UTG INTERVIEW: Palisades Discuss The Success Of ‘Mind Games’


Last month, Palisades released their sophomore album, Mind Games, via Rise Records. The album has been a big hit with both fans and critics, which is part of the reason why they are participating in some of the largest tours of the year. They have become a bit of a staple in the music scene, and it sounds like they aren’t going anywhere any time soon.

The band’s drummer Aaron Rosa took some time out of his schedule to answer some questions about Mind Games, and you can read what he had to say below.

Let’s start off with your name and what your role is in the band.

Hey, I’m Aaron Rosa and I play drums in Palisades.

First of all, congrats on Mind Games! It seems to be a hit with both fans and critics. How do you feel the overall reception has been? How are fans feeling about the heavier electronic beats?

Thanks a lot! We are all really happy with the response that it has been getting from everyone. Obviously you cannot please every single person out there. Most of the critics have given Mind Games very positive reviews and even The New York Times reviewed it which was something that we were very excited about. As far as fans go, we have seen a huge growth of our fan base because this record is the way it is. There were fans that felt that we went too heavy on the electronic side of things, and some people thought our lyrics became “meaningless garbage that is only to appeal to a 14-year-old girl that has never heard of real music,” but the truth is that we write what we want to write, because we think it is cool. The lyrics on this record might be some of the most important in the entirety of the band’s history, and if you like our music then you know Palisades’ music knocks hard. Because we have opened up this side of us on this album we have widened our fan base, and it is starting not to matter if you like “hard music” or “dance” or “rap” or “pop,” because Mind Games gives you pieces of something you will like. The beats? They bump in the car and make the walls shake at venues and get kids going. That is exactly what we have been about since day one.

Mind Games is not only heavier as far as the electronic influence, but it seems to be heavier overall in comparison to Outcasts and I’m Not Dying Today. What inspired that transition? Is this a change that fans can expect to continue to develop in future releases?

Times were different back in, what was it, 2011?. We went into Chango Studios with producer Cameron Mizell as an unsigned band looking to write an EP that was doing something different musically. With the I’m Not Dying Today EP, we were not the heaviest band in the world, and we weren’t the lightest. We incorporated electronic production within the songs but they were not as heavy as they were in our albums. We were still figuring out who we were as a band, while still making music in which we believed in. I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, but I would say that EP was post-hardcore, with touches of electronic and atmospheric elements. There were a lot of bands that were incorporating electronic and orchestral production that were way bigger than us, we wanted to fit in and do something cool.

With Outcasts we were signed to Rise and we saw an opportunity to make an album that could do big things for us. Outcasts was heavy for us at the time and at that time Earl really started to get his signature sound as a producer and member of the band. We knew we wanted to be heavier and also wanted to start an easy introduction to our “wild vibe.” Most of the songs off of the album are more guitar-driven but there is a lot of really great electronic parts on it such as the trap breakdown with the “Damn Son” sample in the song “Scarred.” There is a really big sounding damage hit in the beginning of Outcasts and obviously “High and Low” was a huge hit for us which Earl wrote top to bottom.

Mind Games is pretty damn heavy, in both aspects. We wanted to write an album that was just us, at that time. We love EDM, we love rap and hip-hop and we love rock music. We are from New Jersey and very close to New York City so we get all of that kind of music, we understand how it works and we can appreciate the artists and the culture of it all. That melting pot of culture runs in us so we made it our sound. For this album we made the electronics work within the music instead of being something you sprinkle on top. 808 verses, EDM drops within breakdowns– they work in the music instead of fighting it. We found the balance and the way to make something work that a lot of people doubted would work. We have our friend Champs who does the rap verse and then raps over a breakdown on “Mind Games,” and guess what? It worked. Mind Games is a Palisades record, period.

I think one thing that fans have a hard time dealing with is that as people we all grow. People go through different experiences which alter their personalities and lives. An artist’s music documents events and talks about what is going on in theirs. I will say that we have hinted at going more “electronic heavy” since Outcasts, and it shows in Mind Games. Our next album could be again a balance between dance and rock, or it could lean heavier on one side. We ultimately want to grow our fan base as big as possible with no limitations on what we do. We are going to do what is true to us and hopefully it will bring big opportunity.

I personally haven’t seen you live since you released Mind Games. How does performing the newer tracks live go over with fans? It seems like there is quite a bit of technical aspects that need to run smoothly.

We did a test run by playing “Mind Games” on our tour with For All Those Sleeping and Capture The Crown, and kids had no idea what it was besides a new song. Kids loved it; they danced, they jumped, and got down [laughs]. We knew once Mind Games came out our live set was going to be awesome. The new tracks go over insanely well! Yeah, our set and performance is like a well-oiled machine. Earl literally DJs the set. He runs all of our tracks and my clicks on a program called Ableton Live while also running Traktor and dropping in rap samples/songs within our own. We practice hard at making sure everything is working to ensure a good show.

What are your favorite songs to perform live and which ones seem to get the crowds the most excited?

Personally I really like playing “Bad Girls” and “Player Haters’ Ball,” and actually our interludes are fucking live too. Kids love “High And Low” and love “Mind Games.” Those just hit super hard.


What was the writing process for Mind Games? Is it a team effort or is there one person who writes lyrics?

Well we started writing the first songs of the album in January of last year in hotel rooms while we were on tour during the most stressful part of our career. It is a huge group effort but then we split off into teams working on different things at the same time. It starts out with a group talk about the songs’ vibe, tempo, key, and layout. We write out what should come in where. It’s like coming up with Palisades’ special sauce, and then changing it ever so slightly so we can make it a different taste. After that, Xavier, Matt and myself write guitar parts and the overall skeleton. If we know a produced part is coming up in the song we leave it blank so Earl can start writing his parts to it. Of course we always take each other’s criticism and opinions, so after the song is pretty much the way we want it musically, Lou and Brandon start going over vocals and what is going to work and what isn’t. Lyrics have been Lou’s thing, but for Mind Games that process was opened more for collaboration.

Listening to the lyrics it sounds like some of the songs are about specific people – especially “Mind Games.” Do any of the tracks speak to specific people or situations?

See, what is cool about the lyrics, is that they are about certain people but also not just about one particular person. Everyone in the band had some sort of input and something happen to them that affected the songs. We have some songs about girls, we have some songs about people in our lives that let us down, we have some songs about finding inner strength and we have songs for the people that have talked shit on us our whole career. I won’t get into certain situations but I will say that the situations are very real.

Your Another Techno Jawn EP was fun, and I personally enjoyed it. Can we expect to have another remix EP in the foreseeable future?

Another Techno Jawn was a cool little thing to do something that really hasn’t been done by many bands. Bring Me The Horizon’s remix CD of Suicide Season was always really cool to me, so I think it was cool to do a similar thing. We had only people that are our peers do the remixes because a lot of us really enjoy electronic and rap music. I think that they all had fun with making the remixes to show that we all can branch out and show talent in other avenues of music. It went over well, some kids had no idea what the hell was going on and what we were up to, but it was a good way to introduce the new image of the band especially with the cover art. As far as another remix EP, we have had some people do remixes for some songs but I don’t know if we are going to release anything as an official release.

It looks like you are pretty much booked up as far as tours are concerned. Take Action and Warped Tour will keep you on the road from spring to the end of the summer. Will that be all of the touring you do for 2015 or are there any plans for fall or winter tours?

Yeah it feels really good to have this part of the year booked up! We do have an international tour coming up with our really good friends in a certain band that I cannot announce yet [laughs]. That will be in between Take Action and Warped. We are still coming up with plans for the fall and going to some places we have never been before. So this year is looking very busy but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Speaking of touring so much – how is it being on the road for such long periods of time? What do you guys do to keep yourselves occupied?

It’s funny because when we first started out we were literally fighting and struggling to get on the tours that we got on. Up until last summer when we did the All Stars Tour we spent three summers at home and would spend two to three months home between tours. Touring for a long time is a lot of fun; we get to visit places that we love, find new places to visit and spend time at. We are a band that loves to spend time together and find out what we each think is cool to another. We also love good food, because who doesn’t? We usually track down restaurants and eateries that have been featured on VICE, or Anthony Bourdain’s shows or anything that is a best kept secret. We try to eat at the famed spots but at the same time go where the locals go.

Everyone in our band loves California. It really doesn’t matter where we are, as long as it is Cali. It is our West Coast base. Beautiful weather, beautiful landscapes, beautiful people. It’s beautiful. I also really like Portland, it’s quirky and interesting, and I always find myself spending money at some shop there [laughs]. Each city has its own vibe, and thats really cool when you tour; you can kinda tell where you are sometimes just but understanding an atmosphere you can associate with a city or town.

Is there anything else you would like to add or talk about?

?I just want to say thanks to everyone that has supported this band, whether it has been from day one, or two weeks ago. As long as you are a fan and doing something to support this band, thank you.

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