"Can you put that Phil saved the day? Can we make that the headline?" asks Matt Kavanaugh, singer and guitarist of St. Louis' Palace. Both his palms wrap around his frosty Urban Chestnut Zwickel as he leans forward and glances between keyboardist and trombone player Phil Grooms and the speaker Grooms unplugged. Prior to Grooms' exercise in Stretch Armstrong pliability, Blueberry Hill's Pac Man Room was being throttled by a metal band's miscalculated thrashes. Kavanaugh laughs, "That's a good start, right?"
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Kavanaugh, Grooms, drummer Danny Hill and bassist Josh Eaker sit around three tables already damp with the condensation from their beers. Backing vocalist Crystal Owens is out of the city, visiting family back home. "We met Crystal through mutual friends. She's known all of us for a while," says Kavanaugh of Owens, who replaced original Palace members Sydney Scott and Jamie Finch last October. "Crystal has done theater for years. She was ready for it."
When Palace shared a bill with Cowboy Indian Bear last year, the Record Machine-signed four-piece was quick to share Palace's joyous theatrics with owner Nathan Reusch. "We didn't know Cowboy Indian Bear would go back and talk to Nathan. He had told them, 'When you go out on tour and you see anybody you think I should know about, tell me,'" explains Kavanaugh.
Even with Cowboy Indian Bear's blessing and Reusch's interest, Palace's disposition on being signed to the Kansas City label bounced between terrified and skeptical. "The first conversation I had with him I was so scared. I was like, 'What if he murders me if I say the wrong thing?' I acted like he was the Mafia," spills Kavanaugh. Eaker, a Godfather fan, had similar reservations, "I thought he was going to be this real intense guy, like what Matt said, like a Corleone. Just very in your face." Eaker takes a slow backhanded swipe at the air before him, like he is pushing away his initial nerves, "Then when I met him he was this very laid-back, calm, cool and collected person. It put me at ease with the situation."
"Without a doubt he's a mentor," confirms Grooms, who has somehow folded his long frame into the benches of the Pac Man room. "I've tried to get a record deal before. It was really businesslike, and they were really harsh people. I came into this situation with distrust and expected the worst. Putting out an EP is a stressful process when you have to deal with duplication and artwork. But Nathan's like, 'I'll take care of it.' That alone was worth signing to his label." Hill, with an eyeball on the fly he decimated when it came too close to his drink, hints at Palace's synchronous nature with Record Machine. "What's perfect about Nathan and the Record Machine is that it fits our family camaraderie. It just matches our personality so well."