When Deftones singer Chino Moreno’s name becomes attached to your band, the level of anticipation jumps the scale from a niche genre to many worlds of music lovers. Moreno isn’t backed by just any musicians in Palms, though: Three members of the now-defunct ISIS (drummer Aaron Harris, guitarist Cliff Meyer and bassist Jeff Caxide) have the musical chops and experience to make any musical project stand out, and are far from a backdrop to let Moreno’s well-known croon or scream play the keynote. Palms’ self-titled debut album drops on June 25 via Ipecac Recordings, with tour dates in the wings. SLUG caught up on all things Palms with drummer Harris.
“What we do is hard to describe. It’s not metal and it’s not typical rock. I think there will be elements where people will recognize sounds that ISIS had. It will be somewhat familiar, but it will also sound new and different,” says Harris. He mentions that it took some time after ISIS disbanded for the players to process the mark that they left on the music scene. The band that everybody initially hacked as a wannabe Neurosis post-hardcore band morphed itself into something nobody saw coming. Harris said the players still had the old ISIS practice space, and when they realized the practice space didn’t fit their new direction, they had the opportunity to get a new space overlooking downtown LA, where things started to take shape and they began recording songs. “It was kind of awkward and weird at first. We didn’t go in with any preconceived ideas. We did know that we wanted a singer—we didn’t want it to be instrumental,” says Harris.
The bond, between Moreno and the other members of Palms, came out of Harris’ friendship with the Deftones. On a hike with Harris, Moreno asked what the three members were up to, and Harris told him they were working on new music. Harris wound up sending the new tunes to Moreno, who demoed his voice for the tracks, and Palms came to fruition.
Even though Palms and Isis are separate musical entities, they are not actively avoiding comparisons between the bands. The musical tones in Palms are reminiscent of Isis simply because the bands feature the same musicians. “I think it’s just our sound—it’s how I play drums, how Cliff plays guitar and [how] Jeff plays bass,” Harris says.
That almost-trademark-ISIS tone filters through in Palms, which may initially inspire listeners to feel that this is simply ISIS with Moreno singing. “Future Warrior” and “Patagonia” especially have that twang that Isis made so relevant on their last few albums. “I did want it to be full and make those heavy moments in the way the heavy moments in ISIS hit, so I think, subconsciously, I was trying to mimic that, somewhat,” says Harris. As Palms’ debut progresses, it ventures away from ISIS’ sound. “Mission Sunset” and album closer “Antarctic Sunset” depart into shoegaze, as Moreno sways his vocal style in unfamiliar ways.
Moreno definitely adds a unique element to the music created by Harris, Meyer and Caxide, though. “He’s a really dynamic singer. He can be pretty, he can be sort of sexy, he can be in your face, sort of angry and pretty nasty sounding. I really admire him and his sound,” Harris says.
Palms’ debut comes across as a work of album-oriented music. There is strength in each song, but they come off more as pieces to the puzzle that complete the picture of the Palms debut. “It’s not a first-listen record—people are going to have to listen to it a few times. A lot of my favorite records throughout my life are like that … The first time you hear it, you say, ‘Well, I don’t know how I feel about it.’ Then you start discovering these little things, and then those little things become really important to you, and then they end up being some of your favorite records,” says Harris.
I find that the music that isn’t the easiest to ingest becomes some of the best stuff for your ears, just like eating your veggies does for your stomach. In the end, it all turns out that it’s the best for you. Palms don’t feel like they’re trying hard to hammer a musical view into your skull. The band’s music is open-ended and up for listeners’ interpretation. The band initially seem like a little bit of ISIS and a little bit of Deftones, but the harder you crunch, the bigger the taste it’s going to leave on your auditory palate.