Self-gratifyingly chaotic

Alexis Gotts and Rob Graham playing live.
Alexis Gotts and Rob Graham playing live.

CLUSTERED round a table in a West Street bar, the members of Palmela Handerson look like something of a motley crew. Huddled over a blanket of beers, tattoo-covered, unshaven (except for bassist Dan Booth) and clad in red-neck regalia, Palmela Handerson could well have just returned from having held up the local gas station.

Fortunately, they haven’t. Instead, the group’s here to talk about their much-anticipated gig this week. It’s much-anticipated because of the band’s make-up: Palmela Handerson is comprised of members of two of Sheffield’s most popular, fast-rising bands, blues blasters Wet Nuns and the ballsy Violet May, who are touring Iceland this autumn.

‘Babraham Lincoln,’ aka Rob Graham (guitars, vocals), says: “The fact we’re part Violet May, part Wet Nuns definitely increases people’s curiosity about us. But they have no idea what we sound like and we’re not giving anything away.”

Indeed, Palmela Handerson are vague, to say the least, about the sound they’ll be unleashing on listeners. Dan Booth (bass, vocals), says: “It’s heavy but we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves. We all listen to a whole spectrum of music and there are no boundaries to what we play. But some of it’s danceable - there was a girl at the last gig who started doing some sexy dance but by the time she’d got her arms up the song had ended. They’re very short songs. ”

Graham interjects: “There is no premeditated sound with our stuff. In the past when I’ve imagined the sound I want to achieve before writing a song it’s never lived up to what I’ve expected, especially I’ve been writing or playing with someone else. “

Songwriting in Palmela Handerson is a truly collaborative process. “We don’t have a boss,” says Booth. “We do everything together and equally.”

Songs take their inspiration from unusual sources in Palmela Handerson, as drummer Alexis Gotts explains. “I wrote a song about Penguin bar muiltipacks, who’d have thought you could get a song out of that?” Graham also takes inspiration from strange names of breeds of bird.

“Did you know there is a bird called the Agile Tit Tyrant?” Indeed, Palmela Handerson is not preoccupied with pretence, and nowhere is this more powerfully testified than their name. “Let’s just say the name’s about relaxing in a gentlemanly fashion,” says Gotts. Booth is more explicit.

“My Mum asked me what the name was about and I just said ‘Mum, do you remember all that time I spent in my room when I was a teenager? Well, it’s about that.” But the group go beyond personal gratification. Palmela Handerson has written around 20 songs, which they plan to record later this year. “We want to record a cassette – there’ll only be about two people who can play it then,” laughs Graham.

And like their dishevelled appearance, Palmela Handerson’s workforce is also chaotic in conversation too. Disparate topics merge into one another seamlessly. One minute Graham’s discussing Penguin bars, the next he’s discussing the pitfalls of modern furniture design (he’s a fine art graduate).

“The modern stuff just looks so bland – I’ve been in so many apartments that are kitted-out with the same furniture as the next apartment. Older furniture design is so much more interesting. There you go: ‘Palmela Handerson on furniture design.”

And while the band insists on keeping its sound under wraps until they’re on stage, Gotts makes one admission, albeit in giggles: “We’re a self-gratifying band.”

Palmela Handerson play at the Washington, Fitzwilliam Street, tonight (Thursday).