Words by Peter Tanski
Since the release of their self-titled album in 2014, Palm Ghosts have been in a state of manic evolution. From Elliott Smith adjacent indie folk to the band that emphasizes the punk in post-punk, they have flouted conventions and forged a steadfast reputation in the underground. A reputation that inspired an assembly of labels (Poptek, Sell The Heart, Engineer, and Sweet Cheetah) under one banner in order to release their latest album ,“I Love You, Burn In Hell”, forming a dark pop Voltron in their name.
Off Shelf: The road to I Love You, Burn In Hell seems to have been most tumultuous. Would you care to share that experience with us?
Joseph Lekkas: I’m not sure it was overly tumultuous. We lost a member because touring is difficult and life gets in the way. It set us back a bit, having to try out potential replacement members, but ultimately ended up working out better because we continued on as a three piece. The three of us get along very well and can all fit in an SUV with a trailer, so touring is more of a breeze. It also created some nice space in our live sound, leading toward more dynamics.
OS: This record sounds particularly menacing compared to previous offerings. What would you say is the catalyst for the bleak pop present here?
JL: Interesting that you hear it as more menacing. I think it has a bit more humor than our past releases, maybe is a bit more guitar oriented overall? I don’t know… we had fun working on these tunes and it was recorded in a much less stressful time, post COVID lockdown. I will always say Lifeboat Candidate is our most menacing record to my ears. We were really feeling particularly apocalyptic at that time but I think there is always a bit of darkness in everything we do. This particular record certainly has some levity. I mean, the title track, c’mon!?
OS: As the veil thins and the Samhain season ramps up to a creepy crescendo, music of this ilk certainly receives a fair bit more exposure. How do you feel that this collection of songs would add to, say, a gore ensanguined dinner party/Monster Mash-a-thon?
JL: [laughs] I don’t really think we are goth enough for that. There are plenty of modern Darkwave bands that fit the part much better than we do. The stoned Uber driver might be blasting our record on the way to the dinner party, though. I could see that .
OS: In all seriousness, Palm Ghosts serves the absolute best aspects of Post Punk, New Wave, Gothic Rock, and Indie. Can you summon the archetype of the average Palm Ghosts listener? Who is He/She/They/Them?
JL: That’s a tough one. We play goth nights all over the country and those folks seem to dig us a bit. We also play more mainstream venues and music festivals and older folks that listened to new wave and goth in high school or college seem to really get us. I think we hint at so many genres and don’t necessarily do the fashion aspect of a goth or post punk band, so we don’t really fit in perfectly anywhere, and I think we actually prefer that. For us its one hundred percent about the music.
OS: Its been almost a decade since your self-titled record. If you were to compare and contrast that with I Love You, Burn In Hell, what would the most glaring similarities and differences be?
JL: Hardly any similarities, really. I sing differently and write in a completely different way. The first record was much more indie folk, written on acoustic guitars. I was learning how to record. There is always a hint of psychedelia in everything I do, I suppose. That might be something that ties the sound together.
OS: Has this new generation of teens and twenty-somethings been delivering on the promise of the plight of 90’s teens?
JL: It seems like 90s slacker rock is popular again, if that’s what you mean. It used to be that every time a new sound emerged it was from twenty years earlier. That holds true in the fact that nu-metal seems to be making a reappearance. I was hoping that might not happen, but alas!
OS: What would the perfect album sound like to you?
JL: The Velvet Underground and Nico, The Cure’s Head on The Door, The Kinks are The Village Green Preservation Society, Tears For Fears’ The Hurting, Peter Gabriel’s Security maybe even Metallica’s Master of Puppets. Eight to ten songs, each with different vibes, but each song in its perfect place, propelling the record along. With hooks, let’s not forget hooks! Where did all the hooks go?
OS: What is a little known fact about Palm Ghosts that could possibly endear people to your band?
JL: We love to meet new people when we travel. We’ve been playing music a long time and are thankful we get to still do it. We’re also thankful for folks like you who are into music as much as we are, keeping the spirit alive. We also like hooks.
OS: Name the most significant musical experience of your life.
JL: I think the moment I realized that I couldn’t cope with life without allowing myself the time to make music. It is the best medicine for anxiety and depression. The act of creation is the thing, anything that comes from it is nice. It’s cool that people listen to and enjoy our music, don’t get me wrong. But I did it before folks listened and i’ll keep on doing it if they stop listening.
OS: What, in your opinion, is the most fully realized cut on this album?
JL: I really like She Came Playfully and Tilt. I think those two songs hit me right away. Not sure if I can put into words why, but I dig them.
OS: The Cure or The Cult? My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive?
JL: The Cure and My Bloody Valentine