Three-quarters of Peace surprisingly not hungover from the previous night’s NME awards are huddled in the booth of a Wetherspoons. The friendly and chatty drummer Dom Boyce begins to tell me of an encounter with Jimmy Page at the awards, ‘I held a door open for him and said after you Mr Jimmy Page, it was a very surreal moment.’ The seemingly insouciant Harry Koisser looks up from his phone and leaps into the conversation, ‘yeah! He winked at me and I was like…woah!’ The band have recently been slipping a cover of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Since I’ve Been Loving You’ into their set-list, most bands would quiver at the thought of covering anything by the rock giants, however they do it with impressive sass and confidence.
This, in many ways shows where Peace are at as a band right now, their psychedelic heinous exterior might feign them prone to chaos and craziness; but they are screwed-on, eager to grow, capable of broader sonic landscapes and are so much more than just a Brummie indie band. Not many people can simultaneously pull of Jimmy Page’s licks and Robert Plant’s howl…
Peace’s debut album ‘In Love’ was released back in 2013 which solidified them as the UK’s ‘indie-darlings.’ Second album ‘Happy People’ reached No. 12 in the album charts on its first week and recent single ‘I’m A Girl’ has received significant radio airplay, their knack for melody and pop mentality is beginning to seep into the masses.
The album feels as if it has been a long time coming since first single ‘Money’ dropped in June 2014, but this seems to be down to their hands-on attitude with posting music online. ‘We put ‘Money’ out as soon as it was done and I sent ‘World Pleasure’ out to a few DJs.‘ Boyce explains, ‘we’re not very good at waiting around, I don’t really buy into the secrecy of band’s music, you should share it with your fans and people who want to hear you.’ Koisser continues, ‘I’m all about doing stuff now.’ The frontman is passionate, energetic and animated throughout the interview, he seems to perpetually bounce in the booth, whilst his bass-wizard brother Sam remains mostly quiet.
There is a clear sense of urgency surrounding their mentality as a whole, bands generally aim for the gap between their debut albums and its follow-up to be as short as possible, as a means to be remembered. ‘It’s the way the industry moves now, you have a choice of doing it as fast as you can or you’re going to have to take some serious time off. It’s not the way it used to be, you can’t float around on an album for a few years, it’s about keeping up with the times.’ The speed and forgettable nature of our society could leave indie and alternative bands in the dust, Harry however appears to be continually writing to keep up, ‘it’s about working hard as well!’
‘It takes five minutes to write a song. The hardest thing about songwriting is finding those five minutes to write, there’s nothing to make you do it so you’ve just got to do it. I’ve found some of the people I looked up to are so complacent and lazy having met them. Don’t go on a fucking gap year and see if you can write something new, that’s just procrastination – you just sit down and write a song, if it’s shit then write another one, nobody comes out with 100% good material all the time.’
The group have an admirable work-ethic which clearly pays off, all of the songs on ‘Happy People’ took five minutes to write according to the frontman apart from ‘I’m A Girl’. ‘I went back and changed the chorus to make it more direct, the first version of that seemed as though it was hiding behind its own complexity.’
“The drumbeat from ‘Five Years’ needed to be on a track”
The group have a collaborative approach when it comes to writing, the songs begin life as two-minute demos recorded by Harry at home until they are bought to the rest of the band to be fleshed out. ‘It’s worked its way out like that, when we first started we’d all go in a room and play around which turned out to be a long process. It took us a year to get ‘Bloodshake’ together but now I can start it in my own time, whether it’s at my flat in London or in a hotel room. The songs come together later in the studio.’ Koisser is clearly the leader but naturally collaborative on a musical level with the rest of the band, however he takes an isolated approach when it comes to the lyrics, ‘I have to do the word bit by myself, I’ve never understood the concept of a writing duo, the songs need to be honest to one person in my opinion.’
Koisser has had a complete shift in his approach to lyrics on ‘Happy People’, whilst debut album ‘In Love’ was full of doe-eyed youthful romanticisms such as on ‘California Daze’ (‘She tastes like sunlight and she’s always gonna be there at the back of your mind/ Is it time to realise were you born to live or born to die?’) ‘Happy People’ on the other hand feeds off of anything but. ‘I didn’t know it at the time, but ‘In Love’ was just totally honest, it was about going out and getting wasted, falling in love with girls that you never see again. All the early stuff like ‘Follow Baby’ and ‘Bloodshake’ were written when I was off my face, when you wake up the next morning you can’t make sense of it but it sounds pretty cool, and it must of meant something at some point. Honesty is what I bought forward to this one.’
Koisser’s subconscious writing strategy is certainly reflected on LP2. Being 21, I can relate to the band who are all between 23 and 25, it’s about these ages when people start to wake up and see the world for what it really is. The album deals with problems in society from body image on ‘Perfect Skin’ (‘I wish I had perfect skin/ I wish I was tall and thin’) to our technology obsessed habits on the title track (‘I’m a bad computer/ slow to load/ I disconnected from you when I learnt to love’) The album deals with big topics which is reflected in the grandiose sound; strings, grooves and massive riffs are littered throughout. I compare the chorus on the title track to arena-rock maestros U2 and Coldplay, Harry agrees, ‘yeah, I was going to sing the backing vocals full on but it would have sounded really Bono, we added a falsetto which softens it, it’s quite confusing to listen to.’
I ask them about their musical influences on this record, the 60s psychedelic band Silver Apples informed songs like ‘Higher Than The Sun’ on ‘In Love,’ but I wondered if this process was repeated on ‘Happy People.’ ‘I had been listening to a lot of Bowie’s ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust,’ I remember thinking that the drum beat on ‘Five Years’ just needs to be on a track which is why we put it on ‘Under The Moon.’’ The band are not fearful of showing their influences which they wear on their sleeve, you only have to look at ‘Waste of Paint’ to hear the echoes of blur’s ‘There’s No Other Way.’ ‘A drumbeat is harmless, it’s passing it on to whoever listens to it and that’s beautiful. This is what Jimmy Page was talking about last night – it’s how it’s been since the beginning of popular music, as long as it’s part of the cocktail to a song and not plain copying.’
All of Peace’s output so far has been produced by Jim Abbiss, who has captained the sonic direction of Arctic Monkeys, Bombay Bicycle Club and Adele before them. Peace has nothing but praise for his work. ‘He’s one of the last great record producers. He’s challenging, if he thinks something is shit then it’s not going on the record, he is in total control but gets you to do the best that you can do. He has a really good filter for shit and whether his records go on to sell millions or not, it is always fucking quality. If a band doesn’t work with him, he walks away. It’s happened with so many bands but he’s great Jim!’
“We want to play every venue in the world by the year 2021″
You only have to listen to the closing minutes of ‘World Pleasure’ to see they’re aiming big this time, it’s brimming with strings, brass and spidery bass-lines. With a year of touring ahead including their biggest headline set at London’s Brixton Academy I wonder whether the big rooms are a goal for them, ‘yeah eventually.’ Boyce thinks about this for a second, ‘every song we’ve done works in a sweaty club vibe, however there’s none which couldn’t work in a massive venue.’ Harry interjects, ‘We want to play in every room in the world by the year 2021!’ and goes on to tell me about a new phrase he coined ‘VITSOL.’ ‘It stands for variety is the spice of life, it’s gonna be the new YOLO.’
I recall the moment seeing them back at Glastonbury 2013 which started with Harry running to the front of the stage, clad in white dungarees whilst holding a sword aloft. ‘I was supposed to be wheeled out on top of a grand piano with the sword but they couldn’t get the rollers on.’ It is precisely this attitude which displays their grandiosity and aims to create a spectacle. The band haven’t yet played songs like the string-section heavy ‘O You’ live so will they ever bring out the full orchestra?
‘If we headline the pyramid stage we’ll do it. I’m thinking about this at the moment actually because we were talking about bringing the strings to Brixton, but do you wanna blow your load that soon? I don’t know but I’m leaning more towards waiting. If Michael Eavis rings up asking for a favour then wouldn’t it be great if the first time is with a 24-piece orchestra. You could blow people’s minds.’
With summer festival line-ups beginning to emerge I ask them about the big one, ‘I’m not sure if we’re supposed to say but we’re playing Glastonbury,’ Boyce reveals. They are widely regarded as a ‘festival band.’ ‘I never really knew how to take that before, but when you sit down and think about it, it means you work playing to more people than your audience at the moment, you provide the soundtrack to people having the time of their life, I feel special when people say that.’
‘I love Glastonbury,’ Boyce smirks but Harry ponders, ‘I get the fear whenever I’m there.’ But not the nervous ‘fear’ you may first think, he begins to reel off a ‘bad experience’ he had there before Peace (involving a group of hippies at stone circle, a can of spaghetti hoops and a Peugeot 206). What makes them so compelling is the fact that all of the band’s goals and future aspirations are delivered with pure conviction; they are full of passion, confidence and drive. The word ‘if’ never falls into our conversation, it’s a matter of ‘when’. They believe in their band and so should we.
If ‘Happy People’ was a cocktail what would be the four main ingredients?
(Peace and Moonshake will not be responsible for any consequences of ‘The Hammer’)
If Led Zeppelin and David Bowie rang you on the same night offering to support you at Brixton Academy, but you could only choose one, who would you go for?
What’s your favourite song on ‘Happy People’?
Peace’s ‘Happy People’ is out now on Columbia Records.
You can also listen to this interview’s accompanying playlist featuring songs by Peace and their influences.