Photo Robert Lund
Photo Robert Lund

Earlier in April, my exclusive pre-album interview with Danish two-piece, Palace Winter, was published by The 405.  Here is the unedited transcript of that same interview with the addition of some personal favourites from the bands catalogue to-date.

Enjoy, Derv x

Positron PW Feb 16

Palace Winter Oslo  5th March 2016  : Carl Coleman, Caspar Hesselager

“It’s been less than a year since Palace Winter, the Danish duo of Carl Coleman and Caspar Hesselager, made their public music debut when they uploaded first single ‘Menton’ onto Soundcloud.  Since then, their career has roller-coastered, hurtling along at such breakneck speed and with such continuous musical momentum, that one could almost be forgiven for thinking that this band had been around for years. 

Half a dozen singles, and one EP later, the BBC 6 Music playlisted band is now on the cusp of releasing  debut album, ‘Waiting for the World to Turn’, due out on 3rd June, which, by all accounts, has become one of the most eagerly anticipated of 2016.  As an exercise in honing their live sound and doubtless to ratchet up even more momentum, Palace Winter spent the first months of this year criss-crossing the Euro festival circuit, and it was in Oslo, where they were one of the headline acts at the by:Larm Festival, that I caught up with them for their only pre-album media interview. 

In this exclusive, the talented, chilled and wry humoured pair, discuss the surprising inspiration in insomnia, those loonnng instrumentals and what they really think of all those R.E.M. comparisons.

 

Let’s start by talking about the songs on the album ‘Waiting for the World to Turn’ and how you approached making the record. Were the songs written at the same time as those on the ‘Medication‘ EP or later?

CC : Later.  Basically when we signed with Tambo (their record label Tambourhinoceros), we started writing the album so it was March last year when we started writing the songs.   Then we spent the first three to four months just writing and choosing these new songs.

CH  : Yeah, Just demoing.  Doing really rough demos.

CC  : I guess it had a similar process or approach because we knew that what we were doing worked in some form because this cool record label had come along and we’d had a nice reaction to the first songs.   Our method seemed to work so we thought, “Let’s just do what we do in the studio.”

We often start with a tempo or a drum rhythm as a proper foundation for a tune and that kinda sets the mood.  Sometimes I’ve got some guitar chords lying around, like a melody, or sometimes Hessie has some piano hook going on and then we just build.  We don’t start properly building and recording on the song until we’re totally sure 100% that there’s a whole song there.

On some of the songs it’s almost as if you took a series of sounds or sketches and threw them all in together, say for example on the last two tracks ‘Dependence/Independence’, especially on the latter with its big blizzards of sounds.

CH : Those two in particular, are special constructions in a way.  The first part of ‘Independence’ was actually originally a whole song that Carl had lying around, which we actually considered for a while, as the demo was so good.

CC:  Yeah it was like a garage band, a really lo:fi recording.

CH :  And then going into this all out hi-fi ending.  But we changed the chords and did that whole thing to it.  It was a bit of an exercise for us to have only synth and Carl’s voice for the first time.

CC : That was completely new territory for me personally.  I knew I wanted to do a song like that, super minimal.

CH : Originally that first song existed on its own.  We wanted to do an epic end to the album and came up with that second half and threw them together.

CC : We actually had the melody for ‘Independence’ in another key and changed it to link with the first song, ‘Dependence’.

CH : But it’s funny now that we talk about it ‘cos in a way you sort of forget how you go about everything.  I think in general we try to make the whole thing fill the screen, even though it’s just a synth and voice, I want it to feel big still somehow.  Big and small.  It’s hard to explain.

CH : Hessie’s always attracted to the weird (laughs).  So it’s gotta have that sound.

 

“I love that tune actually but I have a funny relationship with all the songs after they’re done for some reason. I don’t know why!”

– Carl Coleman

Well yeah, that same ghostly sound that featured on ‘New Ghost’ is here on this album again.  Are you a bit obsessed with it Caspar?  Do you just have to have it in your music?

CH : (Laughs) We had this demo for a while with Carl’s voice really processed and really weird and I think that actually at some point, Chris (Christian who plays the drums) said “This is like your biggest hit, you cannot f**k this up, you cannot go this weird”.

At which point the two burst out laughing.  What’s always been apparent with these two guys is how much at ease they are with each other, how, like a married couple they, without even realising it, talk over each other and finish each other’s sentences.  There is clearly a very deep respect and understanding, in fact, I’d go so far as to say, there is a rather affectionate bond between these Palace boys.

“’Soft Machine’ is the best song on the album” I announce, which comes as no surprise to either of them.  (*BBC6 Music obviously agree with me as they playlisted the song – http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/playlists/zzzz8q)

CH :  He (Chris) thought so too.

“Obviously you don’t” I say mockingly.

CH : No, (he laughs) I love it.

CC :  I think it’s really cool.  I noticed you pointed it out in your review.  I love that tune actually but I have a funny relationship with all the songs after they’re done for some reason. I don’t know why!

CH : Just coming back to that thing you asked us, that one song has a special vocal production which was even more extreme to begin with but we sort of pulled it back a little bit, but there’s still some reminiscence of that ghostly sound there definitely.  We did some weird effects where we spread the vocals out so technically the voice sort of evaporates into thin air.

Yeah, it fades into a dream doesn’t it!  Speaking of dreams, when we discussed the EP before you said that a lot of themes were inter-related – dreams, the past etc.  I suspect some of those themes have continued on here.  Am I correct?

CC : Yeah.  I think just because it’s me and Hessie those feelings or themes are often recurring but there’s also for some reason that physical idea of sleep, like laying there, I sort of wanted to explore that a bit.  It’s like the most vulnerable you can be in a way, and I think also I was really restless while making the album, had a lot insomnia so there was all this lone time in the middle of the night, and that kind of jet lag feeling where the world is stopped and you’re awake.  It’s just weird and I thought that was really interesting.

Is that where the whole ‘Positron’ thing is coming from?

CC : Some of it yeah, and especially like the ‘Waiting for the World to Turn’ title.

Carl has completely second guessed my next question. 

“I actually wanted to ask you where you got the title from,” I say.

CC : Well that really relates to what I was just talking about.  That kind of insomnia/jetlag thing where you’re the only one present, and the world’s stopped, so you sort of wait for everyone to wake up and just for things to go back to normal.  But it also slightly kind of derives from the ‘Hearts to Kill’ song.

CH : And also we had the cover art before we had the title.

I’ve seen the cover art. It’s really different to the EP cover.  Where did you get it from, how did you find it, and does it refer or relate to something?

CH : Well it was something I found.  It was me on the internet for 90 hours or something like that.  For some reason I felt it would be fun.  You know we had sort of set the scene with the EP, of this very American suburban vibe and put that title ‘Medication’ on it and it sort of felt like we just needed to shake it up a bit. Something that was obviously from Asia was actually pretty important to me. We wanted something different, where you sort of zoom out, you’re looking at something bigger, like a person turning their back on something.

Album Art

 

“That was a very deliberate thing to lure people in; we wanted to provoke a little bit, by having people wait such a long time for any vocals.”

– Caspar Hesselager

Getting back to the songs, the intro to ‘Positron’ sounds totally like the intro to ‘Time Machine’.  Was that completely accidental, or did you like the sound and decide to reuse it?

CC : Yeah.  The rhythm has a very similar strumming pattern.

CH : I never thought about it before, but it’s probably not deliberate as with many other things that aren’t deliberate, it’s just going with something you like.

Where did the name ‘Positron’ come from?  On google it says, positively charged electron!

CH : That’s a Carl thing actually.

CC : My definition is “someone that is overly positive – this can be both a good and a bad thing.

Are you talking about yourself?

CC : (Laughs) – Yeah.  It’s definitely self-reflective but it’s also about characters, random people.

At which point the conversation lapses into a mini closed dialogue, to which I am a mere observer!

CH : But actually we haven’t been able to trace that definition to anyone other than you (Carl).

CC : Yeah but then I looked on Spotify and there were other songs called it.

CH : Yeah but they were probably talking about the electron definition.

CC : It’s really funny because Kris from the label was like “Did you invent this?” and I was like “I dunno”.  He wrote to Urban Dictionary but they said you can only claim a new word if you’re famous, a celebrity.

And you said “I’ll be back to you on that one then”.

CC :  “Yeah, in six months we’ll be back”, he laughs.

SPOT Festival May '16 FB
SPOT Festival May ’16 FB

There’s a big long instrumental intro on ‘Dune Wind’.   Why did you let the intro go on for so long?

CH : That was a very deliberate thing to lure people in.  We also wanted to provoke a little bit, by having people wait such a long time for any vocals.  It’s not a song that has a normal song structure, there’s no chorus per se, it just goes back and forth between two states.

We knew pretty much, very early on, that this was going to be the first song, and we knew very quickly that ‘Hearts to Kill’ was going to be the second song, cos it’s sort of the antithesis of the other song, it just hits you right on.

Also, the piano driving it, was another exercise for us somehow in sound.  You know this song would have been so obvious to chuck on an acoustic guitar to make it drive but we wanted to make it drive for a long time without resorting to that and that was actually very challenging.

I turn the conversation towards production and sound by asking Carl if he was more involved in that side of things this time around..

CC : Hessie definitely has more hours in the studio, quite simply because he’s the producer, engineer, master and mixer, but I guess so.  I think there was a lot more input on my part.

CH : I wouldn’t be able to do the production of a Palace album myself.  Your input and our input together is such that it’s the whole thing, even if I’m the one that technically records and mixes everything. Sometime I’ll experiment on my own, like say on ‘HW Running’, which has a pretty hefty synth solo on it, in the bridge.  That’s an example of Carl not being in the studio and me just messing around.

‘HWR’ is very like ‘Menton’

CC : Yeah, it’s one of mine. We turned everything up to eleven on that one, we were just like let’s just go all out.  There’s a lot of our trademarks in there like the Kraut kind of bass and drums.

CH : We wanted to do something fun and fast, and something that again really fills the screen and you really enjoy playing, so yeah, they’re quite similar.

You have gentle dreamy ballad ‘Soft Machine’ and then you have ‘HWR’ which is this pacey, frenetic, crazy song.  Which defines Palace Winter?

CC : They sort of like show both of our sides.  The sort of almost epic ballad cos I think the outro or the theme in ‘Softie’ is almost like a signature Palace sound, that descending kind of soaring, but then the tempo used in HWR is very us as well, so I think they both kind of represent us.

Reviewers seem to continuously compare Palace Winter with R.E.M, a subject we first touched on last September.  It’s come up again in the most recent reviews of their music …

I hate to bring this up again, but people keep comparing your sound to R.E.M.  Do you actually think you sound like R.E.M.? 

They both burst out laughing, shake their heads and in unison, whilst still laughing say, ‘Nah’.

CC : I think it’s just the fact that there’s acoustic guitars present.  I can’t really think of another reason for it (the comparison).

CH : The comparisons are triggered by so many little things sometimes and it’s sometimes inexplicable even for the people themselves to say what in a song reminds me of that.

CC : I like ‘Losing my Religion’ a lot but we don’t sound like it.  It’s so funny cos there’s all this 80’s stuff as well.

CH : I think we both don’t mind it.

“I think I’ve been listening to your music for so long now, that you just sound like you.” I tell them.  “You’ve a very definite sound.”

CC : Yeah, we just sound like Palace.

CH : I feel like that whatever you feed people they’ll eat. Early on we had The War on Drugs and Empire of the Sun, and we don’t really sound like them but if you feed that to people they’ll say that’s what you sound like. Comparisons are an easy way to talk about musicians.  (*Interestingly I’ve just read a review that compares to The War on Drugs; it brought a wry smile to my face!)

I mean we definitely sound more like R.E.M. than Black Sabbath.  Although, you never know! (laughs)

CC : Yeah what’s next?

Maybe a bit more like Abba?

CC : We DO like Abba.   *Cue more laughing*

Cover of Abba maybe?

CC : Owh, Anytime.

Winner Takes It All Carl?

CC : ‘Mamma Mia’

He shoots back at me with a big wide grin plastered across his mischievous face (he must have been some handful in school!)

How will you interpret your songs for your promotional tour?  Any variations on the theme?

CC : There’s a couple of tunes in there that are more challenging than others, but I think we’ll try and play ‘em as we made ‘em. My favourite is ‘Proclamation Day’ and we haven’t even tried that yet.  It’s my favourite.

CH : We haven’t even rehearsed it.

CC : Every time I mention it he goes ‘Really’ (in a really high squeaky voice) Really is that your favourite?

CH :  Is that how I sound?

CC : Yeah, ‘Really’ says Carl as the two of them collapse into a fit of laughter.

Are you going to start dropping the songs from the EP live now that you’re coming closer to the release of the album?

CH : Yeah but only when we have a short set like tonight.  30 minutes isn’t a very long time.

CC : Especially for our songs.  Last night we went over by about  5 minutes and people started flipping’ out.

Does it matter?

CC : Yeah –we got kicked off.  I started ‘Pozzie’ and they were like (making the throat cutting sign) ….  We totally lost track of time. (Laughs).

CH : Let’s play with the idea that we’re playing five songs including ‘Soft machine’.

CC : H-Dub and then Pozzie – if we get to that.  There’s no mystery now Derv. Now you know the bloody set love.  We’ll change it though, it’s all lies.

And with that Carl pulls up his hoodie and laughs.  Our time together is up, but I’ll see them later on that night, when they will shake the walls of the Rockefeller venue with a blistering performance of the new tracks from their album, without going a minute over time!  Onya Carl!

Having just killed it at SPOT Fetival (Aarhus), Palace Winter will play The Green Man Festival Boat Party,  London, Saturday 7th May and The Shacklewell Arms on Wednesday 25th, followed by the Dot-To-Dot Festival (Manchester/Bristol/Notts) 27th – 29th May, and Roskilde DK 25th June/2nd July. (NOTE TO BAND – I LIVE IN DUBLIN!!) 

Their debut album, ‘Waiting For The World To Turn’ is due out on 3rd June via Tambourhinoceros but is available to pre-order here.  For more info check out their website – http://www.palacewinter.com/

**Currently seeking WP Web Dev for small dev project**Post Comment if interested!**

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