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    9 MIN READ

    The heartbeat of Palace’s ‘Ultrasound’


    With the full bodied opening of Palace’s fourth album Ultrasound, you get a sense of one door closing and another opening; a veneer of sky peeling off and flaking its way towards you to reveal something that is hopefully better than what has been. Quintessentially Palace, the expanses of British coastline native to the group’s childhood are unmistakably welcomed again as engulfing, oceanic sound and refraction bleed together over 13 new tracks.

    Under the blanket of intricate guitar work, ethereal synth sounds and melancholia clasp each other’s fingertips to unveil something luminous. There is a sense of nostalgia, but also something more pressing. The trailing thread through the story of the album comes from frontman Leo Wyndham and his partner’s non-linear unfurling through the grief of miscarriage. Traversing the thickness of uncertainty, Wyndham and the band use the album to pay homage to the sanctity and simultaneous mundaneness of life, backlit by a determination to find resolve and celebrate human strength.

    How did Palace come together?

    We actually met when we were at school when we were pretty young and grew up being friends. But it was after school that we started the band and we’d all played music separately. And then when we were sort of a bit older, we were all living in London and for fun, me and Matt thought it’d be really fun to get together in the evenings and just jam in a studio. And I got Ruben and we started jamming in this tiny, little craggy rehearsal space. And for a long time it was just like this fun thing to do. It quite quickly just developed from there, we started doing gigs and then we got picked up. But, yeah, we’re old friends, really. We’ve known each other for a long time.

    What can you say about the place that you grew up in?

    We grew up in slightly different places. Yeah, me and Ru are from the West country in the UK, so it’s super green and leafy and by the sea. Leo will tell you he grew up by the sea as well, so the ocean comes up a lot in the themes of our songs. Nature and the sea and that sort of stuff. Yeah, it’s a beautiful place where we grew up.

    Yeah, exactly. As Matt said, I think we’re all used to sort of being around rural vibes and for us it feels like a very sort of natural thing to be on the coast and be by the sea. And that’s something that sort of seeps into our music a lot, I think, is that kind of idea of nature.

    In terms of your individual music influences growing up, how would you describe the music that shaped you?

    I think we all had parents who were always blasting music in the car so we all grew up on lots and lots of different things. My mum and dad always had mixtapes in the car that they had made when they were younger. And I remember lots of Joni Mitchell and Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones and all the classics, really. Lots and lots of Van Morrison and that kind of thing. And that’s the stuff that sort of gets into your head from an early age. It was always these white mixtapes which were in our car that they had made.

    When I was at school Pablo Honey, the Bends and Ok Computer were really kind of hits at that time. So really early Radiohead stuff really kind of shaped my growing up, I would say.

    What about you, Rupert?

    Yeah, I think there are generally lots of crossovers, but then we all have just slightly different angles at it. Leo was saying Van Morrison and Matt was saying Radiohead and the old stuff. I was really into Neil Young in my early years and maybe some more 50s rock and roll because that’s what my dad was playing in the car all the time.


    Where were you when this album Ultrasound first came into view?

    After the last album, you get to that sort of weird next point where it’s been time after an album and you suddenly realize that you have to start putting together new music, and it’s quite a daunting thing. We collectively started getting together in London, and over the space of a year, really, we wrote and recorded this record. Usually our albums are a collection of songs over maybe two years that sort of come together. But this felt like it was a year pretty much from start to finish, of writing and recording the record.

    We were all in London and going to the studio called Unwound Studios in South London. And when I think of the album, I very much think of being in that space with our producer Adam. It’s a really cool studio, tucked away in this back alley of mechanics. It’s really strange. And we spent a lot of that year down this little alleyway, and that’s where it all took place. It was very cool to make an album that felt like it was a year of just bottled experiences that we had been living at the time – things we were all going through in that one year – that we brought into the studio and put into the songs in a very fresh and sort of organic way.

    What do you feel like you were coming into the studio with to deal with musically and explore?

    For me, personally – I think it’s a word you used– expansive. We’ve spoken about it a lot in rehearsals recently for tours and learning Shoals on record. Like after we recorded it, in rehearsing, it was really tricky. It’s really intricate and quite fiddly and there’s a lot going on. Whereas this album, the songs were so fresh and written in the studio, we didn’t really know how we were supposed to go about playing them. But as soon as we actually started rehearsing, there was just so much space and expansiveness. And I think that’s something we wanted to explore from moving on from the last record was making something that could really breathe and feel massive and then very intimate at the same time, in a very smooth way.

    I think that’s the same as what I was going to say from the perspective of the drums anyway. I think on the last record, a lot of the drum parts are an extension of the guitar parts in a way, quite loose and wild with a lot going on. Whereas actually for this one, Adam, the producer, really got in my mind about the power of simplicity; of a really simple, repetitive groove. Which I found quite an interesting mindset shift for me, having had loads of other drum parts of our songs being quite wild. It was quite fun really locking into a steady groove. As Ru said, having a lot of the parts recorded like that, helps give everything else loads more space. It’s a bit paradoxical, but it allows the stuff that needs space to soar.

    Yeah. I think I sort of would echo what the guys have said. I think that’s it. I think we’ve always been used to finding power and drama and songs by all going big at points and then going down and then big and down. In this album we sort of found a way of creating drama and emotion without going massive and cranking our pedals and smashing our guitars and hitting the symbols.

    It was about finding ways to convey this contained emotion and real vibrating power, without going big, using different tricks to convey different feelings.

    One of my favorite tracks is Love is a precious thing. Hearing it, it almost feels like there’s digital noise and interruption on it in some way. I was listening to it and thought oh, this belongs in Requiem for a Dream’s soundtrack or something like that. I wondered where the narrative came from. 

    It’s a sensitive one, really. But in terms of the story, it came from an experience, at the beginning of that year with me and my partner, when we were trying to have a baby, and we were finding it very difficult at the time. It came out of that experience that a lot of people have. That year was very much working through this experience and figuring things out and figuring ourselves out. And it became a way to figure out a complicated and confusing situation. Like music for a lot of people, it becomes a means to figure out your identity in complicated situations, through loss and pain.

    An important aspect is the way love and light eventually seeps through acts of dark moments.

    And I think we want the album to feel like a hopeful thing as well, and not to be sort of weighed down by a heavy concept like the one I’m talking about. We really want to drive through the fact that there’s a lot of hope in the album and a lot of light, and that’s what we found, really, within it. So yeah it’s that discovery and that journey, really.

    There definitely is that liminality and that luminosity that shines through the body of work. How do you guys feel about performing this new album? Is there anything you’re really looking forward to being challenged by?

    Well, we had a crack at it recently because we did this live streamed show a couple of weeks ago where we played the album start to finish, which was really fun. We’d never done anything like that before, so it was a really cool opportunity to do that and play brand new songs that we’ve never really played too much before. All of it is super fun just because it’s new. There’s a couple that are quite fiddly to play, but it was great in a way, kind of being forced into it. We didn’t get to choose, like, oh, maybe we won’t play that one. We kind of had to go for it and now we’ve done it so it’s a little less daunting. They’re all super fun to play.

    In terms of what you guys consume artistically when you’re in the recording space- what’s your process?

    I can’t speak for the guys, but I’m pretty sure they probably feel the same way. I don’t think it’s something you really overthink. I think when you’re recording, you’re just living as you live normally and you don’t create a certain environment around you. But I think maybe subconsciously you’re always staying open to the world. Staying open hearted and listening to music and watching films and all these things, and maybe subconsciously you are sort of absorbing these things around you. But you don’t really condition yourself in a way for recording. I think you want to stay in a normal headspace where you are just open to the world and open to experiences. You can probably get a bit caught up in your head if you’re almost like an athlete, trying to get into a certain sort of condition to do it. I think you could probably overthink things and get caught up in your head, but I think you have to just be sort of grounded and present.

    I totally agree with that. I think if you detach yourself too much, nothing would ever get finished because you’d be searching for something that I don’t think you’d ever get to. You’d never really be happy with it, and you’d get in your head and it’d just be a nightmare. I think keeping grounded and mindful is important because you have to be able to tick things off. And I think on the first album, we kind of did that and tried to shut ourselves off to what we thought was a masterpiece in our heads. You go in thinking that. So we spent so long doing things that never ended up on the record or took forever to get to. And it just drove everyone a little bit insane.

    And that last process was with our same producer who did this record. So we’ve done it full circle, and everyone was just more relaxed this time. You could see the outside world and get on with it and enjoy it. If something sounded good, it was great, rather than ‘That sounded good, but could we make it better?’ You just go around in circles if you do that forever.

    What about you, Matt? Do you agree with those responses?

    I was just going to say there was a couple of times in the recording process where the guys were playing guitar up in Adam’s control room, and he just suddenly would run over and get up a scene for a movie and put it on his monitor to set the scene. One was the very end scene of Fight Club. We just had it on a loop, playing guitar parts to Nightmares & Ice Cream. He just had this thought in his head and quickly ran over and did it without really saying too much. And it was quite fun because it sets a tone without really sort of thinking about it. That was cool.

    That was amazing.

    What’s next for you guys? Where do you hope to be in the coming twelve months?

    Just traveling the world and touring, playing as many shows as possible and going to some new places. Coming back to Australia, hopefully- we love going there, and we really hope to get back there really soon. It’s become quite a special place for us and the shows have just been incredible there so far, so hopefully we’ll be back there very soon.