There’s no single adjective that can summarize Palm‘s style. Perhaps the Philly-based band is glad that’s the case. Though they fall under the umbrella of indie rock, their music is sharper, weirder, and more filtered than the clean-cut sound that comes to mind from that label. Just see them live. Watching Eve Alpert, Kasra Kurt, Hugo Stanley, and Geri Livitsanos do their thing will put you in a stupor.
Palm’s newest record, this year’s dizzying Rock Island, sees the band stretching their imagination to new widths. The band records in a dark basement, and they tried to reimagine it as a creative, inspiring space even though it’s nothing but cement. Surprisingly, they pull it off. The album is a bright, jolting, math rock-infused listen that takes creative turns whenever it can but without oversaturating its songs. It’s a statement record made from a dull place, and apparently joking about the title helped them get there.
“The title began with a show we played in Rock Island, IL,” says Alpert. “It turned into a tongue-in-cheek, School of Rock-esque state of mind that we returned to when recording this album. Sometimes we would joke that when we were in the mood or were doing well constructing a song that we were on ‘rock island.’ But it’s a comment on the state of rock music in general, too, because it feels like such a dead genre at the moment, or heavily critiqued. We’re trying to make light of that and also celebrate it. Rock music is, in my mind, still interesting. There’s just not much out there that actually tries to challenge the form. So we were making fun of the title, but we also took it pretty seriously in execution.”
We interviewed co-founder, singer, and guitarist Eve Alpert for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask bands questions inspired by their song titles. By picking apart Rock Island, she dives into side stories that reveals more behind Palm’s personality just in time for their headlining show at Great Scott this Friday.
DIGBOSTON: Do you know what your birthstone is?
ALPERT: It’s an opal, for October. My mom got an opal necklace when I was born, but I’ve never actually owned any. It doesn’t sound like a word now that I’m saying it out loud. Opal? Is that a rock? It’s got a whole lot of colors in it. I’m complicated like that. [laughs]
DIGBOSTON: If you had to break your personality into four parts, what would it be made of and how much would each part take up?
ALPERT: I would say 30 percent unnecessary anxiety and stress. There’s 20 percent procrastination… or probably more, like 30 percent. There would be 10 percent humor, then 25 percent curiosity, and 5 percent hunger.
3) “Dog Milk”
DIGBOSTON: Do any of you own a dog?
ALPERT: None of us own dogs. Kasra and I have dogs that are our parents’ and mine is obviously the best. It’s a poodle named Lola and she’s British. She has kinda blonde fur.
4) “Forced Hand”
DIGBOSTON: When is the last time you were forced to do something you were hesitant to do?
ALPERT: I would say I’m rarely forced to do anything that I don’t want to do. We’re really good at being democratic as a band when making band decisions. There’s never any force from one of us towards another. That said, sometimes I’m forced while writing music to work with an idea from a bandmate that I don’t like. I’ll spend two hours of practice trying to make it the best it can be. Oftentimes, I’m wrong from the beginning about how I felt about an idea, so in that way sometimes I’m forced to go with something and they’re often right to make me work with it.
5) “Theme From Rock Island”
DIGBOSTON: What’s your favorite song with “theme” in the title?
ALPERT: I want to get this one good. There’s probably a lot of rap songs with “theme” in them. I keep thinking of Radiohead, but that one is “Exit Music (For a Film)” which doesn’t actually have “theme” in it. I just watched In The Mood For Love a little while ago, the Wong Kar-wai film, and there’s one song in that film that plays every 10 minutes, so maybe it was a theme? Wait, nevermind. I’ll say “Twin Peaks Theme” instead.
DIGBOSTON: Have you ever made bread from scratch before?
ALPERT: I’ve tried and failed to make brioche. Obviously, you go for the most complicated thing. Gerry, our bass player, is a very accomplished bread maker. He worked at a bakery for a while and tried to make a couple loves of sourdough before every tour for us. He has a dutch oven and loves doing it.
7) “Color Code”
DIGBOSTON: What’s an unpopular color combination that you love?
ALPERT: I think I got this from my mom, and I don’t know if it’s unpopular, but I love black and blue. It’s also a Backstreet Boys record. [laughs] I’m normally wearing those colors together. Dark shades kinda go together, but maybe not, so yeah, I’d say that.
DIGBOSTON: Where was the last place you went swimming?
ALPERT: The last place I went swimming was in Austin, TX. It was the tour before our last tour. We went in the summer at a big runoff of Barton Springs. It reminded me of how much fun that is and that I need to do it more. The actual swimming area was closed, but it runs off in a little channel thing, so we all went in the water there which was fun.
9) “Heavy Lifting”
DIGBOSTON: What emotional weight do you wish you had help lifting?
ALPERT: I get pretty anxious about things that don’t matter, like, a lot. I wind up just procrastinating and it would be nice if I could channel that into being more creative instead of just feeling bad. They’re little, menial tasks. I worry about stuff that’s really not a big deal, but it can feel like it is. Also, I do a lot of the driving in the van, which helps me relax a lot.
DIGBOSTON: Are there any Maryland-based bands that you think don’t get enough attention?
ALPERT: Probably Horse Lords and Lil Ugly Mane!
11) “(Didn’t What You Want) Happen”
DIGBOSTON: What’s something you were hoping would happen recently that did?
ALPERT: Besides our record coming out, the thing I’ve been happy with is that I’ve been vegan the past month. I’m proud of been doing it. It’s pushed me to learn to make new foods and try different ways of cooking. A good friend of mine had been doing it for the last year and it opened my eyes to the lifestyle. I think a big reason is because I eat so poorly on tour, so I wanted to focus on what I eat when I’m not on tour to balance it out. It’s been way easier than I thought.