Palm: The Philadelphia Experiment

Urban outfit Palm retreated to a rural farmhouse to make Rock Island

Every seven minutes or so, Palm’s Philadelphia apartment roars and rattles with the passing of another train. The row home abuts the tracks of the Market-Frankford El, which zips by the upstairs windows with regularity. It’s seen in full display in Palm’s recent “Dog Milk” video, where the band performs on the rooftop, unfurling spectral guitar tones into the evening air as the B train rolls on through.

“The train’s great,” says Kasra Kurt, who shares guitar and vocal duties in Palm with Eve Alpert. “Except when you’re demoing and trying to get a vocal take. You’ll think you got ‘the one,’ and you’ll listen back and it’s just this rumble under it.”

“Or when you’re watching Netflix,” says Alpert.

The noise was part of the reason why the experimental-rock quartet—which also features bassist Gerasimos Livitsanos and drummer Hugo Stanley—decamped to a farmhouse in the Hudson Valley last fall to record its new Rock Island (Carpark). They formed in Hudson, N.Y., in 2012, and it was less that they sought to return home or that they craved quiet, and more that they wanted to make a little noise of their own, to be loud into the night without neighbors complaining.

“We liked the idea of going somewhere else,” says Alpert. “Especially being in the Hudson Valley where it’s so familiar to us, and having a chunk of time with no distractions.”

In total, it was three weeks of 18-hour days with their friend Matt Labozza, engineer of last year’s excellent Shadow Expert EP. The resulting album juts and jars with unconventional intersections of melody and rhythm, but the overall tone is sugar-sweet, and when Kurt cites Captain Beefheart and the Beach Boys as two artists his bandmates keep in regular rotation, it makes sense.

So how does the city-dwelling Palm of 2018 relate to its countryside origins?

“We were a really bad band for a really long time,” laughs Kurt, wistfully recalling excitable young artists with a voracious musical appetite trying to hone in on a voice. “I think that if we lived in a city playing shows while we were trying to figure out what we were doing, we would’ve gotten really disheartened really quickly.”

Alpert adds that the upside of being in the city today is proximity to peers, like the Guests and Mothers. “It’s just having more people that we’re inspired by,” she says. “We can rub off on each other.”

—John Vettese

Kasra Kurt: “Me and Gerry both follow this team in England called Arsenal, and there’s something about watching a team of people play a really flowing and free sport together, in sync with one another. It’s very visually pleasing and creatively inspiring.”

Friends Who Make Music
Eve Alpert: “Our friends Mothers, from Athens, Ga., moved to Philadelphia recently, and our friend Ada Babar from Atlanta moved here, too. They lived with us for six months last year. We’ve always kept in touch through text, sent each other voice memos of what we’re working on. I feel more sane with what we’re doing when I have friends who are also working nonstop on their craft.”

The Settlers Of Catan
Gerasimos Livitsanos: “It’s a board game we’ve been playing a lot that involves cooperating with the other players at times, and then sometimes not. It’s gonna be the downfall of us.”