Painted Palms Discuss Poppy Debut Album ‘Forever’
In the original psychedelic era, it was all about community: a bunch of blissfully doped-out, barefooted hippies sharing houses and jamming on guitars and bongos. At least that's the portrait of '60s San Francisco that persists in modern culture, and to whatever extent it's accurate, it's antithetical to how Painted Palms approach their modern psych-pop.
Cousins Reese Donohue and Christopher Prudhomme are plenty close and tuned in to each other's cosmic wavelengths, man, but the Louisiana-born Bay Area transplants crafted their forthcoming debut album, 'Forever,' by emailing each other snippets of music, starting with looped beats and working -- miles apart yet isolated -- toward warm and swirly retro-modern fusions flush with pop appeal.
Checking in via email, Prudhomme dished on family dynamics, the influence of his adopted hometown and the making of 'Forever,' which lands Jan. 14 via Polyvinyl.
Did you guys go home to Louisiana for the holidays? Do you get weird questions from aunts and uncles and stuff about your music? Do you relatives get your music?
Yeah, we both made it home to Louisiana this year. I think our aunts and uncles are interested and excited about what we’re doing, but it’s not familiar territory for them. Sometimes we get weird looks or questions, but it’s mostly playful. Our family is really close.
Although you guys still work via email, you both live in San Francisco, right? Did location have any influence on the sound of 'Forever?' If you're going to do even vaguely psychedelic music, San Fran seems like a good place to be…
Yeah, that’s correct, but about half of the record was written while I was still living in Louisiana. Location definitely made an impact on my side of the collaboration. San Francisco is a much busier place, and the change of pace made me start writing songs that felt outside of myself and placed less importance on who was speaking. Whereas in Louisiana, I was spending a lot of time alone and writing very personal songs. I think you can make psychedelic music no matter where you are, though.
Do you have a favorite '60s-era San Francisco album? Do you think you would have enjoyed the scene back in the day? What's your general take on hippie culture?
These guys weren’t from San Francisco, but in terms of the psychedelic sound of San Francisco and the '60s, I really like Tommy James and the Shondells. It’s hard to say whether or not I would have enjoyed the scene. Probably for a short time, and then probably not. It’s heavily romanticized here in SF, and I’m always wary of that. I understand where they’re coming from, but I don’t identify with the culture.
You've said you built a lot of these songs from loops and snippets of sound. How do lyrics fit in? Are they written specifically for the songs that develop, or do you have a stockpile of words?
The lyrics are usually the last part of the process. Occasionally, the lyrics and melody are written at the same time, but only because I’m just saying things that come to mind while I’m writing a melody. There are a couple songs on the record that were written singer/songwriter style, with just an acoustic guitar, and the songwriting is more deliberate for those. There is no stockpile of words, though, besides what’s been accumulating in my head.
On this record, you sing about how your "head feels like the weather" and how you can "get far if you drift away." There's a lot of uncertainty, though it's not necessarily presented as a bad thing. Is that emblematic of being a 20-something musician (or you know, just a 20-something in general), or were there specific events that influenced the lyrics?
I tend to get wrapped up in my own thoughts and space out, and in stressful times, that’s a really bad thing. During good times it’s a really good thing. But always moving forward is important. I think everyone is familiar with uncertainty regardless of what age they are, and I think the point is to realize that being uncertain is always going be an option, but it’s how you handle it that matters. In terms of specific events, I think our writing process generates a mood that causes these lyrics sometimes. We’re always alone when we’re working on stuff, so there is always a sense of losing yourself.
This record definitely feels poppier and maybe more structured than the 'Canopy' EP. Was the goal to write more traditional pop songs? What appeals to you about that form?
We spent a lot of time experimenting while we made this record, and after a few months, we realized that pop songs are the songs that make us feel the best, are the songs that we remember the best, and are typically the songs that we can use to recall important times in our lives. The we decided to make a record that was our own version of pop music.
What's your greatest hope, artistically speaking, for 2014?
I hope that a lot of people hear our record and enjoy it, and I hope that we keep expanding and improving across the table, in every aspect of this project.