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Palace Fires - Interview Part 1

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 22 / 11 / 2006

Palace Fires - Interview Part 1


Palace Fires is the new band of former Gene stars Steve Mason and Matt James. In the first part of a two part interview, Anthony Strutt talks to the band about its formation and their first two singles

Palace Fires are my band of the year for 2006. I first saw them at the start of the year in Leicester at which time I was on the dole, playing to a rather small audience. I come from the same part of South East London as them and they told me that I was mad. I have since been to most of their London shows. They have now released two 7 inch singles. 'Nothing Comes Close' and 'Never Gonna Away' the first of which is now sold out. Palace Fires are Ed Bannard (vocals and acoustic guitar), Mike Buchanan (bass), Steve Mason (guitar) and Matt James (drums). Both Matt and Steve were both formerly in bestselling Brit pop act Gene, who over the course of their 12 years together recorded five albums together and had several hit singles. This interview is, however, not a trip down memory lane but is instead about going forward. Steve and Matt still play the same equipment and have their own style of their playing, so their parts still have a Gene like quality and some of that band's swagger. Ed, who plays solo gigs as a folk singer, however,has a different vocal style to Gene's Martin Rossiter and Palace Fires aren't a version of that band in a new light. They are Palace Fires, my new band of the year. PB : Why did you choose the name 'Palace Fires' ? What attracted you to that name ? MJ : We were recording in Crystal Palace and next to the studio there was a shop, a fire place shop called Palace Fires. It just stuck really and we were in the pub next door and we kept on looking over at it and it sort of had a romance about it and it became what it became. PB : The week after Gene split up in December 2004 I bumped into you, Steve, at the club you were running at the time, Rendition. You put on an Xmas gig there by Ian McNabb. SM : That's right. PB : I went past there the other day, Parker Street, and it's shut down now, and there was a notice outside saying that you were DJing for London XFM which I didnt know about. SM : I did XFM for about three years with Adam Longworth. We did the Weekender which is the graveyard shift, which is between 1 to 4 in the morning. I was doing other bits and pieces at the same time, so it was something of a killer and I felt permanantly jetlagged. XFM had this big rethink of everything and I ended up doing the breakfast show on Saturdays and Sundays. By that time Matt and I were getting heavily involved with Palace Fires and I had got Rendition up and running, so I said I don't want to be doing the late night shift anymore and they helped sponsor Rendition. They read stuff out on air which was handy. MJ : You first met Ed when he played at Steve's club with a band called the Lanes (To Ed) When was that? EB : November 2004, I think. MJ : Ed and Steve swopped numbers, and then in January 2005 Steve, Ed and I met up and we agreed to see if we could write a song together. Then we liked the 1st one, so we wrote a couple more and by April it was full steam ahead. PB : How does the band work ? Do you all write your own parts and then jam ? (To Steve and Matt) You guys have been doing it for like 20 years and know what you are doing. MJ : (Laughs). PB : Do you do what the Cure and R.E.M. do and go home and work on something and then bring it to the band and rehearse ? EB : We sometimes do that, go home and then bring it in and, if everyone gets a good vibe with it, then we start playing around with it. SM : What usually happens is it starts with a strong idea from someone. We work on it until we get a basic arrangement and then Ed will sing on it. We listen to everything we have and then start editing all the best parts together. And then from that we end up building on it, rearrange it, and then start on the over dubs and the dressing. A strong idea has to come in though, and that strong idea can come from any of us really. We all add our personality. To make it a Palace Fires track there isn't one dominating force in this band. We are a collective and everyone has their say, but normally the ideas that come in are very strong, so they don't need to be tampered with heavily. Also, if you have an idea, and someone has got a better idea, it seems stupid to get precious about it, because it will make you look good on stage in the long run anyway and you will end up playing something better then you thought. MJ :I think our songwriting will improve, not necessarily get better, but go off in a different direction as we go out and tour lots, This band did not start out as a touring band. It started out as a songwriting team, which became a band. Then Mike joined and we started recording properly, as Mike comes from an engineering background. MB : There was one song, 'Up to Speed', we wrote recently that started out as a riff and then we started playing on it. Ed sang over it, and that was it ready in just one rehearsal. We played it at the next gig. PB : Ed, you also work as a solo act. How do you approach the songs you write for yourself and then for the band ? Is there a different method for each ? EB : Sometimes there are songs that I have brought to the band that have become Palace Fires songs. Others are not suitable. The solo thing is really just a sideline. I do it just for the joy of playing really. SM : Ed's songs are more folk-based. Originally when we started writing with Ed, we played in his style, but since Mike joined and we began touring we have turned into a rock band. We still have folk qualities though. That is something that we still do. PB : In the past everyone read 'NME' as if it was the Bible. Now most people go to band websites for information, and, like most bands, you have your own website www.palacefires.co.uk. and a My Space site. How do you think the two compare ? SM : I think they work together well. EB : If you want to listen to a song you go to MySpace. That's what MySpace is all about, and for finding out when gigs will happen. These days you have to be on MySpace, and anyway it is really good for the fans. SM : Fans can communicate a lot more effortlessly through MySpace than on our website because that's the way it is engineered and that's how it is structured. It's also very quick. You can deal with people more quickly and directly then you can through our messaging system. MJ : If there was a choice I would just have our own website. SM : The fans run MySpace and we own our website. On MySpace people can put up whatever they want and we don't have any control. PB : There's a lot of MySpace pubs and clubs now. Will you play those venues to spread out your name ? MJ : It would be interesting playing anywhere interesting, but we don't have a massive desire to crawl around a lot of small venues I think we want to get to the point where we play proper venues as soon as we can really. SM : I want to play stadiums. I like playing 800+ venues. If you get nervous playing to 60 people you might as well get nervous playing to 60,000. The idea of playing to a small amount of people isn't on my radar, and as soon as we are good enough I will put on a suit and go and do it. The second and final part of this interview will follow next month.

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Palace Fires - Interview Part 1

Palace Fires - Interview Part 1

Palace Fires - Interview Part 1

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Palace Fires (2011)
Long-awaited, but magical debut album from London-based indie rock four-piece, Palace Fires
Fear of Falling (2008)
Never Gonna Get Away/Lonely Fires (2006)
Nothing Comes Close (2006)

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