of different demographics of people.”

Debut albums don’t come much more original than that.

The Palps release And The Ground Grew Cold… on 31st May

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