A Conversation with Palmtrees



Palmtrees makes rich electronic beats that he pairs with affecting lyrics and live instrumentation under the project name Violence. Talking to him about it, his answers are punctuated with thoughtful pauses and it’s hard to ignore his aura of quiet intelligence. There’s a gentleness to him that might seem at odds with the name Violence or the devilish octaves his voice dips into during performance, but at the same time it makes perfect sense. The project’s intricate structures and dark theatricality are very influenced by the death metal Palmtrees grew up on, and what metalhead have you ever known that wasn’t a sensitive soul? Though he’s bounced around between LA and New York over the past years, I caught up with him on the phone while he was lying low back home in Baltimore, where he grew up. 

What do you think is the common thread between all the artists’ music on this first Dogfood release?

That’s sort of how the name of the project came about, with me thinking about that. The name C-ORE sort of stands for Cuprous Ore. Cuprous means copper, and ore is something that has to be mined and refined. I was thinking about how everything that we work on, all this music, we’re all like digging really deep into our psyches, interacting with ideas and thoughts that aren’t mainstream and that people aren’t really expecting. We are really passionately looking at ourselves and interacting with these things and trying to bring that into our art. But also we’re all onto some electronic shit.

Your music feels really dark.

There’s a lot of happy shit on the radio, usually it just sounds like some bullshit. Enough of that gets attention. I don’t really like writing things unless it has a kind of a veracity to me. A lot of the music I write is about history and I feel like I’m trying to interact with things I don’t really understand about the way people interact. That’s where all the dark shit comes from.

But there’s also maybe some references to when some of those dark vibes had more mainstream iterations. What are your influences?

My biggest influence probably is death metal. I think the structure of some of my favorite death metal is really interesting. As an art form it embodies a lot of what I believe in. It’s really complex, it’s really intricate, but at the same time it’s really humble. You’re crafting these things in your head that can’t actually be done. You have to practice it yourself before you can even play it. You write these heartfelt lyrics and then you growl them and make them almost incomprehensible. And this isn’t so much the case now because death metal is big business, but it was this format that wasn’t seen as legitimate, that was frowned upon. I feel like how humble it is is really beautiful. And also the community is supposed to be not very conservative. It’s supposed to be where you can do anything you want. Of course it’s not that way, but all those things I like to embody in my music.

I used to do these photo realistic paintings and I worked in a really academic way. And even though that’s another thing you can make huge dollars doing, I always felt like it was frowned upon by my peer group. That’s actually what attracted me to it. Eventually I got sick of painting though. I still like making music. But the project Violence started with me thinking about economics. I started thinking about the structure of all the little things that I interact with on a daily basis and how much violence goes into their production and meditating on all the brutality around me every day.



 How is it in Baltimore right now? Having grown up there and now after the Freddie Gray shooting and all the protests?

I actually came back a week after all of that. I’m from here and I’ve had a lot of strange interactions with Baltimore. It’s nice seeing the difference between how children interact now and how they did when I was growing up here. It’s somewhat more free, more liberated, but violence persists. It’s a very conservative community and it’s very segregated. It’s way more chill than when I was growing up, but still, violence persists.

Has it changed in recent years with a lot of venues shutting down too?

I don’t know. When I grew up here I just went to death metal shows. I didn’t like a lot of the music that was coming out here.

 You didn’t like Baltimore club?

Baltimore club I was down with. I used to listen to Baltimore club when I was in like elementary and middle school when it was on the radio but I wasn’t that interested in music. Listening to a lot of music would make me nauseous when I was a kid.

The role of the record label has changed a lot. What do you think its role is and the role of Dogfood is in particular?

I always thought of record labels as like banks but this is, like, way different. We all are so invested in each other’s work and we’re all homies. I’m always around other musicians and artists because I’m playing shows and shit, and I’m always like let’s talk to each other about our work, let’s learn together, and I feel like this is that pretty much. We are just making shit and getting feedback from each other and playing shows. And there’s an angle to all of it, but everything feels more chill. Right now it’s mostly about art.