Though it may not seem like it as much now as it may have in the past, Mississippi is STILL the birthplace of America’s music as we know it. Nearly every style of music is done well by someone in Mississippi. Furthermore plenty of widespread trends throughout the history of music can be traced right back to the Magnolia state.
Acting as one of the clear testaments to what Mississippi’s sound both has been and has the potential to be in the future is Pink Palaces. Self-described as an alternative R&B group, I think a better description for the group is one that cannot be linked to a particular genre or style. They just are who they are. Rather than being bound by a particular approach to music it almost seems as if they want to challenge themselves by taking from as many influences as possible and creating something uniquely theirs. For group members Ben and Nigel this formula has worked well as they have continued to make much progress throughout the indie scene, setting the stage for their debut album “Palaces in the Sky”.
Impressed by the sound and cohesiveness of the album, I sought out to speak to the duo about it and more. To follow our complete Q&A session please read below:
To start things off, for anyone new to Pink Palaces tell us a bit about yourselves.
We are an alt-R&B duo from central Mississippi. Consisting of two long-time friends, Ben and Nigel, we make indie music rooted in an R&B sound. Our varied tastes and wide range of influences combine to form a unique genre bending sound.
How did you all come together as a band officially?
We started writing songs together at the end of high school, but we never saw them through. They were more along the indie rock lines. After college, we decided to finish and write some more of those songs. During the writing and recording session, Nigel said we should write an R&B song for fun. We quickly had two or three that we really liked and decided to pursue that sound. So, the side project became the primary project.
Of course one of the main qualities you all possess is your extremely unique sound. That being said, who would you consider to be some of the artists who have inspired what you all do?
Frank Ocean and Kid Cudi are two of our biggest inspirations. At the time Pink Palaces was born, we were listening to SZA’s CTRL in heavy rotation. Indie rock acts like Local Natives and Grizzly Bear. And some more underground folks like Orion Sun.
So one of the first things that stand out about your newly released album is the artwork and title. Obviously it is a play off of the band’s name but beyond that what is the message you all wanted to convey with that?
The palace in the artwork sort of represents an escapism that can be attached to our music and a lot of music in general. It’s an idealist location, far away in the clouds with a beautiful atmosphere. Often, I (Ben) have a deep appreciation for any art that can make me feel like I’m in another world in my head. Any music that the production establishes its own environment resonates with me, and that’s what we strived for in the sound of the album.
Not only was the artwork self-created but also every piece of production, song-writing, etc. Was that a goal you all had to be self efficient or was it something that more or less came from necessity? I know some artists can learn the skill sets that they may not be able to acquire so I’m wondering what led you all to do it this way?
It’s probably a little of both. I (Ben) have learned to produce, mix, and master over time with other projects out of necessity. We didn’t have the money to do things any differently this time around, but it also became a point of pride in our sound and being able to control exactly what direction our music is headed.
I do think that created for a better cohesiveness on the album. Everything flows well and each track seems to have a true purpose on the album. When did you all start to create “Palace In The Sky” and was your original vision for it matched with final product?
Some songs were started a year or more before the album came out. Some were written three months before. Nigel writes quickly enough that we knew we could put together a surplus of songs and have room to make cuts. So, some songs naturally had a sound that fit with others, and we could pick the best combination from the overall list. Then, the production and mixing was finished largely around the same time period, so the sounds had a natural connection. The vision for the album was formed through the process of making the cuts.
Knowing each other for 12 years how do you feel that can both help and hurt what you do as a group musically? How do you all manage to maintain a good chemistry? I know a lot of groups cannot seem to stay together these days and even historically if you look back through time.
Well we’re able to have a connection that wouldn’t necessarily be as strong without the time spent. One of us can have the start of an idea, and the other will instinctively know where it’s going and roll with it easily. We also know when to back off or take some time off if we ever need it. We both go through stuff in our personal lives and have shared it over the years, so we have a better understanding of how the other thinks or what may be behind certain actions that would bother people who weren’t as close.
What do you think is the one song, if you had to pick one, that best represents what you all are capable of on this album and why?
It’s hard to choose, but probably “I Care 4 U.” That song started as a piano ballad that was on the fence of even making the album. The lyrics and melodies were solid, but the energy was in question. The creative production took it to another level and became one of our favorites and one of the highest streamed songs on the album. So, it shows our abilities in songwriting and production and has a unique sound.
Which record from “Palace in the Sky” would you say was the most fun to create and why?
We’d probably go with “Stay a Day.” It has one of the more up-beat energies of the album, and we got to involve our friends in the making of it. Our good friends, and phenomenal musicians, Vincent and Vinson McMurtery helped polish off the arrangement and perform for the recording. The song touches on a gospel sound we all grew up loving, so it was fun to bring it to life this way.
One thing that strikes me about your music is no matter how melodic it may be, the lyrical content is typically based in a strong message. Do you feel that an artist has a responsibility to leave certain messages with the listener for which they can learn from?
I (Nigel) feel as though it is an artist’s responsibility to speak in their truth through their experience. So if you feel it’s your duty to convey a specific message to an audience, then do it to the best of your ability. The great thing about good art is that it can also establish that connection without a specific intent. So, in sharing our lives as they are, based in universal truths and shared experiences, an audience is able to connect and resonate with the message.
With the album now out and making it’s rounds what plans do you all have that people need to be on the lookout for?
We are in the process of starting to book some shows, we’ve got some merch on the way, and new music is not too far on the horizon.
What do you think is the highest honor you all have been able to achieve through your music?
We’ve been fortunate to be covered a couple times by some notable blogs, we’ve been specifically asked to perform at some cool events, and we’ve been able to collaborate with other artists and producers that we’ve never even met in real life. But, as cliche as it might be, hearing people respond to the music on our album, saying it connected with them or made them feel a certain way really is a great honor.
If there is one particular moment you all would feel as though you’ve officially “made it” with your music, what would you say that would be? Some people may say winning a Grammy, maybe buying their mother a house or even just signing the record deal. When will we know Pink Palaces has reached true success?
Making it really big would be great, but honestly we both feel like once we get to a point where we can sustain an average comfortable life doing music full time is the point where we’ve made it.
What do you think is the most least known fact about Pink Palaces?
We have about six to eight unfinished songs with producer/rapper Chuck Strangers of Pro Era, who reached out to us wanting to make a collaborative EP at some point. They haven’t been used publicly yet, but definitely hold some bars.
Do you have any last words you would like to leave with the readers?
We deeply appreciate everyone who listens to our music and shares it with their friends. Follow us on Instagram (@pinkpalacesmusic) to keep up with every move we’ll be making.