Palmistry in conversation with Matthew Schnipper, October 2020

What makes a good song? 
All I care about is emotion. It doesn't matter what it sounds like, it just has to make you feel something.

"Basho Dew" feels really personal. 
I was living in England when I wrote that song. I don't think that song could be written for anyone else. It feels like it's quite mournful. A lot of my music is just for me to be cathartic, to release or to channel emotions that are a bit overwhelming. Some people might connect to that or they might not. It's more like a therapy for myself. 

Is the Basho in the title referring to the Japanese poet or Robbie Basho the guitar player? 
I'm a huge fan of Robbie Basho. I'm also a fan of the poet Basho, the lyrics are based on a haiku of his:
Years end
All corners of
This floating world, swept.

That was imprinted in my heart when I wrote that song.

Is it a breakup song? 
Not at all. It's weird though, sometimes my lyrics sound like they’re about a relationship, but it's usually just me talking to myself. It's never really about a boy or girl or anyone else. It's just about my own interpersonal dynamic. I don't know if I'd be a fan of Palmistry if I wasn't Palmistry, you know what I mean? If they weren't my songs. But obviously I have to like it. You're stuck with yourself. It's just like, "damn, this is all I've got."

You moved to LA recently. How’s that going?
I’ve been here nearly a year now. I never thought I’d live in LA. I've always hated it. But honestly, I’ve really loved it after moving here. When you have a car and you're driving, the city makes a lot of sense. And I think it’s a crazy place, a really dangerous place, and it's a really wholesome place. In other words, it's kind of like no other place. But the main reason I'm here is, management said I should come to LA and try to make money as a songwriter. And it's a lot less depressing than England, to be honest with you. 

Has writing songs for other people changed how you write songs for yourself? 
Ninety percent of what I write is for other people. "Happy We Go" was written on request for Rihanna. Every producer somewhere in the world has probably been asked to write for Rihanna at some point, and her management hit me up saying, "we want a happy go lucky reggae song," whatever that means. Having that kind of deadline or pressure always makes me be productive. Same thing with "Ora Rose," that's written for Rosalía. It feels almost weird putting it out under my own name because that sound isn't really who I am as a person per se, but I was writing with her in mind. It’s such a competitive world, and sometimes the songs you write for other people don’t get used. But I still feel super proud of them, and so I'm glad that they’re able to get released. 

After you write a song for someone else and they don’t record it, do you feel protective of it, like now it’s extra yours? 
I wrote a song recently for Charli XCX. It’s a little tricky because that song is one that I definitely didn't want to give away. I was like, no, this song’s mine. I only negotiated that they could have it as long as they would let me release it on my own album. Because honestly, her version is great, but my version slaps way harder. 

You wrote "Happy We Go" with Jamaican producer Gavsborg of the group Equiknoxx. What was that collaboration like? 
I actually went to Jamaica and linked with Gav in Kingston. When I met him, I was just like, "wow, this is a really special person." So when I got asked by Rihanna’s people to write a song, I had to get Gav in on this because I had this raw beat and I think he's got such a special sound. Jamaican dancehall music, but then a very, very experimental twist on that sound, which I love. 

So you wrote that song with him remotely, not in Jamaica? 
Yeah. Honestly, all of my collaborations are usually by the internet, because I'm a real shy person IRL, especially in a work sense. Writing remotely takes away the stress because you have a lot more time to reflect and change things, and then you can be a bit more direct on email rather than saying things in the moment. I feel like you can have more control over it. But it’s definitely not as quick. I remember I did a song with SOPHIE, and she's a real magician. We wrote something like, five songs in an hour. That really inspires me, but I'm not like that. I'm the kind of person who takes five years to write a song.

You sing about "jellyfishing" on "Ora Rose." What does that mean? 
That's one of my favorite lyrics actually. So the line is jellyfishing, inner vision. Jellyfish are a next level creature. They’re one of the most alien things, if you want to be anthropomorphic in terms of like, humans projecting what we think aliens are. I just think that jellyfish are just such amazing creatures, and there's so many different kinds and they're so deep and I don't understand them at all, but they’re so beautiful to me. And I just liked contrasting that with the inner vision of yourself. There's something very alien about our unconscious; it's really hard to know your true self. I feel every person's goal in life could be to get to know your real self, your true self. I'm not actually talking about fishing for jellyfish.

What is the phone recording on the last song on Post Eternity, "Joy"? 
Are you aware of Triad God [Palmistry’s project with British-Vietnamese rapper Vinh Soi Ngan]? That's a whole conversation between me and Vinh while being interviewed by Edison Chen for Interview. Vinh is asking him about the Twins, a famous Cantonese pop group that Edison had a mad sex scandal with and is really infamous for. It’s so awkward because Vinh has no filter. I’m trying to translate what Vinh is saying but I’m also like, "Oh no, please don't." Luckily, Edison found it really funny and he was cool with me using it. I was like, "I have to use that recording because Vinh burps on the phone..." It's a joke. But it's so beautiful in this weird way. That's basically what's happening. It’s inspired by "Gassenhaeur" by Carl Orff. 

What made you not want to sing on that song? 
Some of my best songs are just like, instrumentals, to be honest with you. I think it's important to give more space to the songs because when I'm writing for other people, usually it's going to be lyric stuff. But a lot of my friends are always like, "you know, Benji, your instrumentals bang the hardest." 

There is one lyric on "Effigy," where you say you’ve spent a long time in a coma, all my years on the sofa. I thought there was something really beautiful about that lyric, because it seemed like it was about waking up in some way. Does that feel right? 
There’s a lot of double meanings in that. All my life I’ve always been living on people's sofas, you know, really struggling. But yeah, there was a certain awakening that had happened inside me, about realizing it’s not about achievements, but waking up to your own potential, whatever that might be. Just believing in yourself. I'm a heavily flawed person, for sure. And everyone is. So I still feel like it's a daily thing that I wake up from the coma.

Post Eternity: Cult Classics from the Other Side