Palette Knife isn't sad anymore

Before shows at Big Room Bar and Donatos Basement, the local emo trio reflects on the ups and downs of quarantine on new single 'Jelly Boi'

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Palette Knife

While writing about the early days of 2020 quarantine, when one day became indistinguishable from the next, Palette Knife frontman Alec Licata wasn’t overcome by emotion. The defining feeling, in fact, was numbness, which manifests in the refrain of new single “Jelly Boi”: “I don’t feel sad anymore.”

“If it was a truly sad song, I'd be like, oh, I'm sad because I'm in quarantine. But instead, it's like, I'm so over this. I'm not even sad anymore. I'm just a zombie: Get up, work at my desk that's across from my bed, hang out with some friends and go to sleep and do the same thing again,” Licata said. “It's definitely about that repetition.” 

About midway through “Jelly Boi,” which the local pop-punk trio recorded over the summer after releasing its debut album, Ponderosa Snake House and the Chamber of Bullshit (Take This to Heart Records), the tempo changes. Things get faster, louder, brighter.

“Everything kind of builds up to this moment, and I think it’s trying to represent being able to get through quarantine with your friends and the people you enjoy spending time with, and I think that also coincides with some of the good things that really came out of quarantine,” said Licata, who was fortunate enough to isolate with three roommates and two other friends who also live in the same building. “Our quarantine bubble was pretty big, so I still got a lot of physical interaction, which was nice. That was definitely the thing that got me through quarantine. … If it was just me and my cat, I think ‘Jelly Boi’ would be a lot darker of a song.”

More:Palette Knife balances humor, heart on ‘Ponderosa Snake House’

Still, even as the mosh-pit-worthy song revels in the healing powers of close relationships, Licata doesn’t shy away from the darkness of that time, singing, “Sometimes I get paranoid on the floor; my friends and family don’t like me anymore.”  

“I don't know if that [paranoia] has anything to do with taking edibles more often than usual during quarantine. …  But [when you're isolated], you start to be like, do my coworkers like what I'm doing? I'm not getting to interact with them in a physical way anymore,” he said. “Am I keeping up with all of my friends virtually? Oh, D&D is virtual now? How do I make sure I'm still engaged with all my friends?”

But just as he does throughout Ponderosa Snake House, Licata injects humor into the mix. “When you come across that line that feels good to sing, and it’s also clever, and maybe a little funny, that’s the sweet spot for me,” Licata told Alive over the summer, and that sweet spot shows up on “Jelly Boi” in lines like, “The only thing that changes during quarantine is the chemical makeup of my body as it relates to a ratio of water to Yellowtail chardonnay.”

“Talking about the ratio of water and alcohol in your body is such a weird, science-y way of putting something,” Licata said, laughing. “That comes back to some of the artists that I grew up listening to a lot, like the Decemberists or Death Cab for Cutie — people that have a lot of specificity in their lyrics and aren't afraid to get nerdy about something. That makes it so much more real to me.” 

Over the summer, it briefly looked like everything was opening up and COVID was on the way out, so Licata and his Palette Knife bandmates Chris McGrath (bass) and Aaron Queener (drums) wanted to get “Jelly Boi” out as quick as possible while the ideas in the song were still relevant. Months later, it’s all still painfully relevant.  

But, live shows are happening. Palette Knife will take the stage at Big Room Bar on Saturday, Dec. 11, with Heart to Gold, and at Donatos Basement on Friday, Dec. 17, with Church Girls. After taking a long break from performing live, every recent show has felt like “the best thing ever,” Licata said, not only because the band has been drawing more fans who sing along to every word, but also because “concerts went from being a fun activity to a truly meaningful source of escapism for everyone.”