Palps: “I have been worried that the album is so bleak there may not be anything positive to take away from it”

It’s not often I receive promo from a band that hooks me immediately on almost every level. Palps are just such a band. The Essex group only have a handful of singles out yet (the album is on the way), but have a firm concept: they address mental health through a combination of music and video, using characters that represent both people and the mental health issues themselves (the issues are played by a kind of band symbol, called ‘The Plague Doctor’).

Of course, I’d dismiss this kind of stuff off hand if it wasn’t also backed by quality music, but it is. The first single from the slow-release concept album (which will be entitled ‘Black Heart’) is a track called ‘AVA’, which comes with an evocative video and is really quite reminscent of a slightly edgier ‘Black Parade’-era My Chemical Romance.

The next single, entitled ‘Love, Always’ (and not yet launched publicly at the time of writing), is much more spacey and angular, and for me, firmly evoked singles from the pulsating My Vitriol. It all adds up to a seriously promising offering.

I caught up with them to talk over their concepts and find out what it’s all about…

Congrats on ‘Black Heart’, It sounds like it’s going to be pretty conceptual. Can you tell me about the ideas behind the chapters and the story?

Thank you very much! The process almost killed us, but we made it in the end. The whole concept of the album is how traumatic events and mental health issues can harden you as a person and sometimes cause you to hurt the people around you, even if you do not realise this at the time. In the videos, we follow the main character Matt as he tries to navigate through life and build relationships. However he is often held back by his mental health issues and past trauma, which is personified in this case by the Plague Doctor character. 

How did you come up with Matt, the Plague Doctor and his friends?

We decided that we wanted to make a short film before we actually recorded the album, but it took us a very long time to work out how we would make this work on screen and how we would tie all the videos together as a cohesive piece. 

I’d never written a script before and was completely out of my depth to be honest. I randomly saw the Bo Burnham special on Netflix ‘Inside’ and was so inspired by the concept. For those who haven’t seen it, it takes place in a single room and becomes increasingly cluttered as the effects of isolation during lockdown take effect on Bo. After watching this, everything just began to flow and all the characters came very naturally.

I knew that I wanted to have the room play a prominent role in the story and almost represent Matt’s mental state. Whilst not fully autobiographical, I have also taken inspiration from things that have happened in my life to form the events and characters.

The Plague Doctor has been our symbol as a band pretty much from the beginning and we try to incorporate him into everything we do as much as possible. We toyed with the idea of having him as a physical representation of mental health struggles in our last music video for Aliens and have tried to expand on this in the new album.