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

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A disused Victorian primary school. Occult chants. Letters to dead people in a secret notebook. Not plot points from a horror movie, but things that have played a part in the creation of Palace Watson’s debut EP, Fun In Purgatory.

The three-piece, consisting of ex-members of local progressive hardcore favourites Future Horizons (Will Rayment, bass) and Middlesbrough ‘math-mosh’ outfit Rosa Valle (Liam Richardson, drums and Daniel Wilmslow Huddlestone, vocals/guitar), hinted at their proclivity towards the darker side of life with their first single The Smell, released back in June 2019. With its morose lyrics and nervous, knife-edge energy, the hooky slice of post-hardcore set Palace Watson out as ones to watch. They’ve been pretty elusive ever since, so where have they been? Well, creating music in that aforementioned Victorian primary school for one.

It’s an old primary school that’s been converted into a community arts centre in this tiny little nowhere village in South Yorkshire,” explains Huddlestone. “It’s barely used for anything, so it’s mostly just empty classrooms with the old chalkboards and everything, but with a beat-up recording studio installed into the school hall/old toilets. Our friend closed his studio and moved to Prague and left a lifetime’s worth of oddball recording gear in the school studio. A full analogue desk, hand-built compressors, a RADAR computer from the 90s that perfectly emulates reel to reel tape. Stuff audio nerds would drool over. It was so fun recording with it.”

With the bones of the EP laid down, the songs were meticulously produced and worked over first in Tbilisi, Georgia, while Huddlestone stayed with family there, and then in an attic in South London where he is currently based. The resulting EP is a beautifully morbid four track body of work which blends emo angst with contemporary pop production flourishes. Frantic lead single Dead As Leaves sets the tone from the off with its themes of growing up and examining who you are, complete with sampled occult chants.

When it comes to the dark subject matter, I’ve loved skeletons and monsters since I was a kid. I used to write letters to dead people in a secret notebook

Those chants are from an old radio play I found on a tape archives website. It was so nutty I couldn’t even tell you what it was about, but I remember it really caught my attention. I’d already got most of the lyrics to Dead As Leaves and knew I was writing about adulthood feeling like a death sentence, then I heard the chants, ‘they have sentenced you to death’. It was such a cool moment accidentally stumbling onto something that fit so well.

I suppose that’s the main theme of the EP, exploring those darker moments where you wonder why you even try at all. When it comes to the dark subject matter, I’ve loved skeletons and monsters since I was a kid. I used to write letters to dead people in a secret notebook. So I think it’s just been on my mind from pretty early on.”

When it comes to the rest of the EP, though the same punk dissonance of Dead As Leaves appears on the frenetic Embarrassment, the remaining tracks are wonderfully disparate. Leave The Cemetery is a delicate lament, while closer Dead As Leaves (Reprise) reworks the lead single as a grandiose arrangement of piano and strings which swoop sorrowfully.

I’d say my songwriting idols are Billy Corgan and Gerard Way, but as far as producers I look to the likes of Kanye or Sufjan Stevens for the maximalist approach they’re known for,” says Huddlestone. “I’m always drawn to artists who aren’t afraid to borrow from other genres. I think punk/emo boxes itself in a lot of the time. There’s no reason you can’t make that kind of music and also blend other types of production.”

Palace Watson release Fun In Purgatory this month

 

Palace Watson · Dead as Leaves

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