Serena Ferrari & Palace’s Leo Wyndham on Pursuing Creativity, an Ongoing Experiment
By Serena Ferrari & Leo Wyndham
"You had looked at me, before I had looked at you.”
I had discovered Palace's music online when I was studying abroad in London in 2014. I later attended one of their shows at a venue called Red Gallery, where I saw Leo for the first time.
It was completely irrelevant, the fact that he was on stage performing— my reaction to him was of a different context. There was something familiar about him in relation to me. It was as though I had recognized a glimmer of "us", even though "us" didn't exist.
Two years later, Palace performed at Rough Trade in Brooklyn and after the show, Leo and I approached each other in the same way two people approach a kiss for the first time, focused yet hesitant. We fell in love instantly. We live together now, in London. We try to help each other complete the picture of who we are as individuals. Palace has just released their second album, Life After, and I am trying to feel adequate claiming my role as a writer.
[In mid conversation while making toast in the kitchen]
Serena Ferrari: ...I had an epiphany today.
Leo Wyndham: What?
Serena: I had an epiphany about creativity. I realized that maybe, because I am an emotional person, I really thought that I wanted to be an artist. I thought emotions equated to creativity, like I thought they were informative of each other. And they are to a certain extent. But I realized I am less creative, and more emotional. And so I feel like for my life, or for my career or whatever it is that I am supposed to do, it is less about creativity and more about emotion.
Leo: But how does that manifest?
Serena: Well I really find it interesting talking to other people. I find documentaries interesting. I find real journalism and things that are real, as opposed to being created, more interesting. I was just in the kitchen today, thinking how in my teenage years I thought, “Oh, I am so emotional it must mean that I am going to make art.” Because art made me emotional. But actually my brain doesn’t work like that—
Leo: It doesn’t work like that. Not your brain—
Serena: What I am saying is that you can imagine a creative person, and they are not necessarily highly emotional, yes they are sensitive but they could just be creative in the sense that they think in colors or they are connecting things in their head that wouldn’t normally go together.
Leo: Like being emotional doesn’t necessarily mean you are creative.
Serena: Yeah, exactly.
Leo: What made you think that?
Serena: I was just thinking of all the things I had been doing. POND. And then this documentary. And I thought, “God I really wouldn’t be interested in just creating art.” I am more interested in having a sort of emotional connection to things.
Leo: Interviews, talking to people. Documentary.
Serena: Yeah, that would make me happy. And so, I started reflecting on what made me go into film, and what made me want to be an artist. And it was kind of this misconception that if you are emotional, you had to be creative or that you have to create something all the time. It’s almost like instead of talking though, I’d rather listen. Do you see what I mean?
Leo: It’s so funny because I can totally see, in a sense... I’ve always slightly thought in my head, not that specifically, but I always thought in my head that maybe you thought that was what you wanted to do, but that wasn’t necessarily quite right. Like you’re not— there is such a type of a person.
Serena: Yeah, someone who is intensely creative.
Leo: Not even that actually, cause I do think you are creative in lots of ways, but I know what you are saying. I do know what you are saying, I understand what you are saying in relation to the things you connect with. And what is interesting is that the things that made you inspired recently are things that are real stories, and interactions with people. And they are telling stories. That’s what’s got you more buzzed.
Serena: And with the documentary and filming the documentary, I just realized that I had a misunderstanding about art in a way. Or about...I don’t know. I read Patti Smith’s Just Kids and I remember reading that and thinking “Fuck, I want to be an artist”, or “I am an artist. I feel all the things she described feeling.” And used that in a sort of prescriptive manner. And I remember being on the phone with my parents saying “I’m just going to be an artist. I think I am an artist.”
Leo: But without knowing necessarily that that was right. The idea of it.
Serena: I thought that art was a communication of emotions but sometimes to be successful at art, and to make money from art, it is not just about emotions. It’s about being creative all the time and having a brain that is really linking things together, and being inspired.
Leo: And also sometimes it is more accidental than a thought through a decision of like “I am going to be creative.” Do you know what I mean?
Serena: Could you unpack that?
Leo: I think that the people it comes naturally to, it’s not something that you would just say to yourself, “I am going to be an artist.” It is something that is just there.
Serena: Yeah, yeah. It’s not intentional.
Leo: It’s not intentional. And I think if you do that stuff, it’s just always there and it is something within. I think if you are saying to yourself I want to be that, then—
Serena: I slightly disagree. I think a lot of artists have an intention to be an artist, or want that label and what it represents.
Leo: I would say less than more so. I’d say more people who are artists, just are. And that’s what they have always done. I think there are less people in their life who think, “This is what I am going to do. I am going to be an artist.”
Serena: Well the reason that I said that though is because it felt like—
Leo: Matched up.
Serena: Yeah. It wasn’t like I thought, “Oh, I am going to go for this,” as someone would say, “Oh, I am going to be a businessman.” Or maybe I did unconsciously. But, I was under the misconception that art was always going to be an emotional task.
Leo: You thought it was going to be your platform.
Serena: To express emotion.
Serena: But I think to also be an artist, you have to realize that that’s your work, and people are not going to look at it emotionally. So at some point you have to let go and just create. Whereas I am more interested in keeping things…. I don’t know what I am trying to say. I don’t know if I am making sense.
Leo: How will this affect what you are doing now? Does that mean that you don’t want to write a book? Does it mean you are more interested in documentaries? What has this realization given you? What has it changed for you?
Serena: I want to give a platform for people to express themselves. Their fears, their sensitivities. And be more of an element of exposure as opposed to —
Leo: No, no, I’ve got that. But what, in terms of you, form does that take?
Serena: I don’t know, to be honest. I guess it is a form of journalism. Being a vessel for stories. And for people to be honest.
Leo: I think that’s great, Cheeky. You are being brave with these projects that individually have probably been a bit scary, but every time you have confronted them and gone for these projects, you are just opening it up a bit more.
Serena: The aperture is opening up.
Leo: It’s what we always talk about. It’s all leading up and you are working out your next step.
Serena: Yes, but today, the epiphany was bittersweet, because it was sort of divorcing myself from being a source.
Leo: Yeah, I understand that. But in my head, I don’t think it is as big a leap from your old self. It is not removed from what you were already. It’s in the same ballpark.
Serena: What about you though? Obviously you are creative. You are a musician, but you never questioned it. You just were a musician?
Leo: Part of me doesn’t think it is so cut and dry. They are not separate things in a way. I am a creative person, definitely, but at the same time I don’t know. Like you are. I think creativity and emotions are intertwined.
Serena: They are very intertwined.
Leo: Yeah, it is a very nuanced and intricate thing what you are saying. Because it is creative, what you are saying.
Serena: Yeah, obviously those things go hand in hand. But I think you can value one over the other. Like do I value my voice and my commentary on things, or is it more like, “I don’t have to necessarily be the author of something.”
Leo: Well that’s it. What is more natural to you is other people’s voice and discovering and working out their voices. I think that is the revelation.
Serena: But I resisted that. That’s the funny thing I think for a little while, I resisted that.
Leo: Yeah because you wanted it to be like “My story, my stuff.” I want to be able to resist this and be able to say “No, you are wrong.” But you are right.
Serena: That’s the thing about epiphanies though. The reason why they are so profound is because they are so obvious. It’s like it’s in your blind spot and then you’ve just made a little adjustment and you can see through that blind spot and you go, “Wow, okay. I kind of knew that, but I didn’t know that.”
Leo: It was there. It was all there.
Serena: When you stopped acting, was that what that felt like? When you finally had this epiphany about acting?
Leo: When I stopped, I had a combination of feeling incredibly scared, but I actually physically went “Yes!” [hands in the air] like that, in the pub. And I called my mom. I was actually with Birdie in the pub by our old flat, in the middle of the day. And I was just like, “I’m in the pub in the middle of the day. What am I doing?” And Birdie said, “You should just quit.”
Serena: Birdie said it?
Leo: Yeah, but I had been thinking about it. We had been talking about it and I said, “Do you know what? I’m just going to do it.” And I called my mom, and told her, and I just felt this new sense of relief and putting it behind me, and I was just like, “Oh my god. I don’t know what I am going to do, but I feel great.” And did it, and quit and it was brilliant.
Serena: And look at you now. I think that life has a really funny way of working itself out. It is almost like you are driving through a really narrow enclosed, invisible tunnel and when you try to go left or right when you’re not supposed to there is a bump or friction, where you are like, “Ahh, I really want this, but it’s not feeling right.” And then when you do something that is completely in line with you, it’s like you are driving without any bumps, it’s just smooth. And that is not to say there isn’t struggle, but there is a resilience that comes, that wouldn’t necessarily come if it wasn’t right.