Palace tell us about confronting mental turmoil on new album ‘Shoals’

"When music was taken away, I started to wonder what the fuck my purpose was"

As Palace announce their return with brand new single ‘Lover (Don’t Let Me Down)’ and news of third album ‘Shoals’, the band’s Leo Wyndham has spoken to NME about how a period of deep personal reflection and existential doubt has underpinned their ambitious new material.

The album, released on January 21, 2022, will also include recent single ‘Gravity’ – which arrived last month along with news of a February tour. These will be the band’s biggest shows to date, including a massive gig at Brixton’s O2 Academy.

The album was written during the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown in 2020, during which Wyndham was forced to confront a number of mental health issues. “I’m one of those people who’s tried to run away from those fears and anxieties, but [during lockdown] I had a real feeling of ‘Shit, I can’t hide from this now’,” he told NME. “My brain was like a conveyer belt of negative thoughts and a feeling of purposelessness. When music was taken away, I started to wonder what the fuck my purpose was.”

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Grappling with an existing health anxiety, fear of death, and “extreme panic”, all of which intensified during the pandemic, Wyndham also suffered from long COVID during the album’s creation – which enflamed his lungs for nine months.

“It felt like I had a clamp on my chest,” he continued. “At first, his illness also impacted his ability to sing. “I felt very lethargic and heavy, I had terrible chest cramps. I started to fear it might even threaten my career.”

Wyndham went on to explain how the new album was in many ways inspired by his work confronting the mental and physical difficulties he experienced in isolation. “In those first lockdowns, the overlying thing that drove the songs was a real sense of fear. It was almost a love letter to fearfulness, anxiety, and confronting your fears,” he said. “The album is an outpouring of these feelings we go through and how you deal with them, learning to love certain things and learning to appreciate having certain anxieties and fears. In a sense they make you feel real and human.

He continued: “As much as I don’t want the album to be about the pandemic, it has really been born from the feeling of being locked away and confrontational with the things you’re not proud of, the part of yourself you don’t like and the things you’d like to change. We’ve ended up with something very layered, deep and intense. I hope that people can connect with it in that sense, with their own experiences of confronting those fears and anxieties.”

Discussing the more complex new sound that the band developed over the last two years, which sees the band experimenting with synths and electronics and is evidenced on ‘Lover (Don’t Let Me Down)’, Wyndham said that the band had emerged “braver and bolder” as a result with “sounds we’d never have dreamed of using on the first two albums”.

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Listing the likes of James Blake as an inspiration, he revealed: “Before we felt traditionally like a guitar band, and we couldn’t go there with electronic stuff, but it feels really good to bring in those extra textures and layers.”

The album’s title, ‘Shoal’ is inspired by the movements of fish in the ocean and how they are “like human thoughts and fears and anxieties that can change shape and be chaotic and streamlined all at once”.

“I’ve always had a real obsession with the ocean since I was very young,” Wyndham explained. “I’ve always found jumping in the sea and being in cold water to be very healing. When we first started the band we realised that our sound naturally made us think of the ocean, and on this album we went further with that idea and came up with this idea of the ocean representing the human mind, it’s got depths and beauty and mystery, and its sort of deadly too.”

The band made their live return with shows in Bristol and Nottingham for Dot To Dot festival last weekend, which Wyndham said were profoundly emotional. “There were certain songs where I felt like crying the whole way through,” he said. “I felt really overwhelmed by being able to see into people’s eyes as you’re singing and seeing people react to your music, we haven’t had that shared connection for so long, you forget what that feeling’s like. It makes you remember not to take stuff for granted, and when you get it back you really get that perspective.”

Palace will tour the record in earnest next February on their biggest shows to date, which are taking on a particular significance after the trials of the last 18 months. “We’ve worked so hard at this for nine years and we’re ready for it,” he said. “It feels like we’ve played tiny venues for years and years, and to get to this point feels really good.”

He added: “I do feel like this album’s our best work. We’re more confident, better musicians, with a better understanding of each other, and we think that translates to the music. After the pandemic this does feel like a new chapter and we really mean business. We want to make this grow and grow. It’s a very exciting time for the band.”

Palace’s new album ‘Shoals’ is released via Fiction on January 21. They tour the UK and Ireland next February followed by European and US dates throughout next year Check out their upcoming UK ad Irish dates below. Tickets are available here.

FEBRUARY
3 – Glasgow, SWG3
4 – Manchester, O2 Ritz
5 – Bristol, O2 Academy
6 – Leeds, University Stylus
8 – Dublin, Vicar St
10 – Nottingham, Rock City
11 – London, O2 Academy Brixton

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