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Palace Option 2 5 Keerthana Kunnath

Palace and the love that follows tragedy

19 April 2024, 11:45

Leo Wyndham of Palace tells Riley Moquin how navigating trauma led to the band's strongest work to date in new record Ultrasound.

Since the band’s founding in 2012, Palace has grown from a group of best friends into a worldwide act.

The London-based band has built a signature style around introspective, personal lyrics and the high-flying crooning of the group’s frontman, Leo Wyndham, whose vocal style often matches the sombre tone. Yet on the band’s newest album entitled Ultrasound, Wyndham was pushed into unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory, both inside and beyond the recording studio.

“It started with a moment where time seemed to slightly stand still,” Wyndham says. Shortly after beginning the process of recording what would become Palace’s new project, tragedy struck the singer. Wyndham’s partner suddenly suffered a miscarriage, throwing the lives of the couple into new and challenging territory, and forcing the pair to work through the unexpected and traumatic event. “At the beginning of that experience, you in a way become very separate and have your own experiences of that event,” says Wyndham.

For him, much of the early challenge lay in understanding his place in his partner's process of navigating such a sensitive experience. The artist came to understand it as “a woman’s experience,” confused about where he fit into her own grieving process and how to be present for her at that time. Any urge to run away from the problems confronting Wyndham and his partner would, over time, be overcome by the strength of the singer’s bond with his partner.

“As a man, it’s quite confusing to see your purpose and identity within that experience,” he says. Having grown dreams of a family life, Wyndham was forced to pull back the curtain for himself and – in his own way – cope with the reality that what he envisioned was not coming to be in the way he dreamt. Wyndham describes this as a sense of “confusion,” but stresses that coming to realise and understand this confusion was a crucial piece in moving forward, as time felt at a standstill.

Rather than running, Wyndham and his partner approached the sensitivity of the situation with care and took the time to rebuild the foundation of their love and admiration for one another. The singer stresses that the process wasn’t easy, but throughout Ultrasound these moments of reconnection appear often throughout the record’s narrative, such as on “Bleach” and “Make You Proud.” On the latter, Wyndham sings: “Never thought I’d breathe again / And I hope I make you proud / because I’d follow your way / Pick me up from the ground / Intertwined we lay.”

As is the case for many artists, singers, and lyricists, Wyndham brought the events transpiring in his personal life into the studio. The subsequent record – and the one Palace has just released and begun touring to promote – would fittingly be titled Ultrasound, but the band had a long road ahead to get to the album’s release.

Wyndham describes the feeling behind Ultrasound as one of claustrophobia. He has known his bandmates since they were thirteen, and the singer himself found joy in making music through the escape it provides. “The first thing in making music for me was because it gave me a sense of comfort and release… It has become a sort of spiritual compass to figure myself out.”

Amidst the confusion of navigating personal trauma, the recording of Ultrasound became that avenue of release as much as any of Palace’s previous work. While figuring out how to make the world of himself and his partner move again was an ongoing struggle, Wyndham found the recording process to be a way to release thoughts and emotions “subconsciously.” Those releases permeate throughout Ultrasound. The feeling of unmanifested familial dreams opens the record on “When Everything Was Lost,” when Wyndham sings, “I saw the redwoods and I thought of you / as a child danced in another room / I see the shape of our shadow.”

While time may have metaphorically stopped for Wyndham, the recording process of Ultrasound was the quickest Palace had ever completed a record. The band recorded the project in one year, roughly half the time the group typically needs for a full-length project. After a conversation in the pub with producer and longtime friend Adam Jaffrey (Tom Misch, Obongjayar), the band decided to bring Jaffrey on as its producer for the first time since the group’s 2016 debut album So Long Forever.

“When you’re on a label or in the industry, with each creation you put out you’re always told you have to move to another producer for each album because it becomes part of the story,” he says. But according to Wyndham, Jaffrey had convinced him with a detailed explanation of the direction he saw the group’s project taking. After that conversation, Palace and Jaffrey reunited and embarked on the journey of recording Ultrasound. By the end, Wyndham says it was the group’s best-ever recording experience, and they hope to continue working with Jaffrey. “He understands the heart of the band and the music, because he has been on the journey with us.”

Jaffrey’s recording process for Ultrasound intended to bring a jam band approach to Palace. While the group was used to rehearsing tracks to death before recording, Jaffrey had the group write for a week and then record for the second week. Wyndham says it reignited the group’s tracks with authenticity, partly because it forced the group to work spontaneously in the moment and trust the process. “Usually what we do is write all these songs and rehearse them up to a very well-rehearsed point, and then you go in and record them… By that point, you lose a bit of that organic freshness and rawness of feeling.”

“A number of the songs on the record, my favourite ones, came from that experience of just trusting that something will happen and not being fearful and hiding and over-rehearsing."

Palace Press 6 Keerthana Kunnath

Key to writing a record infused with such sensitive subject matter was the support from Wyndham’s bandmates. A group of childhood friends, Palace is a band of best friends who were “incredibly supportive and sensitive” throughout the recording process. Wyndham says the instrumentals his bandmates contributed were a fundamental part of bringing his thoughts to life. “That’s sort of the magic of the band in a way, is that I really feel like the instrumentation tells a story on its own.” The singer points to “When Everything Was Lost,” where the instrumentals leading into the track’s bridge he considers crucial to making the song work.

With the title, lyrical content, and much of the discussion around the new record centring around the miscarriage and subsequent trauma experienced by Wyndham and his partner, the Palace frontman also considers Ultrasound to be much larger than the events that led to its creation. He makes sure to point out that his bandmates – Rupert Turner, Matt Hodges, and Harry Deacon – each had their own personal experiences that they brought to the studio.

Wyndham says he and his partner have grown closer than ever, in large part because the pair were forced to “break out” of a claustrophobic sense of trauma. Despite much of the heavy subject matter, there are many moments in Ultrasound where it is instead a sense of hope that radiates strongest, such as in the lead single “Bleach”: “We’ll bleach our hair together / and I’ll hold you tight forever / You anchor me to a different life / found somebody to make it right.”

In a larger sense, Ultrasound is less about the events that led to the record’s creation and more about the grieving and healing processes that followed. Wyndham considers it an album about love, and does not want the record to be defined by tragedy, and instead by the story of growing in love in the aftermath of trauma. “It’s about – through these experiences – seeing how love and the light can shine up through the cracks.”

“You’d never say you were grateful for the experience, because you wish it had never happened, but on a human level I think you feel in a better place, stronger, and more together than ever,” says Wyndham.

Ultrasound is out now

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