was on the phone briefly catching up with Meredith Bell of Palaceburn, Philadelphia’s
emerging metal representatives. I asked her if she was excited for the her band
to be performing at the 11th annual AFROPUNK FEST taking place this
Saturday August 22nd in Brooklyn. Not only was she excited, she managed to sneak in her disappointment
about missing WWE’s own annual event Summerslam, which commences during the end
of the fest that the band is contributing to. I couldn’t help but smile and realize that it truly doesn’t get more real
and down to earth than that. Ms. Bell
opens up about her music background, overcoming stereotypes, what makes her
tick, and what separates Palaceburn from all the rest.
JTHR: How long have you been singing?
MB: I’ve been singing since I was 4 years old. I started out in my grandfather’s church choir in VA. My grandpa played piano for the youth choir at the time. He had a knack for giving me all the solos, so it was pretty forced on me. Per his recollection, he states that none of the rest of the kids in the youth choir wanted to solo, so I was pretty much the guinea pig!
JTHR: What makes Palaceburn different from other bands you’ve fronted or been involved in?
work ethic, definitely. I haven’t been in many bands before Palaceburn, but the
ones I was involved with… the band members didn’t really have the same desire
to go where I wanted to go. I wanted to quit doing this several times because
of it. I didn’t think I was ever going to find like-minded musicians who wanted
to make this a career. For me, that was important.
JTHR: What is the meaning of the band name Palaceburn and how does it correlate to where the band wants to go?
is a take of the Lamb of God album, “As The Palaces Burn”. I’m originally from
Richmond, VA, where Lamb of God was formed. All of us in the band are pretty
big LOG fans. I felt like if Randy and the rest of the boys could make it out
of Richmond and make something out of themselves, I wanted to, as well.
JTHR: Have you ever been told “you’re acting white” due to being into hard rock and metal music and how did that make you feel if and when you’ve heard that?
mean, I got that a lot growing up, even before I joined a band. When I was
younger, it used to bother me a lot. There was this discord between having a
bunch of white friends who liked the same things I did, and still being in
touch with my “blackness”, in regards to myself and my family. My grandmother
is biracial, so she got a lot of the “high yellow “comments growing up. She was around during the Civil Rights era. So she dealt with it worse than I ever did.
She always taught me to follow my own path and not to let any sort of
racial comments get to me. I don’t think anyone, including myself, needs to
listen to a certain style of music to be in touch with who they are, their
ethnicity and what they represent. It took me a while to realize it. Now, it
doesn’t phase me as much anymore.
JTHR: Why do you particularly think people care to place such emphasis on race and what people listen to? Is there a way to actually stop it?
a bad situation right now, when it comes to racial intolerance. It’s 2015 and
we’re still in the midst of fighting for equality for Blacks. When you have
movements like #BlackLivesMatter really picking up as a result of several
African-Americans being slaughtered in the streets by those who are supposed to
“serve and protect”, it’s kind of hard not to look at things from a racial
standpoint. Unfortunately, that has crossed over into music and pop culture in
general. There’s a lot of cultural appropriation going on with certain artists,
and the lack of respect for one’s culture is downright disgraceful. I’m not
sure if it’s ever going to stop until we’re able to take race out of the
picture entirely… and I feel like we have a long way to go before that happens.
JTHR: Who influenced you the most as a singer/artist?
grandfather, most definitely. He played piano for most of his life. And what a
voice! He’s the only other musician in our family… no one else can really sing,
haha. I was raised by my grandparents and I would come home every day to my
grandpa playing the piano. He knew how to play everything and would be on that
thing every day until his arthritis got really bad. I mean – Ray Charles, The
Temptations, Ella Fitzgerald – you name it, he could play it. He truly has a
love for music, and I think he’s bummed out now that he can’t play anymore. That’s what I think about when I have those negative urges to quit. I’m still
physically capable of being able to perform – and I should do so until I can’t
JTHR: How do you feel about being a role model for black women who want to pursue careers in your profession and genre and women in general?
don’t really see myself as a role model. I never have. But, if I can inspire
someone to continue to pursue their dreams, then so be it. I mean… there aren’t
really a lot of WOC [women of color] who are doing the type of music I do. There are some… my sister Alexis from Straight Line Stitch, for example. I’d
love to see more alternative WOC come out of the woodwork and front bands. That’d be killer.
JTHR: So you’re performing at the 2015 Afro punk festival- holy shit.
What are Palaceburn’s expectations? Nervous? Excited? Both? Just another opportunity to take advantage of? Everything above? Aiming to meet some fellow bands and artists backstage?
MB: It’s a huge opportunity for us, and I think we’re all just incredibly excited. I’ve wanted to be a part of this festival since 2012 or so. I’m thrilled. I think our expectation is just to go out there and give it all we’ve got – like we always strive to do. There’s been a shift with rock music – and we want to show Brooklyn that hard rock music is still alive and well.
I’ve made this clear to everyone – I want to meet
Lenny Kravitz and touch his abs. That is all.
JTHR: As you and I know there were times where things seemed a little uncertain and foggy with where the band was going; what was it that kept the focus and momentum intact?
and I went through a lot of lineup changes. That was really what was holding us
back from going where we wanted to go. We both told each other (when it just he
and I there for a while) that we weren’t going to let this band die. He and I
have been doing music for about the same amount of time. It wasn’t something that
we were just willing to throw away. I think both of us know that we don’t want
to be stuck in a cubicle for the rest of our lives. So we said we’d find new
members and take it as far as it was willing to go.
JTHR: What’s the meaning behind the single “breathless?”
MB: I was romantically linked with a friend of mine from another band (I do not wish to disclose his name). His sense of humor was a bit prickish…he’s a natural asshole. That’s just how he is with everyone. I guess I expected something different when he and I were messing around for a bit… and I pretty much was treated like all of the rest of his friends. There wasn’t that shift that people usually make from friends to being together, you know? It pissed me the hell off. So I went home one day and (naturally) wrote a song about it. Haha.
Funny story – after the recording was finished, I sent
it over to him for a listen. He told me – “I’m incredibly sorry for what I did
to make you mad – but this is a fantastic song.” So. It all worked out in the
JTHR: When does the new EP come out and what will it be called?
MB: Curses. The EP drops August 28th!
JTHR: After Afropunk what’s next for Palaceburn?
MB: We’ll be booking more shows, trying to push the record more and more… and hopefully by the end of next year, we’ll have our first mini-tour under our belts. Onward and upward, man!
Curses is available for pre-order on iTunes. The first single, “Breathless” can be heard on Spotify, Youtube, and other music streaming services. The single can be also bought and downloaded on iTunes. AFROPUNK FEST 2015 takes place at Commodore Barry Park in Brooklyn, New York August 22nd and August 23rd.