WORDS: SEAN HUBBARD

In a tumultuous year, Palm Reader have had a more difficult time than anyone else. Alongside the cancellation of live shows (literally the only way any band makes money), they also had a high-profile signing to Holy Roar Records, before that label rightfully imploded after some horrific allegations. Now on Sammy and Justine from Employed To Serve’s Churchroad Records, they are gearing up to release the best album of their career, and the soundtrack to an incredibly bleak year. Sleepless is a miserable album in a miserable year, and despite the fact that is sheer coincidence, it is almost the record that is needed. Discussing some truly tragic topics, backed by a sonic wall of despair, it is truly Palm Reader at their best.

It would be stupid to suggest any Palm Reader record is happy, which vocalist Josh Mckeown puts down to the fact that “we’ve always been a bit miserable really, we’re not happy people.” Describing the writing process by saying “as a band it doesn’t feel like we’re able to write happy songs, I think it’s just the way that things come out for us.” Guitarist Andy Gillan aptly summarises Sleepless, along with the Woking band’s whole career as “minor chords and misery.”

“as a band it doesn’t feel like we’re able to write happy songs, I think it’s just the way that things come out for us.”

This is more true than ever on Sleepless, especially on ‘Willow,’ which is about a mother losing her child. Josh described that “it came from a story that I was told by a close friend who was at a children’s hospice for work and he bumped into an old friend form school who’s child was there. The room they were staying in was called the Willow Suite and it came from there.” For the whole process he looked into ancient meanings of willow trees, which have stood for shelter and hope across centuries. “It wasn’t written from my perspective because I’m obviously not a mother, nor have I known anyone in that position, but it’s a subject that I felt strongly deserved having a song written about it. If for no other reason than to highlight the strength of the mother as a role.” He explained that this is one of several times on Sleepless that lyrics were written from another perspective, in order to “push other subjects forward aside from my white male opinion.”

Previous record Braille was a critical hit, making it onto several albums of the year lists, but the band felt that it didn’t put any pressure on them to follow it up, but instead “it felt good to have people notice what we were doing. We’re stepping into the release of a record that people are more aware of.” That record was famed for its ambiance, but the band just feel that’s “a part of who we are. Even going back to the first record there’s still an instrumental on there and several droney bits.” It helps a lot, “as time’s gone on it kind of seems to lend itself to how we work writing songs, so we made it more of a mainstay. When you’re dealing with more melodic elements there’s a lot more you can play with compared to when something’s abrasive.” The band never write with this in mind but “If a song needs it then we will oblige,” after all, melody “is definitely a strong string to our bow so not to utilise it where appropriate would be folly.”

“WE’LL ALWAYS BE ANGRY ENOUGH TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.”

Of course 2020 means that no live shows are possible, and so Palm Reader are celebrating the launch of Sleepless with their own livestream, which they were cagey on details about – but they did reveal that it will have “some certain added bonuses,” like performing in St Edmunds Church. “It’s a place that we wouldn’t have been able to perform in usually , let alone have 500 greebos knocking about.” It will definitely be a Sleepless based show, however Andy revealed that there are discussions about performing a song they’ve never played live, “we just need to remember how to play it.”

In a shitty year, Palm Reader are releasing an album full of misery, and despite the fact that “we’re not optimistic about gigs in 2021,” they still intend to show the world Sleepless in its’ full glory, which has to be applauded. “Minor chords and misery” seems to be their tag line, and even though “it’s not the brightest looking future,” Palm Reader will “always be angry enough to do something about it.” This is a band in their ascendency. Long live Palm Reader

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