New Kids in Town

the Palmas Interview

by Claire Brom


On the night of their debut performance in Columbus, Palmas sits down with AROUSE to discuss a recent van hijacking, their current tour, and an upcoming full-length album.

Ah, Philly. Birthplace of American democracy, the beloved Phillies, and—of course—the legendary cheesesteak. One of the oldest cities in the States, Philadelphia’s rich history emanates almost palpably from its timeworn storefronts and brownstones.

But look a little farther beyond those sleepy brick-and-vine façades and you’ll find the city of brotherly love is surprisingly young at heart, with an energetic and incredibly talented crop of underground musicians steadily keeping the beat. Beneath Philadelphia’s centuries-old exterior lies a lively and ever-expanding music scene that in recent years has drawn increasing attention from music-lovers and critics alike. This unique dynamic has turned out countless acts just as unique, including Dr. Dog, The Districts, Modern Baseball, and The War on Drugs. Here at AROUSE, we were lucky enough to sit down with a band whose name will surely be joining that list. Palmas, Philadelphia’s 5-man “psych and soul” outfit, isn’t simply riding the surf rock wave—they’re redefining it. Combining vintage west coast vibes with classic east coast edge, Palmas is creating a sound that is, dare we say it, totally tubular. And they’re not slowing down any time soon. Join AROUSE’s Claire Brom and the Palmas crew (Kurt Cain—vocals, Matt Justin—guitar, Adam Cantiello—guitar, Eric Camarota—bass, and Andrew Torre—drums) for a post-soundcheck pre-show chat about their past LP, present tour, and future plans.

Claire Brom: So, first things first: how is Vancy Sinatra? I know she suffered some trauma when she was stolen last spring, but is she okay?
Adam Cantiello: Yeah, she’s fine. We put a lot of money into getting her back, so we’re pretty strapped for cash right now. [Laughs.] We just fixed our air conditioning, so we have A/C again, which is pretty important.
Brom: Definitely important, especially right now—you guys are going to be racking up a lot of mileage with this tour. With the seven-hour drive from Philly to Columbus out of the way and another haul to Nashville ahead of you tomorrow, do you have any road trip survival tips?
Kurt Cain: Don’t kill each other.
Brom: Is it hard not to kill each other sometimes?
Eric Camarota: Well, yeah, it’s rough when you go on a two-er… two shows, get it?
Brom: Well played, well played.
Cain: Pack more than you need.

Matt Justin: Be democratic with the music in the van.
Brom: What are some of your go-to songs on the road?
Cantiello: We listen to a lot of throwback stuff from our high school days, but we’re not going to talk about what bands those were. Other than that, it varies. On the way out here we played some Mama Cass (Cass Elliot of The Mamas and the Papas), Foxygen, Copeland—
Justin: Yeah, you guys listen to Copeland a lot.
Cantiello: Fair. What else? Some Morrissey for Torre… and I think that about covers the trip here.
Brom: How does it feel to be taking Palmas farther west and debuting in some major cities?
Cantiello: It feels good to hit the road, for sure. We’ve been tucked away in our studio for what feels like years. I guess it actually has been a year, you know? We’ve been working on a record.
Brom: On this tour you’re performing with Katie Toupin (formerly of Houndmouth) and The Dips, out of Seattle. How did that come together?
Justin: It just kind of happened. We got the opportunity to play with both bands, so we took it. We’re really excited, The Dips seem like a really fun, cool band.
Brom: You guys have played with a lot of other cool bands, too, like Whitney and Twin Peaks. Is there anybody you loved working with, or who you’d love to work with in the future?
Justin: We’ve played a couple of times with a band called Vacationer. They’ve been super supportive of us and given us lots of opportunities. Twin Peaks was a lot of fun. We did play with Whitney, which was probably my favorite show. Oh, and Broncho. Broncho was definitely another personal favorite.
Cain: The Whitney show was awesome.
Camarota: There was sweat coming off the ceiling.
Brom: That sounds like a great time. As Adam mentioned earlier, you’ve all been working hard in the studio for a while now on a full-length album, a process which I’m sure has plenty of ups and downs. Which end of that spectrum would you say Palmas is currently on?
Cain: We’re on an upswing right now, for sure. We’ve really narrowed it down to the songs we want to work on, and we’re just plugging away at getting them finished.
Justin: Our hope is to have an album out by early 2019, which seems like forever away, but it’s really right around the corner.
Brom: Rumor has it you guys have been revamping your sound quite a bit for your new album. What new stylistic elements or influences should we expect to hear on this upcoming release?
Cain: We have a lot of influences, which is why it took us a while to kind of hone in on what we really, really wanted to put out for our first full-length record. We still keep a little bit of the surf element, but we’re moving towards a more “psych and soul” kind of sound—or our variation of that. We’re trying to put our stamp on our sound.
Justin: I think one of the biggest differences people will notice is that previously, Kurt didn’t play keys, but now he’s on the keys a lot, so that’s been a huge addition to our band. And we’ve been building on that, too, playing around with synthesizers and other elements that we would never have included two years ago, but that have now sort of naturally become part of our sound.
Brom: While we’re on the topic of influences, I’ve been very curious: what was the inspiration for the name Palmas?
Justin: A lawsuit. [Laughter.] We originally had a different name and we received a polite email that basically told us if we didn’t change it, they were going to take legal action. So, we kind of internally thought and hundreds of text messages later, Kurt came up with it.
Cain: I think that we were trying to give off a certain vibe.
Justin: As a band, you want your name to represent your music in a way, you know? At the time we were still very much a surf rock band, and even though our music has kind of drifted away from that, we all still love The Beach Boys and other surf rock stuff—everybody does. I think it just fit the feeling. Even if you don’t know our music, you can hear the name and get the idea.
Cain: We also love a lot of Latin soul and percussion.
Cantiello: Yeah, and the word “palmas” also refers to the handclap in the flamenco, so it kind of worked out that way, too.
Brom: Sounds like a perfect fit. I just have one last question, but this is by far the most serious one, so I hope you’re ready. Some of you are from Philadelphia, and some of you are from New York—which is the move, a Philly cheesesteak, or a New York style slice of pizza?
Cantiello: Oh, pizza any day and I’m from Philadelphia.
Justin: As the New Yorker of the band, I say pizza. It’s not even close. Except I do love a good cheesesteak, I get one every time I’m in Philly… so maybe it’s closer than I thought.
Cain: I’ll go on the record with this: I’ve never had a good slice of pizza in New York.
Justin: Oh, come on!
Cain: Take me out for a good slice of pizza, then! But I have had a good cheesesteak in Philadelphia, so that’s my vote.
Camarota: Easily the cheesesteak. New York sucks.
Torre: Definitely pizza.
Justin: So there you have it, pizza takes the win, 3-2.

Hooked? Check out Palmas on Instagram (@palmastheband), Twitter (@palmas), and Facebook (PALMAS). Their latest single, “Floating in the Dark”, is now streaming on Spotify and Soundcloud.
PC: Louie Kovatch/Palmas Facebook