Mark Palm has been an active member of the West Coast music scene for many years. He has been in hardcore bands like Devotion and Go It Alone and the dreampop band Modern Charms. His latest and strongest musical endeavor is Supercrush, a ’90s alt-rock band that infuses elements of britpop and harder shoegaze. Palm started Supercrush with drummer Aaron O’Neil and the pair have put out three 7-inch singles and a couple of videos since 2013. The band recently played their first shows ever as a band, and I reflected on this unique moment with Palm outside of Antisocial Skateboard Shop in Vancouver.
FPH: So it’s the last show of a small stint of gigs with Bugg and Narrow Head? How does it feel to finally play your first gigs as a band after having these songs out for so long?
Mark Palm: It feels like a relief kind of. It’s been so long in the making that it felt like a lot of pressure built up. But now that they’re out of the way, it feels like a relief. Now we can plays shows like any other band, and there’s not as much expectation and pressure built up.
FPH: How do you think these shows have been received?
Palm: Good. I’ve been really happy. People seem really enthusiastic about it.
FPH: How did you first get involved with writing, recording and performing music?
Palm: I actually started writing music — or making songs — before I even played an instrument. When I was a little kid there was a piano in my family’s house. I didn’t know how to play the piano, but I would just mess around on it and come up with songs and record them on a ghetto blaster. And then I would make homemade drum sets out of coffee cans and stuff like that. So I recorded songs when I was a little kid long before I played a guitar.
FPH: You’re from here in Vancouver, correct?
FPH: What was the scene like here culturally and musically? Did you play much live music when you lived here?
Palm: Yeah, big time. I’ve been going to shows and playing shows since like 1996. That’s when I started going to punk shows. I haven’t lived in Vancouver for a couple years now, so I am a little out of the loop. But Vancouver was a real cool scene to grow up in. Because it was a pretty small scene even though Vancouver is kind of a big city — at least in the ’90s when I was coming up. There wasn’t really a big enough scene that you could have sub shows that were specific to their sub-genre. Like, there weren’t enough hardcore bands when I first started going to shows to have an all hardcore show. So inevitably it would be hardcore bands playing with punk bands playing with indie rock bands and what have you. Which I think was really cool. It was cool just being involved with a lot of groups of people and different types of music and lifestyles. I went to a lot of punk shows at this old house and I went to a lot of all ages shows out in the suburbs at rec centers. There was a DIY space downtown on the east side. So it was pretty diverse but there was a lot of intermixing between different types of people and different types of bands
FPH: What was the epiphany that led to you starting Supercrush?
Palm: The concept was — at the beginning — to write songs that were about some of the more pleasant aspects of life because I had spent so many years playing in hardcore bands and metal bands that were focused on the negative emotions like being angry and being sad and what have you.
So the first Supercrush 7-inch for example is pretty lighthearted lyrically and that was kind of the concept originally. To try something different. To try and make music in a different mood. And since then I don’t know that I’ve been true to that concept, but that was the initial idea as far as the mood goes. As far as the music style, it was kind of a callback to stuff I was into when I was like 12. In the ’90s right before I got into punk, I was really into Sugar and Smashing Pumpkins and Nirvana and stuff like that. I had always been interested in playing alternative rock music or really melodic guitar rock but I had never really had the opportunity to play it because I was busy for years playing hardcore or punk or metal. So the idea was to go back to some of my earlier musical influences.
FPH: When did you realize that you wanted to make a music video that was an homage to Spike Jonze’s Goldfish? You’re doing all of the exact moves and shots from the video. It’s great. Have you been skating your whole life?
Palm: Yeah. I started when I was 12, and that was the same year that I got that video Goldfish from Girl Skateboards. That was the first video I ever owned. I got it for Christmas when I was 12. So I have seen that opening montage hundreds and hundreds of times at this point. And then in the late 2000’s I moved to San Francisco — to the Sunset District. And once I moved there I started recognizing a lot of the spots that the opening sequence was filmed on. So it had kind of been in my head that it would be cool to remake that scene. And then it just tied in nicely when we made our newest 7-inch. I knew what I wanted the front cover to be which was to be my friend holding the fishbowl with the goldfish in it. So I felt like the cover image would be the perfect tie in with the goldfish music video concept.
FPH: What was the process of making the video like? Are you friends with the co-director Ian Shelton?
Palm: We’ve been friends for a few years and he directed and edited our first music video. And he’s always excited and enthusiastic about working on projects. He’s the kind of guy that never likes to sit still, so he’s the perfect person to collaborate with whenever I have an idea or concept.
The process involved us watching that intro from Goldfish over and over again, and making detailed list of all the shots we would need. And at the time I was living in Oakland working six days a week at a time, but on my day off every week I would drive into san francisco and try to find as many of the locations from the original video as I could. So I had to do some serious sleuth work to find some of those spots. Because some of them are the exact streets from the original.
To find them I had to watch the video over and over again and look for landmarks because there were no street signs visible. But in some of the shots — the car jumpshot for example — in the background you can see a steeple, which it turns out is from an orthodox church. So I had to do research to figure out what kind of church has that particular steeple and then search for where those steeples are located in San Francisco. Then go there and drive around the neighborhood until I found the exact location.
Or the opening shot — that was the craziest one. I really surprised myself that I could find that one because I literally found it because of a few trees in the background, the way the windows were shaped on a couple houses in the background, and a stop sign at the top of the hill. That’s all I had to go on.
FPH: So you were doing very intensive storyboarding while also scouting locations?
Palm: And I was training. I’ve been skating since I was 12, but I actually hadn’t skated in a couple of years prior to shooting that. So as the date approached to shoot the video, I thought ‘Oh shit. I should probably make sure I still know how to skateboard.’ So every week when I would go out to San Francisco, I would practice bombing the hills just to feel comfortable.
FPH: You filmed the video on a Super 8 camera. You were telling me earlier that that the first shoot was basically the only chance to film the video.
Palm: Yeah, so I knew that I wanted to shoot it on Super 8. I don’t know what the original was shot on. Maybe 16, I don’t know. We decided we were going to do it on Super 8 — which we have never done before. So I bought a camera, ordered a bunch of film, but I left it until the last minute — I didn’t realize how long the turnaround for developing film takes. It can take four weeks or so. So a couple weeks prior to the video shoot, I was like ‘Okay, I should probably shoot a test roll and get it developed to make sure this camera works.’ It was then I realized we didn’t have time to do that.
So we had to go into it blind and just cross our fingers and hoped that the camera worked and that everything turned out. Ian flew down from Seattle to shoot it. Our drummer happened to be in town on tour with another band, so we had to shoot it that weekend. It was our only opportunity. So we shot everything, sent the film off to be developed, and, luckily enough, when it came back it looked exactly like we wanted it to.
FPH: What are the plans for the future? More touring? Maybe an LP?
Palm: Yeah, I have tons of songs written. Definitely have enough songs for an LP, so we’re definitely going to do that. I’m sure it will take a long time. It always does. That’s in the works. And we want to do more touring. We’re just going to finish this little mini tour and decide what we want to do next, but I’m hoping to do a U.S. tour pretty soon.