Off Her Tits

10 August 2013 | 12:55 pm | Liz Giuffre

"To tell you the truth, the first thing I thought when somebody linked me to that Daily Mail article was just ‘this is hilarious. They clearly don’t know who they’re talking about.'"

Currently on tour across Britain, Palmer talks about heading to Australia with the Grand Theft Orchestra.  She'll be playing new album, Theatre Is Evil, which was recorded in Melbourne in less than a month, and it's got some her best stuff, ever, to show off. Not that you'd quite know that she has an album if you read international reports from Glastonbury, though. According to the British gutter press, all that Palmer's being doing lately is showing a bit of tit during her live show at the biggest music festival in the world. The headline even told us that Palmer had “made a boob of herself” – and then news media wonders why they're in 'crisis'.

“To tell you the truth, the first thing I thought when somebody linked me to that Daily Mail article was just 'this is hilarious. They clearly don't know who they're talking about',” Palmer says of the whole thing. “It did seem as ridiculous as running an article about Quentin Tarantino making a violent movie or something; it just made no sense. But it also did [make sense in a way], because none of their target audience know anything about me. I'm foreign to them and that world.”

In response to the report Palmer wrote a waltz, a piece she called Dear Daily Mail. The right mix of funny, feisty and (rightly) pissed off, she urged audiences to upload it to the interweb in the hope the newspaper would get her point of view (and also be reminded she sings songs). Getting angry would be easy, but answering with a funny, sexy tune is sweet (and funky) revenge. While it's not clear if the tune will be repeated (we can hope, though), it was an example of Palmer's commitment not just to her art, but to giving as much as she can to include her audience in the process.

With Theatre Is Evil Palmer is taking a slightly different direction to previous recordings. It's deliberately bigger and more ambitious in scope as opposed to the cabaret/parlour punk sound she's often sported in the past. However, it's a move she's been really clearly steering. “After years and years of making records and having bizarre expectations circle around me constantly, I have learned to be very strong in the expectation department and simply just be proud of the end product. And in the case of this record I think it's the best record I've ever done. So when it was finished I just threw it off a cliff and thought, 'I have no idea if this is going to sink or fly, but I know that I created something beautiful, and that's what matters',” she says.

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The build-up this time was initially put on hold as a close friend of Palmer's underwent cancer treatment, which saw her postpone her initial plans and take time away from her beloved music family to be part of that personal process. While she can confirm “his outcome is about as positive as it could have been”, and clearly she made the decision to commit without reservation, Palmer's also honest about how challenging it was. “It was hard on so many levels because it wasn't just theoretically putting the tour on hold and stopping the promotion of the album and all that; it meant disconnecting from the entire fanbase and not being with them every night. [And that] is something that I didn't think a lot about, but I really do derive so much energy from being with everyone and travelling around and actually connecting with people I'm making music for. Physically, in reality, not just on the internet. And it was really hard to do, to be away from everyone.”

Existing fans need no convincing of Palmer's commitment and clear joy of being in the same space and breathing the same air as like-minded souls (not only in organised tours, but also with her fabulous fan-fuelled 'ninja' gigs). But she also continues to preach to those who have not yet seen the light about the centrality of the live experience for a working musician's essence. “Touring is so important because whether or not the record sold a lot of copies digitally or in stores, and whether or not people are downloading it and whether or not they're paying when they download it, all of that is totally irrelevant when you're standing onstage and looking out to 1000 people and they're all singing the lyrics to your songs. You don't fucking care how they got your record; all you care about is the fact that they have connected to and love the music enough to sing along with it and cry along with it, and all the other stuff is irrelevant,” Palmer says of her commitment to getting in and amongst her audience. “And of course you want to get paid and you need to cover your arse and pay your rent, but I don't know, personally, of any musicians who are in it for the money over getting the connection [with the audience]. And if they exist, I don't even want to know them.”

Her last comment about money is perhaps where Palmer has made the most headway (and gained the most infamy). As one of the highest profile promoters of crowd-funded music, as well as one of the criticised, she maintains a 'pay what you want' idea based on an ideology of art as a democracy rather than a dictatorship. She explained this most beautifully in a TED talk earlier this year called The Art Of Asking, something that spread faster than a torrented new Game Of Thrones ep. Here she spelled out her basic philosophy of professional musicianship: 'Don't make people pay for music – ask them', and the ultimate 'get fucked' to an old industry that is convinced that downloaders are heartless arseholes rather than just people who are wary of getting fucked by 'The Industry'. “I felt so flattered to be invited onto that stage with all the environmentalists and neuroscientists and the people on the bleeding edge of technology. I felt so honoured to be given that platform because it meant that my work as a musician is really important. All of the hours that I've spent connecting with people in different ways, on social media and experimenting in different ways, actually came to some kind of fruition,” she says of the experience. However, Palmer is also happy to admit the pressure of such an endeavour, too. “Oh, it was terrifying. I mean TED is a really big deal for so many reasons, not the least of which it's one of the most intimidatingly high-profile audiences in the world; you're standing on a stage in front of Al Gore and Bill Gates and all the people, some of the great intellectuals on the planet, you know? And you feel like you need to say something intelligent,” she trails off, laughing. After her TED talk, one would expect that her appearance as a BIGSOUND 2013 speaker should be a piece of cake in comparison.