It doesn’t seem five minutes ago that DIY Class of 2013 alumni Peace were releasing ‘In Love’, and in this case, it isn’t just time playing its old tricks. Since last March’s debut release, they have been touring extensively across the world and packing tents out at festivals, and just over a year on, they’ve got a second album mastered and ready to go. For a band with such a tranquil name, Peace don’t seem to allow themselves a moment of the stuff.
“We always want to be working at a pace,” agrees the band’s guitarist Doug Castle, “[and] we felt, even recording [the second album], that it was going too slow.” “I don’t think I’ve spent as much time on anything, or anyone,” ponders drummer Dom Boyce, solemnly. “Apart from FIFA. Think about that. A heavy thought.”
The majority of Peace’s as-of-yet untitled second album was written while touring ‘In Love’ last summer, jokes frontman Harry Koisser, because he was “being awkward or annoying” after their label, Columbia, told them that writing on the road could be difficult. “In some twisted way I was probably trying to wind someone up,” he says, and “I probably thought it would get on someone’s nerves if I wrote the album on the road.” In reality though, trying a different approach worked. “I think because we did the first record so quickly I was still inspired,” he says, “the momentum was still going.”
“I think we’re blessed that we’ve never travelled before,” he adds, “because, hold on, we’ve got a bit of perspective here, I’ve seen something else. It’s unlocked something. Who knows what the next thing is going to be?” Touring together was a bit of a musical gap year for the band, apparently. “The album’s front cover is going to be one of those sky lanterns that you put a candle under,” laughs Dom. Constantly touring and seeing new places, in all seriousness, gave Peace the space to develop as a band. “I think to stay doing good stuff you’ve got to kind of evolve, you can’t stay doing the same thing,” says Harry. “I hate to bring it up, but you know in Pokémon, there’s three different incarnations, and they get stronger and stronger? Well, each band is different. We’re on our way to being a Charizard mate.”
Dom snorts derisively and points at Harry’s newly-dyed flame-red hair. “Look at him, he’s dressed as Charmeleon today. He’s turning into Charizard!” Harry disagrees, however. “I’m dressed like Misty today. And you’re Ditto,” he adds. Dom looks profoundly offended. “The squibbly mess?!” Sam Koisser looks on quietly, before adding that Doug’s “looking very Squirtle today, with the turtle-neck.”
Despite Harry’s Misty-inspired outfit, and the band’s reputation for possessing a lustrous array of spangly garments, there were some “dark times” for Peace during their gruelling tour schedule; times far more grave, in Harry’s opinion, than band arguments or missed flights. The constant jet lag that came with touring in Asia and Australia had a remarkable effect on his very nature. “My hair was so long,” he says with genuine disgust in his voice, “I had stubble, and I was wearing a t-shirt. A t-shirt,” he repeats slowly, “you know what I mean? I’d walk around in a t-shirt, it was like, what’s happening? This isn’t right.” Dom doesn’t look as perturbed by Harry’s fashion faux pas, however. “You flew Doc Brown,” laughs Sam, while Harry continues to look slightly shaken by the experience of recounting his cotton basics wearing days. “No, Doc Brown was on my way back up,” replies Dom, unveiling his theory of why jet lag might’ve caused Harry’s usual affinity for paisley trousers and glittery turtlenecks to unravel. “If you fly somewhere and you go forward in time, and then you immediately go back, you will arrive before you left. Don’t try and work it out,” he advises knowingly, “you won’t be able to.”
Over the past year the band feel like they have developed a great deal, and this new album is the result. “Before,” says Harry, “we didn’t know what we were doing. Playing live I felt strongest when we locked into a kind of groove. I look at the guitars, swirly and colourful, and this locked-in bass, which I guess comes from funk,” he laughs, “or something, right? We all felt that was what we were about. I haven’t thought of a name yet. A very colourful lovely mess, kind of like if you put milk in soap and food colouring.”
Understandably everyone seems very confused, so Harry takes out his phone purposefully. “I’ll google it now. There you go, third up, it’s called magic milk. This is what I wanted the guitar to sound like.” The background music playing in the studio suddenly seems more dramatic as the rest of the band gather round and watch Harry’s new favourite video. “Get out of here!” shouts Dom, as the milk dances around and bursts into colourful shapes, “what’s going on?” “It’s very intense isn’t it?” asks Harry. “The sprinkling over the top of a real strong heavy groove. Then I just had to write some songs about something, and apply it to that. Maybe magic milk is our genre?”
“You don’t want to just be singing about crap, do you?”
— Harry Koisser
“There was a Northern Soul thing going on, too,” adds Sam, once the hubbub around magic milk has subsided. “Oh god,” laughs Harry, “about midway through writing I tried to sway it into being a Northern Soul record. Our tour manager used to go out to the bloody all-nighters at Wigan Casino, so he was playing it in the dressing room, all this obscure stuff I hadn’t heard before. I got my dad’s mate, a proper old Northern Soul boy, to make me a massive mix of his favourite rare tracks, and I’m really into that. I tried to write a song like ‘I Really Love You’ by The Tomangoes and couldn’t get it right. I scrapped the whole thing. But there’s definitely a bit in there, I wanted to keep it as soulful as possible. Bit of heart, bit of soul. You don’t want to just be singing about crap, do you?”
Just writing about crap, Harry readily admits, is something that he wanted to avoid as much as possible. “I’d given it the massive one about how I was going to learn to write songs properly,” he laughs. “So I thought, oh fuck, I’m actually going to have to do this. I wanted to, though, I really wanted to. I think this is probably something that every songwriter goes through privately, or doesn’t particularly feel like they should boast about, but it felt pretty good. I focused a little bit more. It’s what my school teachers used to say, ‘you do the minimum to get by’. My Mum sent me my school report the other day, for music, and it said that I wasn’t trying hard enough, I wasn’t taking part in the singing with all the other students. Ironic really.”
Peace might’ve captured the essence of magic milk from their live show, but this album, they explain, is more experimental than the debut, from a studio perspective. “We’re always going to be a band orientated towards the live shows,” says Harry, “but there’s more experiment.” Dom agrees. “I think since the first [album] we’ve become slightly more educated with our instruments, how we want them to sound, the interesting things we can do with that, in a studio. I didn’t know anything about that the first time around.” They have also, they add, become better at navigating the industry. “We’re aware of the logistical side of it now, the label politics and how the industry works, not being as naïve,” says Harry. “It’s showbiz, I fucking hate that shit. Fucking twats. There’s just this front on everything... total sugar-coated bullshit. Smoke and mirrors, mate!”
Is that what the first single from this second record, ‘Money’, is about, then? “Not really” says Harry, perhaps slightly unconvincingly. “I don’t think there’s any sort of bitter stuff on the record. We’ve reserved those thoughts for ourselves. Indulgence. It’s the only thing I have left, being grumpy by myself”. Dom takes one look at the huge amounts of dry ice billowing across the room from the band’s photo shoot and laughs. “Plenty of smoke,” he observes, “but not enough mirrors. There’s only one. Smoke and mirror.”
Although Peace are quick to point out that they can only speak for themselves, and not other bands, there’s no denying that a large factor in their success was the fact that they were part of a scene; notoriously dubbed B-town, and revolving around a group of bands who all knew one another, playing gigs in Birmingham. Call it marketing spiel, or something real that is happening, but it provided a catalyst for the explosion of British talent that’s since come to pass.
“Just shut up and be enthusiastic about stuff, be fucking positive!”
— Harry Koisser
“[B-town] probably did exist, it probably does exist actually,” says Harry. “To deny that is such a fucked thing to do. There was a group of bands that all shared an extended fanbase, all playing in the same places, similar social circles. Sure, it was a joke, me and Cav [from Swim Deep] were saying, as a word, and I’m sure it pissed off old people from Birmingham. It’s pretty fucked to be embarrassed about it, though, what’s the problem? Everyone gets all pissy.”
“I don’t understand,” he adds, “there’s something in the water in the Midlands that makes people be really self-deprecating sometimes. It’s like, just shut up and be enthusiastic about stuff, be fucking positive! People don’t like scenes in the Midlands, I don’t know why. I never got why people who I see complaining about the lack of attention to Birmingham in the music press before, as soon as we were doing well, they were just like, fuck that. You know, what are you on about? ‘This B-town scene? Having none of this!’
“We kind of helped it happen, by getting signed and being rad,” sniggers Harry, “but we went on tour as soon as we got signed, and that was the point when that whole thing was invented. Never got to sort of go round Birmingham being like, we own this town.” “It’s good for what it’s done,” reasons Doug. “Getting people to go to shows in Birmingham was always quite difficult, and now everyone’s interested in bands, and starting up bands. It’s got people enthusiastic.”
Doug has a point. In an industry that is quick to point out the rising levels of illegal downloading, the difficulties breaking-even touring, and the financial prospects of music – all very real issues - Peace prompt queues of young fans lined up round the block to get into their free shows, crazed scenes of crowds being held back by human security barriers; “well-dressed and slightly out of place fans,” laughs Dom. You can detect excitement around their music. It makes those hazy memories of sneaking into venues to see your favourite bands as a teenager seem just five minutes ago, too; anxiously waiting for your mum to stop using the landline so that dial-up, and Myspace, would work. This energy surrounding Peace especially seems to come from younger fans, and it’s something that the band feels a responsibility towards. “It is cool,” says Harry. “I feel like I want to step up and be a really good band for people of that age to get into, and really give something back.”
Taken from the June issue of DIY, out now.
As featured in the June 2014 (Cover 2 of 3) issue of DIY, out now. Scroll down to get your copy.
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