Sometimes tension is a necessary tool in the creative process, and other routes must be taken reach a goal. Such is the case for Painted Palms, the San Francisco-based electro-pop act composed of cousins Reese Donohue and Christopher Prudhomme, whose late-night emailings of clips and samples has yielding something much larger, with a atypical genesis to match.
What was once a cross-country project in Prudhomme and Donohue's downtime from their studies at Louisiana State Universtiy and University of California Berkeley, respectively, has blossomed into a sound that's just as at home in a festival setting as it would in the middle of an existential crisis. Fresh off last month's release of their debut Polyvinyl LP, Forever, and just before their showing at the Viva Phoenix festival this Friday, we spoke to Prudhomme as Painted Palms geared up to start touring.
Releasing content for free is part of the Painted Palms approach, evidenced by the Nothing Lasts Long EP, and you've said that you guys want to continue with that this year. Why is that?
We like to finish music and then get it out as soon as possible. If we sit on it for too long or maybe try to find to a way to get people to purchase it or do anything else, it tends to kind of feel stale to us after a while. We don't really see a problem with giving people out music for free because the internet was what helped us become a band in the first place so it feels fine to us to give our music away, for the most part.
Was there any difficulty in translating the precision of Forever, a really layered album, into a live show?
It's a definitely a different process playing the songs live. We kind of like to strip things down a bit in terms of production and make the songs a little more energetic and kind of acknowledge that there's an audience there, that we're involved in this thing together, and that it should be kind of a celebration. It's kind of a party, like it's a more energetic and dance-y set, so some of the more detailed aspects of the production are sacrificed so we can kind of streamline the songs.
Part of the backstory of the band was that it was easier for you and Reese to write a song and communicate via the internet rather than writing in a room together. Is there any sense of that same conflict when you're together on stage or on tour?
It's easier whenever you have the songs written already because when you're onstage with somebody, especially just interacting with them, it's more of a social thing. Writing a song is less of a social thing and more of a goal-oriented thing, so we tend to be fine. Any time you tend to be in close quarters with someone for two months, no matter who they are, there's definitely times where you want privacy and you want to be alone. I think that's just a human thing. For the most part I think we get along really well when we have to play onstage or travel, it's just the songwriting process where it gets a little difficult.
You guys wear your influences on your sleeve in terms of the '60s pop structure you adopt wholeheartedly, but what bands, say, post-1980, helped influence the sound of Painted Palms?
Jai Paul is an amazing producer, the way his songs are very technical but also manage to be these minimal things, Talking Heads, they're pre-'80s but close, but just like a lot of modern electronic production -- Arca, the producer, bands that use heavy electronics and also are good at keeping their songs minimal, that's something that we've been inspired by lately. Factory Floor, they're an amazing band, that was one of my favorite records of last year, a lot of beat-driven, more interesting, eclectic, modern production.
Talk me through the highest and lowest point of Painted Palms's existence thus far.
One of the high points was just releasing the record in January. That was something that we've been trying to do for a while, it was a long process and it was tiresome, so it was really nice to put that out there and start working on new stuff. Low points, it's kind of hard -- it's always hard when you're working on writing new things and you're frustrated because you feel like you're not getting anything done. There was a while where we were experimenting with where how we wanted things to sound and we made a lot of songs that we didn't feel were up to snuff, a little bit. That's always difficult to have a streak of writing that doesn't feel adequate, it gets a little discouraging, but I think that most of the time we're having a good time, not too many lows. They're more personal, just 'living your life' stuff instead of band things.
Do you ever find those personal elements bleeding into the band aspect of things though? When you have a new record and you're out on the road, it's hard to balance the band and the personal aspects -- something has to suffer, unfortunately.
That's definitely true. All of that is kind of in the writing on the record, there's not a whole lot of specific events that we incorporated into our songs, at least for the record that we just made, but just like anybody else has relationships [that] go through ups and downs, not even with each other but in our personal lives, families have ups and downs, personally and individually you just have ups and downs, even if it's just based on the seasons, not getting enough sunlight during winter [laughs]. Just your typical highs and lows of any given year as you get older.
Painted Palms is scheduled to perform Crescent Ballroom during Viva PHX on Friday, March 7. Tickets are $20.