Ciaran Willis talks to Worchester rockers Peace on dealing with hype and hard Midlanders.
For my first ever interview I ventured to the Anson Rooms in Bristol’s Student Union, where I met two members of Peace – frontman Harrison Koisser and drummer Douglas Castle. Though nervous and (gasp) sober, I was put at ease by their friendly manner and after half an hour we had covered all the big questions: what Douglas thought of Call of Duty, what Jake Bugg thought of Harrison’s trousers and their favourite Christmas song.
After a hectic year of tours, supporting their debut album In Love – including gigs in Australia, America and Japan – surprisingly “it was the first time coming back that was the best feeling”. The other highlight was their end of year British tour where I caught their penultimate gig. Interestingly they felt more pressure playing for a thousand people in Manchester or Nottingham than ten thousand at a festival. Ostensibly, as Douglas said, because it was a ‘Peace show’ and people were paying principally to see them.
Yet the tour “couldn’t get any better” – and where their previous highest audience was a one-off gig for a thousand people, on this tour that was a normal show, with their hometown Birmingham gig reaching three thousand.
For those of you that haven’t heard Peace before, they sound like The Cure and Suede distilled through The Stone Roses, early Blur and Nirvana – an amalgam of numerous indie bands. Reviewers have continually defined them by other bands and I asked if this bothered them. Harrison said, “I think that’s happened with every band ever… and if you make good records people will compare other people to you”; a fair point, though writing lyrics like “we’re gonna live forever” can occasionally seem less like pastiche and more a lack of inventiveness.
But Peace don’t seem too perturbed by the nit-picking of reviewers, like Alexis Petridis of The Guardian, who they compared to the “boy at school who calls you out over the slightest thing wrong”, with his esoteric references. At the time of their record release Harry “had just turned twenty one and was enjoying being in a band and playing music,” regardless of what critics had to say.
Peace seem like genuine guys happy to talk to anybody. On the tour bus they “play alarmingly little collective music except some northern soul”. Rather for recreation they “prefer stirring up a conversation with their new touring staff letting them tell stories” – they like a “good old chinwag”. They have a games console, but Doug played five minutes of Call of Duty and was disturbed that “within five minutes with no backstory I watched a man burn to death”.
The best moments of the interview are the most candid ones. Harry tells me how the album is sadder than people think, and that ‘Lovesick’, a Cure-esque bubble gum pop song, is “probably the saddest song I’ve ever written”. While there are plenty of light hearted moments; Jake Bugg (completely dressed in trackies) at a Beatles tribute band concert in Japan was bemused by Harry’s baggy paisley trousers and told him that “I just don’t get your trousers.” Harry replied, “Well I like them, just don’t worry about it Jake.” By the end of the interview Harry was breaking into ‘it’s Christmas’ with his best Slade impression; Slade and Wizzard being Peace’s favourite Christmas songs.
Peace have a good repertoire of catchy songs and an incredibly young audience (I was one of the oldest there – obviously long past it) in thrall, simultaneously bouncing and singing along. Highlights were the breezy and beautiful ‘California Daze’, the funkiness of ‘Wraith’ and the joyous pop of ‘Toxic’. However, the band’s charisma didn’t quite come across on stage and their performance felt a little flat. But – as they told me – Peace have already recorded four new songs at Sarm Studios in London and 2014 should see another piece of Peace. I wish them well for the New Year.
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