In the space of a year and a half four-piece indie rockers the Palma Violets started their band, won NME’s song of the year, got signed by prestigious record label Rough Trade and produced a debut album. It’s been quite the wild ride, lead vocalist and bassist Chilli Jenson tells me.
The band is on the road when I’m organising our interview; their manager Milo tells me I won’t be able to speak to anyone until after 2:30pm and that he’ll let me know when the boys are awake. When he calls his voice is drowned out by the unmistakable sound of a raucous touring crew. Holding up the phone he calls out “Boys! Boys! Who wants to speak to the Lambeth Weekender? C’mon then…” Lead vocalist and bassist Chilli Jenson comes bounding over to the phone. He’s a charming combination of young, grungy rocker and polite Londoner: enthusiastic, somewhat disoriented from endless touring, and thoroughly well-mannered all at once.
He waxes lyrical about Lambeth. Originally from “all over” the band needed a hub and found what Chilli describes as the ideal place at Studio 180, also the name of their debut album.
“We love Lambeth,” Chilli enthuses. “Studio 180 is this amazing hub of creativity and I don’t think it gets the credit it deserves,” he continues.
Describing Studio 180 as an “amazing place to write music” the spaces are occupied completely by artists, though the Palma Violets are the only musicians, Chilli explains. “Everyone there is creative; it almost doesn’t feel like reality. It’s not at all corporate, there’s no money situation; if someone can’t pay their rent on time we all help each other out, which is the only way it can work.”
Having started out in 2011, the group’s first single Best of Friends won NME’s song of the year, which lead to a record deal and triggered a whirlwind tour of live gigging. “It’s been pretty surreal and all happened much faster than we thought, honestly,” Chilli says.
He and fellow lead vocalist and guitar player Sam Fryer met at a festival a couple of years ago and decided to start a band, purely because they liked the same music. Their onstage chemistry has frequently been compared to the Libertine’s Pete Doherty and Carl Barat, which may not be entirely accurate but is nonetheless complimentary, Chilli says. “We don’t really sound like them. We have the same label and we have two lead singers so I guess we have that in common. Not that I mind it at all; I love that group, it could be a lot worse,” he laughs.
What does he think of being tipped as the next big thing? “Well, I don’t know about that. I love all of this, but who knows what’s around the corner? We’re just enjoying it all at the moment, it’s very exciting.”
The Palma Violet’s debut album Studio 180 is due to be released on February 25.
Palma Violets will be supporting Django Django at the O2 Academy Brixton, 211 Stockwell Rd, SW9 9SL on February 23 from 6pm. Admission: from £23. Phone: 020 7771 3000. http://www.o2academybrixton.co.uk/
They’re also playing at the Electric Brixton, Town Hall Parade Brixton, SW2 1RJ on April 9 from 7pm. Admission: £13.75. Phone: 020 7274 2290. http://www.electricbrixton.com/