Written by Caleb Oldham
In a recent Rare Candy interview with Bodega Bay, Ben Hozie expressed his dismay over a recent trend in rock:
There are no “band-bands” anymore, like your classic Who, or REM, or more recently Animal Collective, where every member is an integral part of the whole. Now you get publications referring to everything as a “project,” a term with a lot of corporate overtones, and centering around the idea that a band is a hierarchical business model. There's a frontman with a vision and everyone else in the group might as well be an automated MIDI instrument.
If there’s any group that could be further away from a “hierarchical business model” it’s Palberta, made up of members Lily, Ani, and Nina. They have no set roles for vocalist, drummer, or guitarist; each member regularly switches instruments during their live performances.
Despite fractured guitar strumming, a beat that often stops and starts, and vocals that swoon as much as they shriek, this group dynamic lends Palberta’s music a cohesive touch. The attention is always on the group as a whole, rather than the individual performers.
Though they're frequently described as such, calling Palberta simply an experimental punk band would be a mistake. The genre section on their Facebook reads “A fuck or an apple pie?” and tags on the group’s Bandcamp include “soundtrack,” “dreampop,” “rock n’roll baby,” “slime,” “sophisticated ladies,” “sweat,” and “New York.” Palberta seems be deliberately defying categorization, and this is exactly what makes them exciting to write about: their music can be incredibly varied and difficult to pin down.
“I feel like if someone called us a pop band, or referred to us as pop, I wouldn’t be offended. I wouldn’t disagree,” Nina says when asked — although Lily is quick to add, “People don’t ever do that. I don’t think anyone would.”
I had the chance to talk to the trio after their performance at WBAR-B-Q on Saturday, April 22.
Rare Candy: Who, what, where, when, why?
Nina: I booked a solo show and asked Lily and Ani to play. Afterwards Lily, who didn’t go to Bard at the time, said “If I come to Bard, we should start a band, or play together again.” That summer we met up to jam and the magic started.
Lily: At first we didn’t like the music we were making very much.
Ani: Yeah, I didn’t really like it.
Nina: I thought it was really weird, and didn't quite understand it. I actually thought some of our first songs were pretty bad but I've grown to like them.
RC: You didn’t understand what you were doing?
Nina: I didn’t understand what any of us were doing.
Ani: It was hard to grasp what kind of music we were making.
RC: Is there a political aspect to your music?
Nina: We don’t discuss it as a group much but I think from person-to-person it depends.
Ani: I think identity politics play a role though.
Nina: Our music becomes more political in the performance.
RC: Does it piss you off when people characterize you as an all-female band?
Nina: It really does because it’s something we face a lot, and we often try to correct people who use that term. At least for what we’re trying to accomplish as a group, we don’t identify as an all-girl band.
Lily: Advaeta just put out an article titled “All-Female Is Not a Genre” and we were thinking about putting out a similar statement, but that pretty much summed up everything we were trying to say in the perfect way.
RC: You had a lot of energy live. Do you try and capture that in the studio? How do you think your recordings stack up against your performances?
Ani: Our records are definitely tighter sounding. Sometimes live we sound very tight, but it depends. We actually do audio recordings for a lot of our performances.
Lily: Yeah, it’s performance audio. Our second album, Shitheads in a Ditch, had a lot of acting. A lot of weird skits.
RC : In rock there’s this tradition of music as an authentic representation of the self. But I feel like a lot of bands that have played today [at WBAR-B-Q] are very theatrical, playing with that tradition, and have maybe discarded this old-school, 20th century notion of authenticity.
Ani: Performance is a lot about having a character. Palberta is definitely an exaggeration of the self. It’s based on real qualities or aspects of all the members, but when I’m performing I never think “this is the authentic me, this is my heart speaking out.”
Nina: We’re putting on different characters, but coming from a genuine place.
RC: Are you anti-irony?
Ani: I’m anti-irony
Lily: I love irony but I don’t use it very much.
Ani: I feel like, more often than not, people use irony as a way of not owning up to their own work.
RC: Do you think rock is dead?
Lily: No, I mean, I’m not trying to hear a straight rock’n’roll band, but rock is still happening.
RC: Where do you think rock has left to go in 2015?
Nina: Just chop it up.
Ani: Chop and screw.
Lily: Yeah chop and screw as much as possible, there’s nothing left to come up with other than that.
Listen to more Palberta on their Bandcamp.