Nashville’s Palm Ghosts bring a different feel to Music City USA
Though its roots start in Philadelphia, Palm Ghosts presently call Nashville, TN, its present home.
But this quartet is hardly another bro country group trying to own Music City USA. In fact, the only thing “Big Country” these folks are down with is the underrated post-modern rock band.
On their excellent new album Lifeboat Candidate, the group echoes the sonic terrain of the acts who dominated their car stereos through the years–New Order, The Cure, Gene Loves Jezebel, John Carpenter soundtracks.
As the Ghosts describe Lifeboat Candidate in a public statement:
Like most bands in 2020, isolation fueled a new immediacy and energy in their songs that only a year of pandemic, protest, and political turmoil could elicit.
“Blind,” the album opener, is about suspicion and paranoia standing in the way of truly seeing people, and consequently sounds like a comment thread of mired arguments over an underlying harmony. The frenzied “Dead Inside” is almost an extension of that theme, where the narrator is frozen in the space between self preservation and empathic change when becoming aware of a world bigger than their own, yet ultimately deciding to treat the epiphany as a con.
Because we aren’t completely pessimistic, we thought you should also check out “Carry the World,” inspired by stories of family separation in scientology and the struggle against beliefs that make strangers of those closest to you. In the verses, one party pleads with the other to leave the belief and the chorus responds…favorably.
We aren’t completely hopeless, but then this was before our city was bombed by a 5G conspiracy terrorist.
We recently caught up with Palm Ghosts frontman Joseph Lekkas for further insight.
Lifeboat Candidate comes out today and can be found on BandCamp.
Sounds like you guys did a lot of the creative process for this album through file sharing and email. How do you think that informed the direction of these new songs?
Definitely. This was a completely different approach from how we’ve written and recorded in the past. Usually we are together throwing ideas back and forth in my studio. Obviously, this year that wasn’t an option. So, searching for new creative avenues, I reconnected with an old friend and drummer back in the Philadelphia area, Walt Epting, and asked him to send me some ideas he might have. He didn’t have a proper recording setup, so he placed his iPhone 6 on his floor tom, and texted me sound files of the ideas he had. They ended up having an interesting sound, super compressed and lo-fi, that I actually kind of liked. So i pieced them together in pro tools and starting writing bass parts and song structures came together quickly. I emailed them to Jason, who added guitar ideas and sent them back to me. I placed those in the song, added some synth parts and sent them to Ben Douglas to write lyrics and melodic ideas. After I received them, I sang them and you’re listening to the results!
What inspired the heavy percussive nature of Lifeboat Candidate?
Walt sent me a number of different grooves, from afro-cuban to funk, tribal to Motorik beats. I thought the tribal beats were unique and intense and leaned heavier on those. One of the beats, from “The Dead Inside”, was a deconstructed James Brown groove, but certainly doesn’t sound like that in the context of the song, which I think is pretty cool. Walt’s background is in jazz drumming, Steve Gadd, Elvin Jones, Jim Paxson Sr. and Jerry Marotta all being influences. So we are all coming to this from very different influences that I think work well together.
How did the events of the past year inform the songwriting on the album?
What a year! So much fear and anger. I don’t know how one couldn’t be influenced by 2020. I think this record is pretty dystopian and angry sounding in lots of ways, but, honestly, everything we do has a bit of classic pop in it, so it balances a bit of the ugly. Our collective influences span from Peter Gabriel to doom metal, Belle and Sebastian to The Cure with a little Enya sprinkled in for palatability. Honestly though, It’s hard to watch the world you know get turned upside down without having something to say about it.
I’m a big fan of the keyboards on Lifeboat Candidate, and it lead me to wonder what kinds of vintage 80s equipment was in play during the creation of the album?
Sorry to let you down, but most of the keyboards were soft synths. I used to have a vintage Juno 60 that I regrettably sold when I moved from Philadelphia. I have a Behringer Deepmind and a Model D that I use at times, but I mostly use soft synth versions of the Jupiter 8, Juno 60, DX7, Solina, CS-80 and Mellotron. Maybe one day I’ll have the vintage synth arsenal I dream about!
Have you been able to practice these new songs together in the same room at all yet? How do you feel about getting back out and playing in front of people again?
We have not played these together in person yet. I have been playing bass and singing on my own, which has been a bit difficult, honestly. The parts are very syncopated because they weren’t written in the traditional way. This will make for quite an interesting journey from conception to performance, but one I’m very much up for taking. Who doesn’t love a good challenge, right? As for getting back out on the road and playing, I honestly can’t wait. Our last show was in San Antonio TX, on Feb 20, 2020. That’s quite a while ago. We’ll definitely see you all as soon as we get the all clear for shows! You can bet on that.