Palm, Julia Julian to Hit ’Sco Stage with Experimental Rock

The Philadelphia-based rock band Palm will be returning to Oberlin this weekend to perform at the ’Sco, with student band Julia Julian opening. The show, hosted by the Student Union Programming Committee, promises fresh and innovative music coming to the stage at 10 p.m. tomorrow night.

Bridget Conway, College sophomore and booker for the ’Sco, is excited about the eclectic nature of Palm. Regardless of whether students previously knew of the band, she thinks they will have an enjoyable night.

“They reached out to us, actually, wanting to play a show in Oberlin,” she explained. “They have a really unique sound that I think a lot of Oberlin students would be into, especially [Conservatory] kids, or just [given] the amount of students here who are into indie music.”

Conway doesn’t want people to be put off by the somewhat niche sound of experimental rock. “It’s been described to me as math rock for people who don’t like math rock,” she said. “I have a friend of mine who says it sounds like you’re listening to your dishwasher. But [they use] their instruments in really innovative ways, in ways that are unexpected but really catchy. You’ll get their songs stuck in your head pretty frequently.”

The uniqueness of the band seems a widely agreed upon point. “Palm plays rock music backwards,” reads their press page. “The band is firmly attached to the physicality of rock, but not as much its tone; their instruments tend to sound like any number of things at any given time.”

In a February review of Rock Island, an album Palm dropped in 2018, NPR reporter Marissa Lorusso said that after one listen to their work “it becomes clear that any passing resemblance to normality is purely accidental.”

The eclectic group is made up of guitarists/vocalists Eve Alpert and Kasra Kurt, with Gerasimos Livitsanos on bass and Hugo Stanley on drums. They visited Oberlin previously on the heels of their other full-length album, Trading Basics, released in 2015. The group also has several EPs in their discography, including the 2015 releases “Tokyo” and “Ostrich Vacation,” and the 2017 “Shadow Expert.”

Julia Julian saw the band perform on their Trading Basics tour and is thrilled by the opportunity to play a show with them. “I think we take a lot of influence from Palm,” the band said in an email to the Review. “[Julia Julian members] Max and Reuben both have the same Palm shirt, but it might be a little weird if [they] wore them onstage.”

Julia Julian, self-labelled as existing somewhere at the intersection of “bedroom pop” and “new wave,” is comprised of College seniors Max Ripps, Cena Loffredo, Joanna Quinn, and College junior Reuben Gifford. They came together through a combination of high school connections and first-year meetings, and lived in a quad during their sophomore year, which they described as the height of their work together. While they’ve taken some time off since then, all of them are heavily involved in the Oberlin music scene through other bands and work with WOBC. They’re excited to be able to spend their last year making music on campus as a group.

“We have a funny habit of nitpicking and revising older songs during practice,” they said of their process. “We’re [going to] write and record a bunch of new stuff now that we’re all back together for senior year.”

While he’s not very familiar with Palm, ’Sco staffer and College sophomore Will Hagan has enjoyed a couple performances by Julia Julian in the past.

“Their sound is really unique,” Hagan said in an email to the Review. “They put on a great live show that doesn’t really sound like anything else on campus.”

Conway agrees. “They’re all really really super talented,” she said. “I know they want people to come out … before they graduate and we lose the opportunity to see them as an Oberlin band.”

The ’Sco is also a fun venue for groups that bring more experimental vibes — there’s room to dance, and the openness of the space creates an interactive and energetic atmosphere.

“I’ve always liked how there really isn’t much of a backstage or anything,” Hagan said. “There doesn’t seem to be much of a barrier of artificiality or showmanship between the audience and performers.”

Unlike some ’Sco events, Saturday’s show will be totally free.

“I would recommend coming, even if you don’t know who [either of the bands] are,” Conway said.

With the exciting and experimental nature of both of the bands, it should be a memorable evening.