From the 60s and 70s rock’n’roll to garage, and indie, the rock band Palma Hills wears their references on their sleeve and delivers an irresistible new song: ‘Surf’. Right now, the band is working on their second full-length album, which is due to be released in 2022. We talked about this and many other music-related things in a captivating interview with Bátor Siklódi!
Hello! First of all, how did you start making music? Tell us more about your project, considering you’ve taken a break in the past years.
The 3 of us (me, Arnold, and Elod) started an acoustic project in 2012. We were playing a couple of covers, but Arnold had songs of his own so we started playing those as well already at an early stage. After the first few months we realized we wanted something more than the acoustic stuff, so got ourselves a drummer and started playing electric guitars. Once Peter, our drummer joined us, we’ve been sticking to this formula until recently, when our swiss-army-knife guitar, synth, and tambourine player, Norbert joined us.
Ten years sounds like a long time when you think about it, but it was the most fun ten years of our lives. Together we have achieved many things that we would not even dream of when we picked up our instruments the first time; for me personally having to take a break was tough, but I tried to get the best out of it and spent a lot of time getting better at my instrument. I don’t want to speak for the others, but it must’ve been similar for them too because we all had a different approach once we came together again. It felt like we were respecting each other more and were truly waiting for this comeback.
Many people have probably already asked you this, but what is the story behind the name Palma Hills?
Not sure anymore, but I remember I had a pretty distinct vision about this a few years ago. We were really into this modern psy-fuelled beach/desert music that is rooted in the late 60s. I guess we felt this is the direction towards which we are headed and anyways, who doesn’t like the palm trees, right? They are the embodiment and therefore the expression of natural beauty, at least for us.
Besides this, we live in an area of the country that is surrounded by hills; we resonate with them a lot, so we wanted to incorporate them into our identity.
Although palm trees are uncommon around here. This makes the whole thing a bit contradictory, but we were thinking that as long as it sounds good, and prompts the listeners to come up with their own interpretation of us it should be fine.
Unfortunately, the music industry today works based on predefined standards
What would you say about your music to someone who has never heard of it before?
It’s guitar-driven, sometimes pop-oriented, but mainly crunchy garage music.
What were the main creative challenges you’ve had to face? How have they changed over time?
There were times when we wanted to come up with more sophisticated songs due to digging deeper into what’s out there. Often we came to the conclusion that the more simple we keep it the better. These days I think finding the right balance between the two is what’s important. In my opinion, you need to find a place for both.
‘Surf’, your latest single video, seems to be some kind of introduction to a new journey. Is there a possibility of releasing some new songs, maybe an album?
Absolutely! Actually, we’ve been sitting on this one for a few years now, together with a bunch of other songs we still have up our sleeves. The current plan is to keep dropping them one by one, because apart from a few music enthusiasts, like me or most likely you guys, people rarely allocate the time to listen to an entire album these days, especially if it’s by some unknown group like us. This way these new songs might get the much-desired attention we aspire to get.
‘Surf’ was an experiment of its own kind and it turned out to be one of the best songs we have written until now
Who did you work with to create this video and how difficult it was to put it on the screen?
It’s the work of two artists from Miercurea Ciuc.
Tücske drew the illustration. He said it got him out of his comfort zone because he rarely does stuff this colorful.
The animation is the work of Hátszegi Zsolt.
Although it looks like a simple loop at first, there was a considerable amount of work with it I believe, especially for Hatszegi who was tireless and threw in the best of his skills until he was pleased with this final result.
How and when would ‘Surf’ be served best?
It’s best served live at our concerts where you can sweat with us to it, so buckle up and join the journey where you can!
When it comes to producing new music, where do you find inspiration?
The music we are listening to, each of us individually always has an effect on the music we are making together. I personally, really like to go back to the roots of the music that I am listening to at the moment, to see what the idols of my idols are like. It is also inspirational to learn about their philosophy and the ways how they perceive art.
Live concert experiences are the most inspirational to me these days. To feel the raw energy of my favorite bands changes my perspective every time I see them.
How do you think that the band’s sound has evolved over the years? Did you always have in mind to sound the way you sound today?
Well, not really; the same way I don’t know where it will evolve in the future. There are a lot of things we are yet to try. In the beginning, we had no idea of what we were doing or how our role models (at the time) got the sounds they have on this or that record.
Then we got more into this classic British sound that felt like a whole new world since until then we were mainly listening to more recent, American bands. We started to experiment with all sorts of effects to tailor our sound further and that was a huge step ahead. Obviously, this is an ongoing (probably never-ending) process.
It’s amazing how much of a difference the type of instrument you play can make. On top of that, there are the effects that you are using. As I already mentioned, we keep experimenting with different types of gear, but that’s just one part of it. The more money I spend on new gear, the more I realize that the technique makes the biggest difference after all.
What role does experimentation play in a band’s success? Do you like pushing your own musical boundaries if they exist?
Actually, ‘Surf’ was an experiment of its own kind and it turned out to be one of the best songs we have written until now. Success is a tough question anyways. It’s fun to experiment and it can lead to all kinds of unique compositions, especially when it comes to live music, but the type of success you can measure in numbers is rarely the result of taking steps off the beaten track these days.
Unfortunately, the music industry today works based on predefined standards. You need to go to extremes to be able to be successful while going against the flow. Nevertheless, we like to push boundaries, otherwise, we would be doing the same boring thing again and again. It’s fun to step out of the limits we tend to set for ourselves.
Do you believe it’s difficult to come up with something unique that sets you apart from other bands nowadays?
It definitely is, but there are many bands who can step outside the box and be inventive nowadays. My big fav is King Gizzard, who always finds ways to surprise their fans, and we are even talking about fans here who are just not the ordinary bunch.
The point I am making is that while there’s already a lot of music out there and it’s hard to create something completely distinct from everything else, there is still room for innovation, you just have to be brave enough to take that step that many don’t want to because they are afraid that people won’t understand them.
When listeners make their way through your band, what do you want them to feel?
I guess it depends on the song, but generally, I would like them to feel what I feel when I discover new music. You know that feeling when you get hooked on something new right? I am not sure if it’s just me but I tend to stick to it for entire days and weeks before I feel that the thrill is gone.
I don’t have this with our own music, but it’s because we are our own worst critics. If someone can resonate with our tunes the way they usually resonate with new music, I am already a happy camper.
What do you feel is the best song you’ve ever released and why?
‘Surf’ is our best so far. Not because that’s the latest, but because we managed to capture a certain type of dynamism in this one that I never felt on our previous recordings. We recorded the core of it live, by playing it together, from beginning to end and that gives this energetic drag to it that I am really proud of.
What are the main aims and objectives for Palma Hills in the future?
Well, we’ve been around for a few years already and at the time when things felt like they were taking shape for us, we had to put things on pause for all kinds of personal reasons. There is this hiatus of 3-4 years from where we need to work ourselves back in the bloodstream. That shouldn’t be very difficult, because musically we are a lot better than we were 3 years ago.
The long-term goals are to play continuously at important venues nationally and internationally as well (regionally at least), without having to sacrifice our personal life for it.
I feel that there is still a long way until we eventually reach that creative peak, so I am optimistic about the future when it comes to making music as well.