Palace: Through Thick And Thin

The essence of Palace‘s fourth album, ‘Ultrasound,’ carries a listener through the different stages of confronting a life-shattering loss centered around the true force of love. The 13 tracks epitomise the poignant hollowness, eventually shaping into a songwriting spiritual compass. Palace’s musical translation is brave, exceptional, and beyond their previous discography.

‘Ultrasound’ is the most personal Palace record, navigating through the lead vocalist Leo Wyndham”s partner’s late miscarriage. The listening experience is heartbreaking yet ethereal, encapsulating the unimaginable dismay without having to romanticise a single thought. The absolute honesty of the record is hard to come by, and Palace’s soft instrumentation creates the backdrop for a linear diaristic emotion-conveying masterpiece.

From start to finish, ‘Ultrasound’ climbs out of quicksand, feeling all the aspects of loss, confusion, and utter shock on ‘When Everything Was Lost’ and ‘Son’ and consequently seeking light on ‘Bleach,’ ‘Rapid Dog,’ and ‘Nightmares & Ice Cream.’ Processing and tapping into support and leaning on each other, ‘Make You Proud’ and ‘Inside My Chest’ help to make sense of the traumatic situation.

Palace’s effort to acknowledge the societal pressure on women to raise families and their resilience in the struggles of motherhood on ‘Say The Words’ is flawless. With ‘All We’ve Ever Wanted,’ Leo expresses his burning desire for fatherhood, and ‘Goodbye Farewell’ offers a tranquil closure and sense of peace.

Ultimately, ‘Ultrasound’ reminds us of how fragile yet life-saving love is in turbulent times. Palace’s Leo Wyndham talks to Noctis on behalf of the three-piece to unfold specific lyrics and songs, working with Adam Jaffrey after eight years, and the heartwarming sentiment of the ‘Ultrasound’ cover art.

How are you going to celebrate the release?

Good question! We kind of prefer to hide around release time… I’m sure the guys feel the same. It’s quite nerve-wracking releasing your baby into the wild. It feels very exposing and personal with lots of eyes being on something you’ve made. We go to the US a few days later so we’ll probably do what we usually do and find a great spot for some Margs.

You kicked off a new chapter of your forthcoming album ‘Ultrasound,’ with a new single release ‘Bleach’. What is it about ‘Bleach’ that you wanted to introduce this new project with?

‘Bleach’ is about imperfection in love. It’s about all the shit that comes with being two people existing together – and that the little glitches and flaws of relationships are okay too. Nothings perfect. And the sooner we don’t freak out about these things – the more we learn to love and accept ourselves and be more forgiving and compassionate . The song on the album feels like a moment and sign of positivity amongst the hurricane of a traumatic experience.

The line – “We’ll bleach our hair together/ And I’ll hold you tight forever” hints at this world of promise, hope and careless life without any limits. What does this lyric mean to you?

Thats it really. It’s that tenderness and unwavering feeling for someone else. These moments of intimacy that last a lifetime that we treasure deeply. Those chorus lines really feel like the moment we realise how damn lucky we are to be with the person we love. It’s reflective of these beautiful bubbles we can have with someone where the world stands still and nothing exists outside your bedroom walls.

‘Ultrasound’ is centred around a very personal experience and it makes for the most personal Palace record yet. How does this release differ form your previous albums, do you feel any different releasing such a personal record?

It does feel different with this one. Perhaps more directly personal than any other album we’ve done. It really has been written as a way to make sense of an incredibly complicated experience. That’s what songwriting has always represented to me – a means to map out internal entanglement and act as a sort of spiritual compass to find a path through the quicksand.

After writing the first batch of songs for the album, you and your partner suffered a huge loss, was it a no brainer for you to turn to music or was it difficult at the beginning to imagine being so vulnerable and turn the darkness into art?

I don’t think it was ever a conscious decision to write about it. Like all our music it comes from a place of making music as a sort of healing mechanism and to express things that normal words or conversation fall short of. The music just sort of slowly reveals itself that way – in whatever shades or colours it comes out as. It’s only ever later down the line that we all go “oh wow the album is very much about this”. It feels like it’s constantly changing and evolving during the process and it’s not always totally clear at the start. Thats sort of what’s almost a bit magical about the process sometimes – you’re pulling things out of yourself often subconsciously – and  eventually they become incredibly clear as to what you were trying to say or why you were writing it.

How did this experience change the course of the album? Were you guys having conversation about what the concept would be initially?

No we didn’t discuss it. It was unspoken mainly throughout, but when the album meaning revealed itself the sessions felt very intense in a good way. Like we were trying to bottle something incredibly important and intense. It was an amazing experience as within a years timeline – we were writing and recording the music when all our feelings and personal life struggles were going into the music fresh and raw. Often with albums you have songs gathered over two years or so – so when you eventually get to record it – the meaning of what the song was originally about is slightly lost/or you’ve moved on. But with this album – because the songs were written and recorded so close together – it means we’ve really bottled such present and raw feeling in the songs. In everyone’s playing there’s real heart and freshness. It felt vital and important somehow. That feels like a beautiful thing to have done it that way as the album is more diaristic than ever. We’ll be able to listen back in years to come and really feel that was us bottled in those tracks – it’s a proper timestamp. 

You worked with Adam Jaffrey, 8 years after you worked together on your debut album ‘So Long Forever,’ how did you cross paths again and why did you want to work with Adam on this record?

Adam has become a great friend of the band. We’ve often hung out since album one. I was actually in the pub with him 2 years ago and I remember asking him “how do you think our next album should sound?” – and he came back with an incredible in-depth answer. I went home thinking this is something we should consider and why haven’t we thought about working together again. 

I think after doing your first album (or any album really) you’re made to think that you have to keep changing producers – but in reality it doesn’t have to be that way. If something works and feels exciting and you trust each other – it’s worth trying again. It felt satisfying to go full circle – all with years more experience and confidence and to come back in the room this time as friends and see what would happen. It was incredible and honestly the best experience we’ve ever had in the studio. Adam is an amazing producer with incredible taste and he just gets the band. He has incredible sensitivity to the project and is deeply embedded in our story and journey. He’s an extension of Palace for sure.

Track 8 ‘Love Is A Precious Thing’, could you tell us what you learned about love after going through this experience?

That with great love can come great pain. I remember writing the lyrics once while falling deeply in love with someone and having an awareness that “shit I could get hurt again” – but it’s worth the risk and maybe that element of a danger to the heart is what makes it so electric sometimes – like getting a thrill from standing on a ledge.

Listening to the record, I got a feeling the lyrics symbolise a lot of rediscovery about love, what it means to love someone, to be there for someone through thick and thin, does this project refer to a perspective change? 

It does. I think it’s important we don’t want people to think the album is just about this one event or traumatic experince. The big take for us is that it’s honestly very much about the spectrum of love and that journey you go on with someone after experiencing loss. The light really does shine through the cracks eventually (as corny as that sounds) and I think thats the biggest thing I’ve learnt is what a force love is in difficult times and how binding loss can be.

What did you learn about yourself during the making of ‘Ultrasound’?

I think we really learnt as a band to take risks and trust more. Rip up the rulebook of songwriting and preparation for album. That we don’t need to have 20 finished demos before we record. We can go in on a day and write and record without knowing what we’re going to do beforehand – and it can be special. The last song on the album is called ‘Goodnight, Farewell’ and I think it’s the most powerful song we’ve ever done – it was written and recorded in 24 hours. 

How do you feel listening back to the record now that it’s finished?

We usually hate listening back to albums at least for a couple years. This one I’m loving listening to it. It feels wonderful to listen back being in a new mental space now. It was an important time of our lives and I can see that from a distance now.

The cover art is so different to your previous artworks, it’s black and white compared to very colourful, cartoon like animated portrayals. Could you tell us more about what the cover art portrays?

The album cover is designed by my brother again Wilm Danby and photographed by Keerthana Kunath. Wilm suggested breaking the mould and trying something new and fresh. He built this beautiful arch with a mirror on the top after listening to the music. The mirror represents the self, self reflection and acceptance. The idea was that to find acceptance we have to go inwards and face our pain to move forwards. 

We drove to this cove in the South West (Devon) and got up at 4am and dragged all the camera equipment and the big wooden arches miles over hills to get to this secluded spot. Then we shot as the sun came up. It was an incredible experience and felt like this symbolic purging of the album and the last year’s events. Then when it was all done we jumped in the sea like some sort of baptism.

One of your biggest hits ‘Live Well’ is taken form your debut album ‘So Live Forever’ released in 2016. How different would be a version of ‘Live Well’ from 2024?

I have no idea! Perhaps we’d do a Reggaeton version now to spice it up…

Could you tell us the story of how Palace become Palace?

We’re old friends from way back. We shared an amazing rundown studio at this warehouse in Tottenham with a gang of amazing musicians including Franc Moody and Skinshape. It was a collective hub in a rundown paradise. Wilm Danby suggested the name Palace and Palace was born.

As bandmates, was there a point in the early days when you had a conversation about what sort of a band you wanted to be, your aspirations, dreams, values etc?

Not really. We just had some musical touchstones. They were Jeff Buckley, Wu Lyf, Van Morrison, Crosby Stills & Nash. I guess we wanted something atmospheric with the heart and emotion of Jeff Buckley. Reverb pedals and detuned guitars were the starting point.

As a Londoner, could you name an album/ or albums that are perfect at encapsulating the life of an artist living in London? 

I mean The Clash ‘London Calling’ is as an iconic London-based album as you can get! It’s obviously representative of a different time in London that’s wildly different to today, but it still captures that feeling of insignificance of living in a giant city and trying to find our place within it. It conjures vivid visions of a smoggy, gritty London the moment you hear the guitar and drums kick in.

What is your perfect day spent in London?

I don’t live there anymore! I moved to the sea. If I get up to London – a good day would be going to watch my beloved Tottenham play or going to the pub with the band. Preferably The George Tavern – it’s our home away from home.

On last note, could you share some of your favourite still undiscovered artists/bands you would like to give the spotlight?

Our favourite artists at present are Darling Farm, an incredible band from Denton, Texas. We took them on tour a couple of times in the US and they blew our tiny minds night after night. The musicianship is mind bending and make us feel quite shit at our instruments (in a good way). It’s heavy af but delicate all at the same time – like being beaten up then cuddled. Our other faves are Human Barbie – a band from LA who we’ve also toured with. Chris the mastermind behind it is a wizard of a human and a beautiful songwriter. Such an epic band and people who came to our shows adored them. They’re a big inspiration. Jens Kuross our good friend ALSO from the States is a stunner. He’s a singer songwriter with a the voice of an angel and heart wrenching melodies and lyrics. In the UK – Chartreuse have been our favourites for ages. Thool also Wilm Danby’s electronic project is the bomb. They wear a lot of chainmail and cone-heads at their shows. It’s great.

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Photographer: Keerthana Kunnath

Words: Karolina Kramplova