Top image: Photography by Louise Latimer.
After experiencing the natural ending of Palma Violets, the three originals – Sam Fryer, Pete Mayhew and Will Doyle – have formed Gently Tender, joined by The Big Moon’s Celia Archer on keys and guitarist Adam Brown. Taking their name from a song by classic psychedelic folk group The Incredible String Band, the London-based group have effortlessly evolved their sound through a blending of old soul and funk with tinges of 60s and 70s psychedelic pop. Take their debut offering, 2 Chords Good (Big Score), for example, a lyrical stream of consciousness that hints at broader stylistic vistas set to be explored on the group’s debut record (currently being set to wax in the studio).
Here, we speak with Sam Fryer about his creative evolution and the importance of meditation.
J.L.Sirisuk: I know that Gently Tender is based on the name of a song by a Scottish band…
Sam Fryer: The Incredible String Band.
JLS: Did you listen to a lot of psychedelic folk music growing up?
SF: Peter [Mayhew], myself and Will [Doyle], we’ve been friends for a long time and grew up listening to folk music in general. Folk music has been a big part of our friendship and I’m glad we’re able to show people [that] in this new band. I think in our old band, people could never really hear that much – but in this new band we’re showcasing lots of folk. Definitely.
JLS: How did you know it was time for Palma Violets to stop moving forward? Do you remember the moment when you decided to let it dissolve?
SF: I remember the day. I remember the moment. I remember the second. I was doing what I’m doing now, I was just sitting in a park and I was just like, “Yeah, we could carry on,” but I think it would have been a bit fake, to be honest. I don’t think the Palma Violets were ever going to be fake. I don’t think that was in our blood to ever try to milk something for any longer than it should have been. Me and Chilli [Jesson] weren’t on the same page anymore. We knew that for a long time, though we kind of carried on going and did a few tours. We didn’t connect as we once did when we were 18-years old. We were then twenty four, we’d moved on, we’d seen the world, we’d done a lot together. We just wanted very different things, and it was time to move on. We were writing great songs separately, not together. Sometimes when we were writing together, we would get on each other’s nerves a bit too much. As soon as you write separately and are writing better songs individually, that’s the moment you realise it’s time to move on. We’d evolved from each other.
JLS: What was going on in your life from the last Palma Violets record up to when you decided to form Gently Tender?
SF: We released the album and toured a bit. We did a couple of big tours – we supported bands like Florence and the Machine, and things like that, which was fun, but we missed our own band and we didn’t see our own fans enough. After the Florence and the Machine tour, we were trying to work on various things. We had part of a Palma Violets third album that we really liked. I had some songs that I had written with Peter and things like that in our studio and Chilli had written with somebody else, he’d essentially left. We really didn’t see him that much at all, even though we were like, “Are we together, or are we not?” We had a couple of songs that we loved and were like, “Let’s just keep going and see how it goes”, and that’s what we did. We didn’t stop, and for two years we’ve been writing constantly in different locations. We’re discovering who we are and who we want to be. Even though we were really sad about Palmas, we were really excited about the music we were writing post-Palma Violets, so Gently Tender has been created through the angst of Palma Violets and the emotion of that, but then moving on.
JLS: And how has the writing felt for you? How has it felt working on new material?
SF: It felt very free, very natural. If I were to compare it to the beginning of the Palmas, the beginning was an absolute whirlwind, it was absolutely crazy – those first songs on the first Palma Violets record were the first songs we ever wrote, the first songs I ever wrote as a human. I’d never written songs before that moment. Not getting too personal, but I really have found myself in this music – I think Peter and Will as well. I speak to them a lot and they say, “Yeah, we are making the music that we are here to make and we’re gonna carry on doing that.”
JLS: What are some surprising things you’ve found about yourself in this new creative phase?
SF: I think my patience has been a surprising thing. Actually, quite a lot of people in other bands and projects I’ve experienced, they’ve needed to get things out quickly, whereas we’ve just taken our time and not really worried about trying to get out there playing shows. Even though we’ve been loving what we’ve been doing, we haven’t felt the necessity to throw the world a tour. We’ve waited two and a half years for that, so we’ve been sitting there going, “Okay, we know the moment and the moment is now.” But we’ve been sitting on songs we love for two years. I’m glad we’ve waited this long because we’re in a much stronger position than if we had put out our band last year
JLS: Can you tell me the story behind the track 2 Chords Good.
SF: I start the song talking about something and someone, and I’m literally recalling the event that happened between me and one of my best friends Juliette. She’s a songwriter herself and she asked me whether I’m gonna put some more chords on my new album, and I responded with, “Probably yeah”, and the rest of the song is me teaching myself about that moment and kind of going, “Why did I do that now, I should have said this, I should have said that.” But then as I’m actually formulating the answer from what I should have said in hindsight, I’m actually realising what is really beautiful and incredible about simplicity. I sort of lure myself into more of a spiritual awakening without myself realising it, just through my train of thought. It’s probably the most honest song I’ve ever written.
“It’s probably the most honest song I’ve ever written.”
JLS: How has the recording process been?
SF: We’ve recorded a lot. We’ve recorded enough for an album but we are still working, we’re still writing. We must have recorded about fifteen songs, which is enough for a record, but we wanted to carry on writing and see how many more great songs we can write, and then we’ll have more to pick from. We’re in a good situation. We’ll be releasing a lot more songs this summer, a lot more singles.
JLS: And then going out to play live – how’s that dynamic?
SF: We did one about three days ago at The Lock Tavern in Camden. It was our first ever announced show, and before that we did a few secret shows under some different names to get back into it. We’ve done about four shows now and they’ve all been interesting. Some of them have been quite wild and all over the place, the show three days ago was great. It was really good. It was packed full of people, some were Palma Violets fans while some people were new people who’d just discovered us, and that’s what makes it interesting. We don’t want to scare off the Palma fans and we want to bring in the new people.
JLS: I know your debut track is about those simple moments – have there been any you’ve experienced lately that you’d like to share?
SF: I’m quite interested in meditation and things like that. The more I meditate the more free I become in myself and as a person. In order to move forward and progress in meditation, I feel as though every moment is a moment. I think everyone should do it, I think it should be the law that everyone has to meditate because people don’t realise how much pressure they put on themselves in their daily lives, on a daily basis. Through doing that practice even ten minutes a day, it just really helps you. When I wrote 2 Chords Good I was in a very difficult state of mind. I was in a really negative place. I was putting so much pressure on myself mentally and my meditation has completely transformed that for me. When I meditate, all those moments – especially in London today, I’ve been walking around – everything is sacred.
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