Q&A with Palehound

On March 16th, WRBB’s Clio Fleece and Laura Shrago got a chance to chat with Larz (bass) and Ellen (leader, vocals, guitar) of local band Palehound before their sold-out show at The Sinclair. This was Palehound’s first time headlining at their hometown venue.


Laura Shrago: So you finished a tour recently, how did it go?

Ellen Kempner: It was great, it was really… long.

LS: How long were you guys on tour?

EK: Well, three and a half weeks. We’ve done longer time-wise than that, but we circled around the whole country, in… three and a half weeks. It was a lot of driving, we didn’t have a single day off, so it was like, a tiring tour. I’m glad this isn’t right after the tour, or else we’d be dead.

Larz Brogan: Yeah, and like, miserable, and asleep in the green room. [laughs]

Clio Fleece: Do you have any crazy moments or stories from this tour?

EK: From this tour? We all got matching tattoos in the back of our van, that’s our only — well, we saw cacti too, but that’s not what I think you mean by “crazy.” It’s cool, but it’s not like, crazy. Yeah, we saw cacti, but then we got stick and poke tattoos in the back of our van in Toronto, which is pretty awesome, and they’re all the same and in the same place.

LB: It was really fun.

CF: Oh, that’s cute! So the last album [A Place I’ll Always Go] seemed a lot more raw and emotional than the other ones, and it seems to have received the most recognition. What’s it like to play these kinds of songs that are about really serious stuff in your life and see audiences singing along and rocking out to them even though they’re about some pretty heavy stuff?

EK: It’s really weird, it’s something that I had to definitely get a little adjusted to, and it really depends on the show. Like, a show like tonight, I’m gonna be probably really emotional, just because it’s a really special night for us. It depends on the night because some nights we’ve been in the car for like, eight hours and I’m just really tired. And it’s hard to summon that emotional energy every single night, or else I’m gonna burn the fuck out, you know? So it depends on the night, but most of the time it’s really just cathartic and surreal.

LS: You said tonight is a special night, what does that mean?

EK: This is the biggest crowd that’s come to one of our shows. It’s sold-out and we’ve never — I don’t know, do you [Larz] wanna talk about why it’s special?

LB: I mean, yeah, similar to what you were saying; it’s really cool to be in the place where we grew up in this DIY community or whatever, and now it’s this sold-out show at this place that we’ve all gone to shows to for years, you know? And it’s definitely the best music venue in Boston, at least I know, and it’s just really great. We all have family and tons of friends coming, and the bill itself is just so special, because it’s a really good mixed bill, which I feel like you don’t see a lot, so that’s really cool.

LS: This is me being a nerdy graphic designer: when I saw your music video for “Room” I was so mesmerized. Obviously that’s a very different process, making a music video with animation and an artist, so what was it like to work with an artist and balance between the band’s vision and the artist’s style?

EK: I’ve never met her [Rozalina Burkova] in person, she lives in the UK actually, so there was no way for us to ever meet in person. I just gave her the song and gave her the lyrics, but the only thing I told her was, ‘I would like this to depict female, or femme, people interacting as friends, as lovers, just anything you interpret from the song, that way,’ and she just made that. [laughs] It was like, perfect. That’s all I gave her and she just took it away. And I didn’t even really have anything to do with anything else. [laughs]

CF: That’s so awesome. For the other music videos, they’re not as much like that — do you hire someone to direct or is it mostly your vision, what you want to do?

EK: I usually hire someone, because I don’t know what I’m talking about nearly as much as someone who actually does that. I don’t really want to be self-righteous in that way. Plus, someone else will just definitely do a better job than I will. Larz has actually done — no I’m kidding… [laughs]

LB: Yeah, I uh, I’m the music video director for… everyone. In the world.

CF: I’ll hit you up if I ever need one.

LB: Yeah, hit me up, truly. I only charge a million dollars a minute. [laughs]

CF: I saw in one of your interviews that you talked about how this album came out of you having recently found your place in a queer community after not really being in one or having a set one. Do you think, since it won’t be as fresh and new going forward, that it will still be as much of an influence in your future albums, or do you think, once you’ve settled into it, it may take more of a background?

EK: That’s a really good question, I’ve actually never been asked that before. I think it’ll always have that influence, just because my relationships will always change and I will always keep on meeting new people and, when we’re on tour we run into other queer people just in different places, you know?

LB: The queer community is definitely universal, and I feel like once you’re in it, you’re kind of in it for life. It’s just a very accepting and beautiful sort of place to be, and you can definitely just like, freak what you feel in any way, which I feel like is not the case with a lot of other scenes. Because they can be really exclusive, and the queers are just like, fuckin’ like, come in, be here.

EK: Usually our crowds when we tour, anywhere, are pretty gay, so we definitely have queer people coming to all our shows, and then we just make friends. So it’s always expanding.

LB: There’s always the one straight couple in the front row that’s making out to like, the gayest song and it’s really funny. It’s like, do you—have you listened to the lyrics? Do you know what this is?

EK: Like, stop making out.

LB: They can do their thing, but they should be in the back and the queers should be in the front.

EK: Or like, outside.

LB: Yeah, or in the bathroom. [laughs]

LS: Kind of going off of that, I saw on Twitter a few months ago, when white supremacists came to Boston, and all the people were like, “Get out,” you said, if I’m remembering correctly, “If you were there, I’ll put you on the guest list.” Can you speak to what it’s been like to come about as a band with this kind of platform, during a time when people are looking to their cultural icons?

EK: We try to use that opportunity to fundraise as much as we can. We were raising money for just a few organizations, like Black Lives Matter chapters all over the country, on that tour specifically, and every once in a while I’ll quietly donate some of the band funds somewhere. We do have a platform, and I feel like you’ve gotta stand up and say something if you have a microphone. I just feel like you just have to, with everything that’s happening — it’s a must.

CF: So it’s been a little bit since A Place I’ll Always Go came out; not that there’s any pressure for you to do something else, but, just curious if you’re working on anything at the moment or if you’re kind of taking a break?

EK: Yeah, well we don’t have any tours coming up for a while, so I’ve just been demoing songs, we’ve been working on stuff in practices, and, yeah, hoping to get something new recorded by the end of the year.

CF: Has the political climate had a focus in anything you’re writing or influencing it?

EK: Yeah definitely because the political climate isn’t this thing that you’re at all distant from, it changes everything in your life. When it’s something that’s this extreme and really alters all of your relationships in certain ways, it would be impossible not to write about it, ‘cause it’s just so mingled with everything in our lives.

CF: You said you really like The Sinclair, but do you have any specific favorite venues you’ve been to on tour, and why?

LB: The Bootleg in L.A. was really cool. Everyone who worked there was super nice and the sound was really good, which — I mean, I guess at this point, it’s usually good, but it can definitely be hit or miss. It was just cool; they had a photo booth, which I always fucking love! So that’s always a big plus. Yeah, it was just a really cool spot.

EK: I think my favorite has to be — well no, it’s not my favorite, there are so many venues that are amazing — but one that really stuck out was in Birmingham, Alabama, and it’s called The Saturn. The reason it stood out was because the green room for that venue is an entire floor, and there’s a pool table, and a kitchen, and it’s decorated so incredibly. It’s like when you watch a Disney Channel Original series, and the kid grew up in some crazy house with a fire pole in it, you know what I mean?

LB: A smart house…

EK: Yeah, a smarthouse. It was like out of a movie. And they had these sleeping pods that had mattresses, and video games, and TVs in them, so you could just lie down and — it was fuckin’ crazy, dude.

LB: That place is sick. Also El Club in Detroit is really cool, and it’s owned by a gay person, but there’s also a really beautiful patio and outdoor area, when the weather’s nice you can hang out out there. So that place is fun.

EK: But also The Sinclair truly does rank as — all things considered, no bias from being here at all, it really is just the best place.

CF: To play at?

EK: Yeah, first of all to see a show here is awesome, it’s great sound, everyone here is so nice, and they feed you from their amazing restaurant, and it’s just the best. I’m havin’ a blast already.

LB: It’s not too big, where you can still feel comfortable and not like, suffocating. It’s designed so well, and sounds awesome.

CF: Do you guys have any crazy fan stories?

LS: Any weird stuff that people have done?

EK: Someone asked me to marry them. She was crazy, I mean, she was really crazy. It was scary. She tried to get behind the merch table, she was trying to touch me the whole time, and she was like, “I really think we should get married, like we should really…” Like, she was actually asking me to marry her. I’m not gonna say where it was, just in case she sees it. But yeah, she was nuts. There are other crazy fans where it’s good crazy, like people who are really nice but also crazy, but she was bad crazy.

LB: Some dude actually, on this last tour, he was like, shitfaced, so it was definitely just him being like “uughhgg” but he came up to me and was like “OH MY GOD I LOVE YOU” and then he was like, “WILL YOU MARRY ME!” And I’m like, “Dude, you’re fuckin’ barkin’ up the wrong tree here.” [laughs] But he was also just a shitfaced idiot. I wonder if Jesse [drummer, not present at time of interview] has gotten a marriage proposal. To be continued!

EK: He will. It’ll come.

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Want to learn more about Palehound? Be sure to check them out on Facebook and Bandcamp!

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