Band of the Day

2012.04.09

Painted Palms

A dreamy bath of tranquil synths and beautiful, chant-like vocals
Otis Redding is pretty psychedelic in a weird way. You listen to it and you don't hear a person in the music, you hear something totally different, dreamy and ethereal.
Band of the Day Interview

Painted Palms are an indie band from from San Francisco, California via Lafayette, Louisiana. The group took form in 2009 after cousins Reese Donohue and Christopher Prudhomme began emailing each other music they wrote while separated during Donohue's university studies in California. Live, Painted Palms expand to a five-piece band, with Donahue on bass and Prudhomme on vocals.

Releasing their debut EP Canopy online to Bandcamp and into the blogosphere, the group garnered a reputation as a band to watch for 2011. Entranced with their sunny vocals and tropical compositions, Secretly Canadian records signed the group and formally released Canopy on vinyl, CD and MP3 in July 2011. The group is currently touring North America is support of their album.

Listening to Painted Palms is like taking a cleansing bath in neon synths. Mixing gentle house beats with spiraling synths, tropical touches and almost chant-like vocals, Painted Palms' music is compellingly beautiful and serene. We caught up with Reese Donohue (production, multi-instrumentalist) on a rainy San Francisco day in mid-March, head over to the video section of the app to see a video interview with Donohue or read on for the full transcription.

Painted Palms is the project of Reese Donohue and Christopher Prudhomme, cousins who grew up together in Lafayette, LA. The cousins haven't lived in the same time zone since Donohue moved to the Bay Area to attend college in the late 2000s, but that hasn't stopped them from creating a flourishing creative partnership. The vast majority of their debut EP Canopy was recorded remotely, with the two cousins exchanging music on the Internet, building the tracks piece by piece.

Currently working on the band's forthcoming debut album, Donohue discusses the best psychedelic music in existence, what's influencing their new album, and how to save money on tour.

Band of the Day: Question: You grew up in Lafayette, Louisiana, I assume there's not much progressive music going on there?

Reese: That's not necessarily true, it's actually kind of an island around where it is. There's a university there. There's actually a pretty supportive environment for weird stuff. Stuff that wouldn't be tolerated anywhere else in Louisiana. Different kinds of music and theater.

Band of the Day: Were there many people in your high school that were into the types of music you were into?

Reese: A few, a handful, but largely no. It's something that you had to discover on your own. I get the feeling that it's more readily available out here. I didn't know about blogs or Internet music, so it all came from really weird places.

Band of the Day: What kinds of stuff did you grow up listening to?

Reese: One of my favorite bands was Modest Mouse. I don't know how I found it. I remember begging my mom to bring me to Coney Island for the Siren fest. We drove all the way down there, it was awesome. I saw them in Tallahassee but they never came to New Orleans or anything.

Band of the Day: A lot of your music has watery vibes to it, your remixes are very tropical. Is there something about tropical music that appeals to you?

Reese: That was something we were definitely listening to. A lot of new agey stuff. Part of the reason that water was an image on the EP was that Chris and I are forced to come up with a sort of nonsensical vocabulary in creating music over the Internet. And a lot of stuff we talk about and the way we communicate has to be with non musical terms because, not just because neither one of us knows any theory, but because we're so far away from each other that in order to express an idea it has to be concentrated. Water was an image that came up a lot in describing sound texture. Shimmery, fluidity. Lush was another one. That could be part of the reason that it sounds tropical.

Band of the Day: You released an EP recently, do you have any plans for a full length?

Reese: Yeah we're in the process of recording it right now.

Band of the Day: Will that continue being created in your bedrooms or do you have any plans to record in a studio?

Reese: We're undecided right now, we're definitely going to record it all in my bedroom and over the Internet and we're toying around with the idea of getting together with an engineer and producer and pulling it apart and putting it back together, but it's not totally decided.

Band of the Day: Does the label try to steer you in one direction or another?

Reese: The only advice our label has ever given us is follow your artistic vision. It's really cool.

Band of the Day: So no feedback at all?

Reese: If we want, we'll send them something and say, if you were to pick 10 songs to be the record what would they be, for comparisons sake. They've never pushed us one way or the other. It's definitely not what you hear about labels.

Band of the Day: What would be your dream music collaboration, throughout history?

Reese: I've been listening to a lot of the Zombies, they don't seem like they'd be great to collaborate with but I like their music a lot. They seem like they'd be difficult to work with. They had this really awesome smoothness that you don't hear in a lot of other bands at the time. The textures, and the attitude is something you don't hear a lot of in other music of the time, it seems very mysterious. It's very lounge-y psychedelia too, nothing like jam bands or other stuff, it's a very subtle, introspective psychedelic sound.

Band of the Day: You guys used some house elements in your music…

Reese: During the EP we definitely used some of that stuff, the new record isn't going to have any of that, but we were listening to lots of house music at the time, or I was and I was responsible for doing a lot of the beats. Listening to a lot of new agey music, combined with that came out as a very ethereal, beat driven sound.

Band of the Day: Will you move away from that in the future?

Reese: Everything we've recorded so far has been a band, as opposed to a person with a laptop. We've been listening to a lot of rock and roll and that's what we're finding really interesting right now, song craft.

Band of the Day: I saw you open for STRFKR recently, and a friend I was there with heard you for the first time, and said the music was incredibly cleansing. Do you feel that the process of making music and the music you make is cleansing?

Reese: Yeah, I think that's a lot of the reason why we make music, to make ourselves feel better. Making something, then hearing it and make yourself feel better is really therapeutic and part of the reason everyone makes music.

Band of the Day: What is the most beautiful dreamy or psychedelic music ever?

Reese: Otis Redding is pretty psychedelic in a weird way. You listen to it and you don't hear a person in the music, you hear something totally different, dreamy and ethereal. What's in the record can't possibly be summed up in a human … it's crazy. His vocals exist separate from the music, he has this really weird purity, the instrumentation is there but not necessary, it almost feels like direct communication, and that feels psychedelic.

Band of the Day: If you could put your music to any film or tv show, what would you go for?

Reese: The opening scene of Natural Born Killers, the opening credits. It's with Woody Harrelson, it's awesome. They're driving through the desert and the image keeps folding in over itself, it's very dream-like.

Band of the Day: What are you looking forward to in 2012?

Reese: I'm looking forward to putting out the first record that I've ever put out. I think it's going to be really cool, I've never done that before, and I've been working on it for a long time. There's so much of my life that's been poured into that it's going to feel really good to wrap it up.

Band of the Day: When Chris finishes up school are you planning on living in the same city?

Reese: I don't think that's really necessary. I don't know that Chris would like it here, he's lived in the south all his life and he really likes the south, maybe Austin or New Orleans.

Band of the Day: Favorite money saving tip on tour?

Reese: We do a lot of finding random people to stay with, it's a good money saving tip. A lot of meeting people at the merch table, which we've had some pretty weird experiences with, but also some good ones.

Band of the Day: Any really weird experiences?

Reese: There's one girl that kept sending naked pictures of herself to Chris. There was another girl that offered us a place to stay without asking and we found her.