“Where’s the doorman? He was supposed to be here by now.” It’s a Wednesday night in Nottingham, and a student house has been cleared of all its valuables and breakables. In the kitchen, a makeshift stage has been arranged. In the living room, Palma Violets and Childhood crack open tinnies and down rum. Sophie, a 21-year-old student at Nottingham Uni, whose house we’re all in, has spotted the one thing that’s missing: someone to stop the floods of Palma Violets fans from pouring into the house. “We’ve locked the garden gate,” she says, “but people are just climbing over. There’s nails on top, but it’s not stopping them.”
A year on since they first appeared on the cover of NME, caught in the midst of an riotous live show at Studio 180, their London base, Palma Violets are taking their Rattlesnake Rodeo tour right into their fans’ front rooms. If they’re not careful, it might be the only places they can play. They’ve become outlaws. “We’ve had a slight issue because O2 Academies have blacklisted us,” explains Pete. “We’ve still got two more shows at their venues to go.”
Ben from Childhood explains: “This security dude comes up to my after our show to tell us our gear was in the wrong place. Different venues sometimes want it in different places. He started having a go at me and I said I’d move it, but then he said something underneath his breath and all his mates were laughing at me. I asked him to repeat it and he said: “Is this the first gig you’ve ever played in your life?” It was so rude. Chilli comes in like: “You motherfucker!””
Chilli picks up the tale: “I was about to hit him with a bottle. The thing is: the whole tour is like a gang. We’re all friends. One guy starts on one of us and he starts on all of us. I hate those venues anyway. To be honest, that’s why we’re here at this house party. Those venues are so sterile and horrible. We’ve always played pub to pub. This is a taste of big venues, and I don’t really like it. I’m glad we’re experiencing it, and I have to say the kids have been fucking brilliant. Whatever’s gone on behind the scenes, the gigs have been just mental.”
The fact that this is the band’s biggest headline tour to date is precisely why they’ve arranged their own intimate, announced-on-the-day free shows to punctuate the tour. They’ve just played one in Sheffield, while at Middlesbrough’s Westgarth Social Club they literally brought the roof down.
“It fell in, but we still a great show,” explains Chilli. “There were kids breaking in through our dressing room, there were guys coming in through the windows…”
Will cracks open a beer: “Yeah, Westgarth kind of got out of hand.”
“It was delicious,” grins Chilli. “I love that kind of stuff.”
They’ve played shows all over the planet these past twelve months, from Australia to Mexico, but when asked for his highlight Chilli points to their recent respite from touring, when they ensconced themselves away to start writing the follow up to ‘180’.
“They can book you shows forever,” he says, “But we have a real love for writing songs. There’s nothing more exciting than putting in the hard work and getting something out of it.”
The band took themselves out of London to write, to a remote secret bunker somewhere in the Welsh mountains, but this has only resulted in a rediscovered love for the city. “There’s a lot of songs on the first album about the countryside, like ‘Last Of The Summer Wine’ and ‘All The Garden Birds’,” says Chilli. “Now we’re writing about London because we’re not there. When we get off the road we’re going to go back in and start recording demos. Hopefully a bridging single soon, we’ve got a good one, and no idea when the album will be but sooner rather than later.”
“At first writing in Wales was very chilled out,” adds Will. “There were a lot of magic mushrooms growing around the place. We’ve got one new one ‘Scandal’ which is a bit darker than the first album. We’re still such a new band that we’re still finding our sound. Other bands release their first album after they’ve been together for four years and they already own their sound. With us we’re still trying things out. If it works live, that’s the rule of thumb. It has to work live.”
Tonight, in the tiny, packed kitchen, they tear through a short set which includes the likes of ‘Step Up For The Cool Cats’, ‘Best Of Friends’ and ‘Rattlesnake Highway’ and is masterfully timed to wrap up just before the police van inevitably arrives. There’s sweat dripping off every body crammed into the room before the opening song is even done, and fans at the back hang off the windows to get a better view. It’s chaotic and intense, but the band are in their absolute element. They can stand the heat, and they could be in your kitchen next.
Originally published in NME, 7 December 2013.