It’s late 2010, the very first issue of DIY is in the works, and a Birmingham band decided to change their name to Peace. It used to be November and the Criminal. Fair play, lads - you made a smart move there.
So Peace have been around as long as DIY has (50 issues tops two albums, but it’s rude to compare). Five years on, the band haven’t shaken free of their addiction to hoarding suitcases full of jackets just yet - that particular obsession is still going strong. They have, however, released two records since - ‘In Love’ and ‘Happy People’ - and conquered the gigantic main stage of Reading & Leeds festival. No biggy, or anything like that.
We caught up with frontman Harry Koisser as they enter the next phase of their career (which they’re keeping extra schtum about). Along the way he managed to shoehorn Coldplay, Wayne’s World 2 quotes, and denim-related regrets into the same interview. Fair play.
What’s the best thing about being in Peace?
It seems like a very vivid dream. It feels like no matter how many times we described it ten years ago, no one would ever say ‘yeah, I reckon that’ll happen.’
What made you want to start THIS band?
When we started out I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be a techno DJ or not. I’m kind of glad that I didn’t do it. I do like techno, but not as much as I like all those other things that we’ve done. We’ve always wanted to be a really good band. The best band ever? I think that’s what we’ve always wanted to be. It’s good that we’ve taken the necessary steps to make that happen. We were in bands together for a long time, since we were in college. We were always in bands that were trying to be like other bands. When we were 16 we wanted to be The Libertines, and then when we were 17 we wanted to be like Explosions In The Sky or Mogwai or something. Then suddenly there was this gap. The band we wanted to be didn’t exist, so we thought ‘we’ll be it’. There were a lot of times when I was like ‘I can’t believe there’s not a band called Peace, it’s such a good band name.’
Then we realised that could be us. We wanted to focus on songs a bit more, so we thought, ‘let’s just do it’. It was a natural progression. We were always musical, it was more taking ourselves seriously. Which we tried to do – tried and failed - for many years.
What has it been like being at the centre of a musical movement - B-town?
It was kind of a shame for us. We were the first band to get signed, or recognised, really. Let’s put it like that. By the time it was really kicking off, we were on tour for the whole thing. At the time people were asking us ‘what’s it like, this scene in Birmingham, where everyone’s always hanging out, and there are all these shows, and kids are always excited?’ And we were in, say, Singapore. We were on tour for the whole time. The big Christmas show in Birmingham [where Peace played with Swim Deep, Jaws, Superfood (then called Junnk), Wide Eyed and Heavy Waves at The Rainbow] was the one night that we really got in the middle of it.
I don’t really know any of the scenes or movements that have been before us, but it was mega exciting. There were six months or something where that’s what everyone was talking about. It was when we were away recording our first album in the countryside. Our manager was sending us magazines with all these features on it all. We thought it was amazing, we were in the middle of this actual significant thing. But actually we weren’t, we were in the middle of nowhere, just the four of us. It was strange. It was a double edged sword, the whole vibe.
It’s scary when I think back about how long it’s been going on. It feels very fast, especially when you go back and visit the places where it all happened. It seems like it was a couple of weeks ago. It’s weird how you look in the mirror and suddenly you’re five years older, and you’ve done a load of stuff. That gets me. It’s been very fun. We’re all best mates. Four really good friends from when we were younger, all just having a good time, and trying to make the best music that we can on the way. It’s been very… I can’t think of the right word. I don’t want to just say good. Can you put in a better word than good? [How about stupendous? - Ed]
If you could relive any day from the past five years again, what would it be and why?
When we did Jools Holland on the first album. I can remember thinking on the day, ‘should I wear blue jeans or not wear blue jeans?’ And I went for blue jeans. For the rest of my days afterwards I’ve thought ‘why was I wearing those blue jeans?’ I’d go back and relive that, and put on something perhaps a bit darker. I would probably go for black jeans if I could go back.
"When we started out I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be a techno DJ or not. I’m kind of glad that I didn’t do it."
— Harry Koisser
If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you started out, what would it be?
Fuck the system, that’s what I’m saying.
What does a new band need in order to ‘make it’?
I think what I’ve learned recently, is firstly, have a vision of what it is you want to be, and then completely stick to it. Don’t let anything else change what the original intention of the band is going to be. Don’t spend two years trying things out, because you’ll probably end up just coming right the way back around, then fulfilling it. You can save yourself a lot of time and effort. Work out what it is you want to do, and do it. If the idea’s right, the idea’s right. People will dig it.
Which new acts are the most exciting, and why?
I quite like Sundara Karma. They seem quite exciting, and to be exciting a lot of people, too. I haven’t been able to go to one of their shows, but I like what they’re doing. I’m massively into Yak. They’re just so exciting. They’re loud and they’re good and they’re super talented. They’ve got a wildness and an unpredictableness that’s completely genuine, that I don’t see much from new music. I don’t know if that’s just because I know them on such an intimate level. Sometimes you might assume that when you see bands being all ‘RAR, WE’RE ALL OVER THE PLACE’ that it’s false. With Yak that’s exactly what you get. What you see of them is exactly what they are. In fact, they’re more Yak than you think they are. That’s really exciting, for something so painfully genuine to be out there and doing well, and getting people excited
How do you think the Internet has revolutionised how bands get recognition?
There’s multiple streaming services established now. It’s like ‘oh, hold on, do I cancel my Tidal subscription and go back to Apple Music? Or am I going to stay true to Spotify?’ I think that now streaming’s actually A Thing, it’s quite exciting that there are actually multiple services that can compete. I think in the next few years it will be interesting to see how this plays out. It’s not really a monopoly, it’s not like you either stream or you don’t. Now it’s more like, what are the companies going to do to benefit the consumer, and to benefit the artists? It’s probably going to be beneficial for everyone involved. Everyone knows about the rubbish royalty rates that you get for your music streaming. Is this going to drive up the royalty rate or down? What’s going to happen? I don’t know.
"I don’t know how much Coldplay listened to our second record when they were recording, but I’ve heard that it was quite a lot. It’s nice to have helped out."
— Harry Koisser
How important do you think it is for bands to support one another?
It’s great when there are loads of bands that are all into each other, and supporting each other. That’s how great things happen. I guess the simplest thing would be that you just kind of make it all by yourself, but it’s the community aspect that is very important, I think. It’s kind of like there’s an energy. I read something on Instagram the other day that sums it up perfectly: ‘in religion they call it spirit, in science they call it energy, on the street they call it vibes - whatever it is, just go with it’. I think we had that, whatever that is. When it’s between a load of bands it’s really exciting for the people in the bands and for the people who are into the bands. It’s good. I’m all about it.
How does a new crop of headliners come through?
I don’t particularly know the answer. Obviously, we want to be that festival headlining band, so we’re trying to get to that point. I guess in the end it’s always stuff that can grab people emotionally, and keep them stimulated in as many ways as possible that’s going to grab the biggest audience. I think quality always prevails. But I think now maybe it takes a bit longer for the artists who are going to be those headliners to get to that place. Look at Foals, who in my eyes are the most recent festival headline band out there. To get to that level it’s taken them… I probably wasn’t even born when they started [Erm, not sure about that one, Harry mate - Ed]. I don’t even know how old Yannis is. They got there in the end. There have been a lot of bands who have been at it a long time, so maybe it’s just a case of them coming around every year. You don’t want to rush that one. Just see what happens.
When the headliners are needed, "book them and they will come". Is that the line from Wayne’s World? [Close enough, Wayne's World 2 - Ed] I don’t know. I’m not really sure about the point that I’m getting at there. I’m not really sure that there is a point there. Something about Foals.
Which acts will headline festivals in five years’ time?
Us? I’m not sure really. I can’t even think of one. Let me ask someone else. We’ve actually been discussing this yesterday. We’ve got a board with some notes written on.
Dom: Royal Blood.
Harry: What about Tame Impala?
Dom: They’re already there. They don’t need five years.
Harry: ELO? I just don’t see that much headline material on this board.
Sam: Wolf Alice.
Harry: I can definitely see The 1975 doing it. I’m not sure what festival that would be, but I think the way that they’re growing, and the quality of what they’re putting out definitely indicates that they’ll be doing some headline stuff in the next few years. I can really see that.
How would you say the music scene has evolved in the last five years?
I think pop culture’s learnt to embrace its weirdness. I think we’re at a time now where everyone’s really embracing their oddities, which I like. If we had anything to do with that, that’s good. I don’t know how much Coldplay listened to our second record when they were recording, but I’ve heard that it was quite a lot. It’s nice to have helped out.
" I think everyone should appreciate all types of music output consumption devices. Or whatever they’re called."
— Harry Koisser
Are streaming services the norm, or do you think we’ll be listening to music in a very different way in five years?
I reckon it probably won’t be too dissimilar to now. In an ideal situation, people will collect vinyl, and study the artwork, and use that, almost like a hobby. Practically, listening to music will probably be streamed on devices. But I’m not sure. I want everyone to have everything. I want a CD collection because CDs are fun and cool and new. And you can have a big vinyl collection that you show off to your mates because it’s cool. Whip out a record and flip it on on a Sunday or whatever. Then walking down the street plug in, done. I’ve got some mp3s on my phone for when I’m on the tube. I’ve got some streaming services for whatever. Radio in the Uber. It’s all good. I think everyone should appreciate all types of music output consumption devices. Or whatever they’re called.
Outside of bands, what’s the most exciting thing happening in music right now?
The first thing I was drawn to was this piece of equipment that I’ve recently bought, but I feel like that’s a shit answer. It’s a guitar effects pedal that turns your guitar into any number of keyboard sounds. You can do steel drums on it. The mixture of the sound of an electric guitar and a steel drum is so unbearably gorgeous. It’s not like one or the other, it’s like a blend of the two. There’s lots of that on what we’re doing at the moment. It sounds great. Oh shit, I’m not allowed to talk about that. At all!
Oh come on, Harry! Give us a bit of gossip! What’s next for Peace?
They’ll chop off my hands if I say what we’re doing at the moment. Probably because we’re… No. I’ve been sworn to secrecy. But we’re busy. All of us really want to do album three, and make it The Album That Makes It All Make Sense. For once.
We’ve been taking this path that’s been winding all over the place. We’ve been going down off-streets, and trying different things – which I think is the only way that we could ever sustain a career. I don’t think we were ever a band that was going to go ‘let’s just do one thing, and do it.’ I don’t think any of us are that good at planning, or have the necessary marketing skills to work out how to do that. But now it’s suddenly all started to make sense to us. Now we’ve got to somehow translate that into a body of work that represents what we’re doing right now. That’s kind of what we’re doing at the moment. Between the four of us, it just all suddenly makes sense. Now we’ve just got to get that on record whilst we still remember what it is. We’re trying to act as fast as we can on that.
Saying that, we’re not acting as fast as we can. We’re not rushing it. We’ve got to do the album that defines Peace rather than explains it. I think we’ve been doing a lot of explanation, now it’s time to just do it. I like the idea that we could release a record, then you could listen to the two before and hear all the ingredients. Kind of like leaving all the evidence behind you. But you know what? I’ve been totally banned from talking about anything to do with this. My manager was like ‘Don't even mention it! Just don't talk about the band!". I can’t keep my mouth closed. But that’s what’s on the horizon. We’re doing something good. You’ve got to look up good! Find a better word for good. [How about splendid? - Ed]
Taken from DIY’s 50th issue special, out now. Subscribe to DIY below