"Palberta5000" is a Story About Friendship
The New York- and Philly-based trio talk writing bangers, BFFs, and making a song that is more than a minute long.
It’s COVID Winter and I’m on Zoom with Ani Ivry-Block, Lily Konigsberg, and Nina Ryser, who make up the noisy post-punk band Palberta. The three met while they were attending Bard College in 2013, and while it took them some time to figure out what kind of music they wanted to make, it was immediately evident that they were all destined to be best friends. “I think we were all unsure and confused about what we wanted our music to be like and whether or not we liked it,” Ivry-Block tells GARAGE, “but [the friendship] was definitely there pretty much immediately, which is really rare.” Eventually the band started to zero in on a sound, speckled with three-part harmonies, choppy basslines, and an urgency that makes their songs barely clock in at sixty seconds.
Their fifth album, Palberta5000, is out today and it signals a turning point for the trio—not only is it their most melodic, but a few of their songs rush breathlessly past the three-minute mark. A standout track, “It’s all Over My Face,” clocks in at almost five minutes, and is laden with a dissonant, minimalist bass groove, and wound up guitar lines. “I think in part, we learned that a single has to be over a minute or something,” Ivry-Block recalls laughing, “I remember our last album, we wrote a song that we felt was a really good pop hit, but it was under a minute long. [On this record] I think we started to gear our mind towards writing just kind of more melodic, poppier music.”
Palberta5000 is also product of bonding over great female singer songwriters. “We all listen to a lot of Lucinda Williams and Avril Lavigne. We love Liz Phair,” says Konigsberg. The result of wanting to write longer songs and spending a lot of time listening to iconic popular albums by women is a record that features tighter vocal harmonies, and more melodic song structures. The lyrical content, however, is just as improvisatory and full of whim as anything Palberta has released. On Palberta5000, there are lots of critters, like cows à la Daniel Johnston (see: “The Cow”), ants (on “Red Antz,” the band sings “There’s nothing wrong about this dance/red antz/ red antz”) and horses (“The Big Bad Want” opens with a horse standing in the middle of the street)—motifs the band came up with serendipitously while in the zone, jamming.
That’s not to say that there isn’t a unifying theme on the record. The concept of the record is one that you can gauge by watching Konigsberg, Ivry-Block, and Ryser talk to each other. “It's all about writing our friendship into music,” says Konigsberg, “With these instruments and our voices, we're weaving a blanket of the history of our friendship.” Part of the joy of listening to a Palberta record is getting the sense that these three musicians have so much fun with each other, and love each other in a pretty profound way. Because they’re often in different places, touring is the best way for them to get in some bonding time. They all love tour, even though it often involves crowding into a small car together and driving for ten hours at a time. It took them a while to decide if it made sense to release Palberta5000 in a year when they couldn’t tour it. They decided to release it anyway—and listening to the record feels like being in a room with the band, watching them goof off and have the best time together. Palberta5000 is also, at the end of the day, a record full of bangers. The band agrees.
“Definite bangers,” Ryser said. “I think there’s bangers and there’s not-bangers,” Konigsberg continued, “I’m going to be honest—”
“—the majority of the album is bangers,” Ryser finished her thought.