By Natalie Zina WalschotsDespite the fact that Isis formally called in quits in 2010, the greatly influential post-metal band have continued to make a mark on the landscape of underground music, first via the release of their five-volume live collection, a collection of remixes, demos and music videos entitled Temporal last year, and the reissue of their landmark first full-length Celestial July.
While the band are still formally defunct, Isis are a restless ghost, and three former members of the band decided that rather than just be haunted by their post-metal poltergeist, they would continue to make music together. Bassist Jeff Caxide, drummer Aaron Harris and guitarist Bryan Clifford Meyer, all based in Los Angeles, began to play together under the name Palms soon after Isis disbanded, and now, with the addition of Deftones vocalist Chino Moreno, have released their first, self-titled full-length.
Palms is very different from any of the former or current projects the band members have worked on, employing the vast, tectonic song structures that might gesture towards Isis, but composed of much less menace and much more warmth. The instrumentation is rich and tropical, composed of humid tones and generous, embracing melodies. Chino Moreno's performance has all the vibrancy and vitality that he has come to be known for, but his execution has a delicacy and fineness that has never been showcased to this degree before. From the elemental movements of "Patagonia" to the oceanic gravity of "Antarctic Handshake," Palms is no mere continuation of work left undone in Isis, but an entirely new, powerful collision of talent and musical influences. Chino Moreno was generous enough to grant an interview even though it was his birthday.
Your publicist just told me that she is making you do phoners on your birthday. Yeah. It's okay, I feel like it's keeping me young.
Well extra thanks for your time then! [Laughs] You are very welcome.
I would like to talk first about how unquiet the death of Isis has been. After they formally disbanded, they have released live records, a collection of demos and remixes, there is a reissue in the works, and now three-fifths of the band have come together to form Palms. I feel like I surround myself with people who are music fans, and it is just a natural thing that I gravitate towards people who appreciate music in the way that I appreciate music. I'm constantly listening to music, critiquing music, making music, dissecting music — it is my biggest hobby. So me and Aaron [Harris], the drummer from Isis, he's a good friend of mine, we became good friends back when he was still Isis, and we share a lot of love for a lot of the same stuff: hiking, running, music, cycling, whatever. So, I felt like, and I can't really speak for him, but he wanted to keep being creative and do stuff with music. So the idea for them [Harris, Bryant Clifford Meyer and Jeff Caxide] to continue on making music was obvious, but at that point I don't think they had a complete idea of what it was going to be, or even that I was going to be involved.
Obviously we talked about things all the time, and one day I mentioned that I would love to do vocals on a song or whatever they were working on at the time. It just so happened that he sent me a song one day, and within 20 minutes I sent him back an idea, and at that point he was like, "This is rad, would you be down to do a couple more songs?" And I said, "Cool." At that point, they continued making music, and I think it was as much as a year or so after that that I actually got sent the demos of what would become the Palms record. So it was something that happened over a gradual time. It wasn't something that we felt that we had to do, or that we were like we have time constraints on, it was like: these are my buddies who I would be hanging out with regardless of whether we were making music together or not, and it just so happened that we decided to, and we did it.
So this was a very organic and natural process, where you all felt that what you had to offer fit together. Yes.
I think that pressure-less composition process bleeds into the tone of the record, which for all its power is very peaceful, more so that either your or Isis's work was or has been individually. I agree. And honestly, I didn't know what to expect. Naturally, I expected it just to be like Isis-type music and I would just put my style of vocals over it, and that's the way it would be, but that's not what happened. When they sent me the music, right away I realized that wow, this is a lot more — there is some Isis music that it is similar too, I guess you could say that the cinematic, very sound-scapey type of stuff is there, and the songs are very lengthy and things like that. It actually took me a while to dive into it and get used to it. It took me a lot of listens to just the music until I became familiar enough with it to know where the next part was going, and how the music blossomed. But once I did, it was a pretty natural thing. I reacted vocally to what was presented to me, and there wasn't much though put into it other than that. Obviously there was the idea that it should sound like this or like that, but it sounds exactly like what happened when I reacted to the music that they presented.