Palm is a four-piece indie rock band that is currently based in Philadelphia. Their sound mixes a wide array of influences, but what stands out the most about their music is their strong rhythmic components. Each instrument acts as its own rhythm section, with various spurts of spontaneity sprinkled in between.
Palm’s newest EP, “Shadow Expert,” was released in June, 2017. It offers a refreshing take on the broad spectrum of popular indie rock. The songs often feel as though they could fall apart at any moment, yet somehow Palm remains steady and constant.
For Palm, music is like a pleasant, yet complex machine, with everything working together as a cohesive unit. Even the vocals, which often alternate between the two guitarists and vocalists, Eve Alpert and Kasra Kurt, tend to drive the music as much as the other instruments. The band’s songs progress from often minimalist riffs, repeating and developing into something more complex, while remaining very rhythmic. The style is not unlike their previous releases, but the production is a lot smoother, making it more pronounced.
Guitarist / vocalist Eve Alpert has been playing guitar since she was twelve. She was inspired by a family friend from Peru, who lived with them for a year and a half when he was 16. “He was into punk rock and played drums in a band in Lima,” she says. “I’m an only child and he was like a big brother to me.” He showed her a few chords on his acoustic and she continued to learn from there. Palm formed after Alpert and some friends started playing music together in college, and expanded into a four-piece in 2012. “Before that, Kasra and I played the same four songs together in his dorm room most days for a year, blasting amps tucked under his raise single bed,” she recalls.
Although Alpert and her bandmates are adept at using uncommon time signatures and meters, their intention is not to make complex music. Alpert explains that sometimes during the band’s writing process, their drummer, Hugo Stanley, manipulates the rhythm to create a different feeling over the guitars. “After we get comfortable looping a particular idea we might look back and remark on the fact that it’s maybe in an odd meter,” she says. “But in general it’s not our intention to throw around different time signatures into our songs.”
Nevertheless, there is a mastery in how Palm is able to simplify complexities in their music. The songs on “Shadow Expert” are a smooth blend of pop and something leaning towards chaos, as the title track perfectly demonstrates. The songs bounce between mechanical-sounding riffs, gleaming vocals, and sharply driven rhythms, creating something much more organic.
Alpert offered us some tips on how to keep time and remain rhythmic while conveying emotion through different meters. The technique may be more intuitive than one might think; it just requires a little thinking outside your normal patterns of thought when it comes to music.
“Shadow Expert” is out now on Carpark Records.
Get a drum machine: “Preferably one that allows you to make beats in odd time meters. Play along. Sometimes we’ll make a drum pattern completely randomly, with no intention, just randomly hit buttons and then we’ll try and use that as a compositional tool. I.e I’ll play on all the high hats and Kasra will play on all the toms.”
Stop thinking in terms of meter: “Listen to sounds around you: cars, birds, people yelling. These things are rarely in ‘straight time,’ but we don’t think of them as “odd meter”. Thinking in terms of meter makes everything rigid.”
Speaking of listening to cars: “Most machines have a rhythm and often they’re pretty interesting. Escalators in malls, trains etc. We were all influenced by the CD player in my old car that would shred all our CDs because it was constantly skipping.”
Count until you find your flow: “Count initially if you need to but if it doesn’t start to flow naturally after a while it’s probably an idea you should move on from.”
Think about how rhythms interact with and reflect emotion: “In Palm, rhythms are often used to express anxiety or feeling unsettled, like there’s no ground beneath your feet. If you’re just jumping from time signature to time signature for the sake of it you’ll probably end up with something cold, calculated, and uncompelling on a human level.”
Explore styles of music from around the globe: “Listen to music with odd meters that isn’t western bro-y progressive or math rock. A lot of music from all around the world employ unusual rhythms, without toxic masculinity! Lots of music from Southeast Asia and West Africa use bizarre meters. Gerry from Palm used to Greek dance and apparently some of the pieces were in 13/8.”