Palace frontman Leo Wyndham tells Tim Hughes why admirers can't get enough of the band's lush, soulful sound
IT is safe to say, Palace have had a good year.
The Londoners have risen from relative obscurity to become one of the year's most eagerly-followed bands. Last autumn's hugely-acclaimed debut album So Long Forever, marked a gear change for the four-piece, who had been picking up fans since their breakthrough EP Lost in the Night, two years earlier.
The comparisons have come thick and fast, and illustrious they are too, with references made to Foals, Jeff Buckley, The Maccabees, Nick Drake and Kings of Leon.
It is dreamy, spacious, stadium-ready rock but one with a fragile soul and tender heart – Frontman Leo Wyndham not afraid to let his feelings flow.
The word which crops up time and again is 'beautiful'.
"We always find it hard to describe our music," says Leo before going on to do just that. "It's big, ethereal, epic, expansive rock with a sprinkling of blues.
"It's a bit 'out there' but there are also traditional elements. It's a melting pot of different things."
And why is it going down so well?
"Somehow people connect with the music," he says. "They hear something that strikes a chord with them. I'm not sure why.
"People say after shows that they relate to the songs and their meanings and love them. It's a strange thing and I can't put my finger on why. We just deliver what we can – and people are amazing."
Rupert Turner, Will Dorey and Matt Hodges' shimmering soundscapes and Leo's undeniably Buckley-esque vocals, have taken them to Glastonbury, Bestival and Reading Festivals, and the rest, onto Radio 1 playlists, around Europe, and into our best venues. They've come a long way since those early slots supporting Jamie T.
What sets Palace apart is the emotional maturity in their songs and delivery – a rare thing these days. So Long Forever touches on the recent separation of Leo's parents, the death of a family member; the impact of destructive relationships, jealousy, bitter regrets and painful break-ups. As if by some strange premonition he shortly after went through the same thing.
It's that soul-bearing which has earned such high-end comparisons with his musical heroes – which also include Neil Young, Alt-J and Sigur Ros
"We don't think too much about it, but it's a huge compliment that people compare us to people we love and idolise," says the 31 year-old.
"Especially Jeff Buckley. We are all obsessed with him and to be mentioned in the same sentence is insane and a big compliment.
"He was a big influence though. He is passionate and emotional and was a big starting point for us. But it's true for all the bands we are compared to. If we had half of what they had, we'd be happy."
And that goes, especially, for Oxford lads Foals. "We literally grew up listening to those guys," Leo says whimsically. "And you never get over the excitement of meeting them."
Though he still admits to nerves at meeting his heroes. "If I met Foals in Oxford I'd throw up in my mouth a bit and wet myself," he laughs.
Leo is talking from his tour van, currently heading up the M1 to Leicester, on a tour which on April 21 reaches Oxford for a show at The Bullingdon.
Leo admits it is satisfying filling out venues where they previously trod the boards as the support act.
"It's lovely to go back to these venues as headliners," he says. "It's satisfying and a good indication of how far we have come."
They follow up this month's show with a return in summer to the county's Truck Festival, at Hill Farm, Steventon – joining the likes of The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand and The Vaccines.
"We've never played that one before so it should be really good fun," he says.
"It's nice to play, what is for us, a new festival and dip in. Once we've played we usually stick around, get stuck in and have a good time."
The band, though originally from Dorset, are based at a former munitions factory in Tottenham, north London, called The Arch.
It's a warehouse community of musicians, artists and designers previously used by drug addicts.
"It was a crack den," Leo says. "But we took it over with other artist and musicians. We pay next to nothing and it's really cool. That's where we recorded our EPs and it's our HQ where we have big parties. It gets pretty wild."
What have been Palace's highlights so far? "We had an amazing time going around Europe," he says. "We got to see some amazing cities. It's a strange experience going on tour, but very exciting and good to hang out with your mates. We were like little kids!
"It has been hard to take it all in. We've just been going with the flow and riding the wave. We do have occasional moments thinking about it all, and it gives you a real feeling in the guts.
"To have created something with your friends and find yourself in amazing places is unbelievable. Even if we popped it now, we'd be happy with what we've achieved. Everything that comes along is a bonus."
They certainly seem harmonious, mellow chaps.
"We grew up together," says Leo. "We've always been friends and shared a love of music. We went to shows together and when we left school we decided to start a band for fun. We just did it in the evenings, because we were all doing different things, but it quickly turned into something serious. It all happened organically and natural."
He jokes: "And then we went on the X Factor!"
Writing, he insists, is a joint effort. "It's very much a democracy, he says. "Everyone brings their own thing to the table and without that it wouldn't work.
"It's very equal in what we contribute to songs. There's a great balance, we never fight and everyone is a brilliant musician."
But then, he has to say that doesn't he, because he is sat with them in the van. "Yes, I've got to be nice," he laughs. "When they get out I'll slag them off!"
Palace play The Bullingdon, Oxford on Friday, April 21. Tickets from wegottickets.com