“I’ve Created My Own Reality” Palaye Royale’s Emerson Barrett Interviewed

A Parisian backstage chat...

Paris suits Emerson Barrett; while the Palaye Royale pre-show chaos clamours on beyond a closed door, Emerson Barrett is effortlessly put together, the image of Neo-Victorian sophistication. From the white pearls, to the lace cravat, to the brown, suede-collared suit, it’s a look that oozes timeless refinement. You wouldn’t be blamed for assuming the assortment was pieced together by Gucci – but it’s a certified Emerson original.  “Everything I’m wearing is my own brand, Avant-Garde Society,” he assures us, poking at his dark baker boy cap. 

Palaye Royale serve up rock and roll with an extra sprinkling of glamour. Rather than focusing on the anarchy, the sex, the drugs, their art rock hyperfocuses on theatricality and rich world building. Palaye Royale are hands on, always pushing for the next opportunity to heighten their art through another creative channel. “We want to set up a boutique hotel in Budapest,” Emerson muses at one point, before adding how he’s also working on “an art-house documentary, talking about our lives like an acid trip.” 

Despite the mass of work that each project will undoubtedly require, Emerson is incredibly calm when discussing the intricacies of his projects. Every idea almost seems to relax him further, a little glint of satisfaction in his eye. It’s clear that this isn’t ‘work’ for him – Emerson thrives in his own head, and he’s desperate to bring those thoughts out into the real world however he can. Even The Bastards’ graphic novel that accompanied the eponymous 2020 album is set to have sequels – there’s an eagerness to grow the Palaye Royale world as much as possible, that much is clear. 

“I think it’s a incredible gift, the ability to create,” Emerson states earnestly. Creativity is in his blood, and it always has been; “I learned to play piano when I was like, two, and one of the first songs I wrote was when my mom’s mom passed away.” Emerson reflects, “I was five, and that was the way I dealt with it.” 

And that slow maturation, growing into his art, is exactly what Emerson loves. “I think that’s the beauty of art; It’s a marvellous thing to be able to see an artist figure out what they’re doing and what they want to say – how they want to say it, how they want to express it. When you’re able to see the incline of someone’s creative thinking and consciousness…”

And Emerson hopes the fans can learn to obsess over their craft just like he does.  “I think this whole band has always been an art project, and that’s something that we suggest to our fans as well,” Emerson tells us. “No matter what headspace they’re in, it’s so important to express yourself – because, unfortunately, this world can be very cruel. So art is a healthier way to let those feelings out.”

This idea, of slowly growing and understanding yourself through your art, is a notion close to Emerson’s heart; “when I saw 16, I didn’t find a lot of significance in this world… so I felt like I had to create it,” Emerson says. Tracks like ‘Fever Dream’s ‘Oblivion’ embody that desire to forge your reality through external means, and Emerson truly lives and breathes that message, to exist in a liminal space of your own creation. “Over the last 10 years or so I’ve been doing all my drawings, and then, over the pandemic, I started doing 3D rendering and world building. I’m so in my own world, I’ve created my own reality. I don’t really pay attention to people nowadays, I’m not so affected by them.”

While Emerson’s older brother and bandmate Sebastan Danzig recently took to Twitter prodding at the ‘haters’ who ironically will say they typically love the underdog, Emerson insists he doesn’t let outside opinions get to him so much. He takes a moment to drop a nugget of wisdom: “There’s a quote from Marcus Aurelius: those who anger you, control.” Shutting off from the outside world allows Emerson to thrive creatively, and the band’s latest album is proof of that. Crafted over the pandemic, Emerson believes the isolated, focused creative period has led to Palaye Royale’s best release to date.

“We had about a year and a half to work on it. And I really love long form art – it’s very important to be able to live within your work and critique it,” Emerson explains. “With our first release, ‘Boom Boom Room’, no one gave a shit what we’re doing. So like we had all the time in the world to do that. And then every like album after that, we were on tour…. But with ‘Fever Dream’, we had time again. We were able to continue ideas that maybe we left a stray years ago.” And the track that was the longest in the making? The titular epic that is ‘Fever Dream’; “we had that verse for like, seven years. Then we just can never get the chorus. And then we just kept, like, attempting it, it just grew.”

While working with in a band with brothers Sebastian and Remington may sometimes be a challenge, Emerson sees the project as a blessing. “It’s a beautiful thing because we are able to communicate with each other in ways other bands can’t…  I see how we have developed as human beings within our music, hear the things we maybe can’t express in conversation within lyrics.”

We ask if this band has made him a better person. He nods. “Art is like chess,” he reflects. “You have to learn what pieces are pawns, what you’re willing to sacrifice in order to progress. You can’t hold on to everything and nothing lasts forever.” He pauses. “I believe, in life, we’re all a part of the same hole,” Emerson says. “And it can very hard for a single vessel in the hole to understand itself. But that’s why we create. I want to try.”

Words: Emily Swingle
Photography: Mac Praed

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