Palmyra Delran discusses her latest album, hosting her own radio show, her transition into a solo artist and what’s next for her
Palmyra Delran and the Doppel Gang’s “Come Spy With Me” is up for Little Steven’s Underground Garage Coolest Song In The World 2018 along with “Tape A Nickel To The Tone Arm”
Vote for “Come Spy With Me” at the link below!
By Emily May
New York Garage/Trash-Pop artist Palmyra Delran is often referred to as a punk pioneer! Born in Princeton, New Jersey, she later moved to Philadelphia where she helped to form the band Pink Slip Daddy. She also formed the punk rock girl group The Friggs in 1991, sharing the stage with bands such as The Ramones, Cheap Trick, The Selecter and The Fleshtones and having songs featured in several movies including Superbad and Jawbreaker. The band took an indefinite hiatus in 2001, leading Delran to focus on a solo career that has earned her plenty of critical praise. She released her debut solo EP, She Digs The Ride, in 2008, an EP that caught the ears of Steve Van Zandt (aka Little Steven) who became a fan immediately. He chose the song “Baby Should Have Known Better” as his “Coolest Song In The World” for his Underground Garage show on Sirius XM Satellite Radio, which helped to catapult her album and career to new heights. Delran released her latest album, Come Spy With Me, with her band The Dopple Gang on November 9th via Steve Van Zandt’s Wicked Cool Records in partnership with The Orchard. The album includes collaborations with various artists including Kim Shattuck (The Muffs), Cait O’ Riordan (The Pogues), Debbie Harry (Blondie) and Peter Zaremba (Fleshtones). When she is not writing, recording or touring, Delran hosts her own show, Palmyra’s Trash-Pop Shindig, on Little Steven’s Underground Garage channel on Sirius XM where she plays an eclectic line-up of music for her avid listeners.
Staff writer Emily May spoke recently with Delran via email, discussing the new album, her transition into a solo artist, hosting her own radio show and what’s next for her. You can stay up-to-date with her and all upcoming tour dates and music and can stream and purchase her music via the following links. You can check out “Happy Birthday Middle Child” featuring Debbie Harry and “[If You’d Like To Make A Call] Please Hang Up” featuring Paul Collins below!
The initial inspiration was kind of a nod to ’60s spy & secret agent TV shows like Get Smart and I Spy, but then I made the connection that the world operates through a virtual spyglass these days. There are cameras and digital recorders everywhere you look (or don’t look). The recording process was a real blast! My band The Doppel Gang are fantastic, and all my pals who made appearances were super fun and added some very unique sonic treasures!
I read that you assumed tracking and production duties for the new album in order to stay true to your longtime artistic vision. Have you assumed these roles with previous albums? How would you describe your artistic vision?
Yes, I did produce the record, but was lucky enough to work with recording engineer Geoff Sanoff, who tracked everything, helped choose the right amps, keyboards, and mixed. I’d worked with him on my last album too, and wanted to work with him again. I’m totally into the production of my records, but I need a great engineer. Production is a big part of artistic vision to me – almost as important as songwriting. I wanted the record to sound a certain way, and it turned out pretty much how I wanted it to.
You have had bands in other parts of the country and world in the past, including Bubble Gun in LA and Stupidity in Sweden, that backed you when you were touring. Do you still have backing bands that you tour with? Do you still play with Bubble Gun?
I just got done with a little tour on the west coast and worked with members of Bubble Gun and the Pandoras. My east coast fellas – the Doppel Gang are involved with other bands, so not available for extensive touring beyond our area. I’ll probably go back to Sweden at some point, and am talking about a Southern area band with the same members of Bubble Gun and the Pandoras. I’d love to get a band together in Spain too one of these days!
You released your debut EP She Digs The Ride in 2008. How do you feel that you have grown as a solo artist over the past decade and how do you feel your sound has evolved? You received acclaim pretty quickly into your solo career, when Steve Van Zandt voted your song “Baby Should Have Known Better” as the “Coolest Song In The World” on his Sirius XM channel Underground Garage. Do you feel like you kind-of hit the ground running from the start?
She Digs The Ride was pretty much a demo. It was tracked in a studio then mixed in my apartment. I can definitely feel the progression between that EP and the next record, and then again with the new one. That’s the idea, right? Ya gotta keep getting better – can’t be lazy! As far as receiving acclaim quickly- yes! If it weren’t for Little Steven digging the record, I’m not sure I would have continued making records. It can be overwhelming to start at the beginning. He liked my old band – The Friggs – and was interested to hear my solo record.
You have been described as a punk pioneer! Your career has included a stint with Pink Slip Daddy and the co-founding of the ’90s girl group The Friggs, who shared the stage with bands such as Cheap Trick and The Ramones. What is your view of the punk scene then versus now? How do you feel that punk rock has evolved over the years?
I guess it depends on how you define “punk”. Is it a movement, a genre or style of music? Did it start in the ’60s? The ’70s? In the States or the UK? You can make a case for all of those things. I’ve always tried to stay musically true to whatever band I was in. Pink Slip Daddy still do occasional gigs and I get to play drums with them. Sometimes we’ll be doing some crazy-ass song and everything is just absolute mayhem between us and the crowd, and I think to myself – this is the most punk rock thing ever… and then we’ll play a Fabian song – which is pretty punk rock itself, if you think about it. Who would have the balls to cover a Fabian song??? I guess to me the point of “punk rock” is to remain 100% true to your vision, no matter what anyone thinks. “Dare to Suck” was the Friggs motto (and we did, sometimes!) To deliberately fashion a band to sound “punk” is odd, but people do it.
What was the transformation like for you to go from playing in The Friggs to becoming a solo artist? You have mentioned with regards to going solo that it was weird to not have a comfortable group of people to bounce ideas off of, but that going it alone gave you a new perspective on music. Band mates usually have your back but you wanted to try new stuff and dare to fall flat on your face! How has the journey been and what do you feel you have learned about yourself? How did your perspective on music change?
I went kicking and screaming from being in the Friggs to going solo! I loved being in a gang, and I was always writing songs, but wasn’t confident with my singing voice. But when I stopped and thought about it, to me it’s not about having perfect vibrato or being technically perfect, as long as I got my point across with the lyrics and the attitude. Once I clicked with that, I got out of my own way and worked hard with what I have. I write songs within my vocal range, but always try pushing it a little more.
You have mentioned that people listen to music differently these days…just playing the first 30 seconds of a few songs. With your first EP, you wanted to make a record that people played all the way through. Has that been your goal for every album? You have also said that you try to make albums that will sound good through headphones, as that’s how music should be heard. What inspired that philosophy?
Yeah, that’s pretty much what I want my records to be. I’d love it if people want to listen to the whole thing, and I want it to sound great on any system – headphones, car stereo, computer speakers, or earbuds. I check all those things when we mix. That philosophy was cemented when I was a kid – pretty young, like 7 or 8. My mind was absolutely blown when I listened to things in the headphones, and equally blown listening to a transistor radio shoved under my pillow with the volume turned down very low so I wouldn’t get snagged. I guess I’m hoping to recreate that feeling.
You have said that the scene in NY was really great during the era that you were playing with The Friggs. What is the scene in Ny like currently? How do you feel it’s changed? Who are some bands coming out of NY right now that you think people should know about?
There was something really special going on in the garage scene during that period. Bands supported each other, helped each other out sharing gigs and bringing each other to their cities. It was kind of the NYC, Philly, Boston thing. I feel like it’s been like that again lately. There are a bunch of cool New York bands around these days – the Elevator Operators, The Electric Mess, the Carvels, Wyldlife, and in Philly I’m digging RunHideFight, the GTVs, and of course – Soraia. And there’s an amazing New England scene these days too!
You released a punk rock kids CD called KinderAngst in 2012 with NYC songwriter Rachelle Garniez (and a guest appearance by Debbie Harry). What inspired you to make a kids album and do you have plans to make another in the future?
Rachelle and I were introduced to each other to make a children’s record because we were “both scary”. We didn’t know each other before that, and our music is very different from each others, but we have amazing chemistry together as songwriters. Now we work together a lot – she’s been on my last two records, so ya never know! We could definitely make a KinderAngst 2. The inspiration behind KinderAngst was that we wanted bratty songs with a moral to every story. We touched on a bunch of different genres – punk, pop, ska, garage, country, Ramones, Cramps, folk rock, etc… If families were stuck in the minivan together, the album would have something for everyone.
What can you tell me about your current band The Doppel Gang? How did you come to play with these guys?
They’re fantastic! I have such a blast playing with them. I saw drummer Mark Brotter playing with another band, and thought he’d be perfect for what I wanted to do next. I asked him if he wanted to play a few gigs together, and to bring a great guitar player with him. He brought Richard DevGreene along and they were both perfect! I’d known bass player Michael Lynch from playing some gigs together with one of his bands, and thought he’d be great too. I’m glad they all dig it as much as I do, so here we are! I’m a lucky gal!
Aside from writing, recording and touring, you are also the host of Palmyra’s Trash Pop Shindig on Little Steven’s Underground Garage Channel on Sirius XM. You have mentioned being a fan of the channel, and of Van Zandt, before becoming a DJ/radio host. How did you come to host your own show on his channel? What do you love the most about it?
Yes! I’ve been a huge fan of Steven and the station for years! They were looking to hire a few extra weekend DJs, and they asked me to make a demo. I thought it would be fun even though I’d never done anything like that before. I know that I can yak about music, and I’m glad they had confidence in me and gave me the gig. We have the best music library, too! That’s definitely one of the coolest things about the job – finding new music. We add new bands all the time, and each DJ brings something different to their shows. I have my Trash Pop Treasures, and my weird holiday celebrations followed by songs that go along with the holidays. It’s a super fun job!
What’s next for you?
More of the same! Writing, recording, gigging, and doing the radio show. I’m never bored doing my thing!