In conversation with Peach Pit

Sophie Fennelly speaks to their indie band before their recent gig in Leeds

Known for their indie hits such as ‘Alrighty Aphrodite’ and ‘Shampoo Bottles’, the Vancouver band Peach Pit are currently on tour for their third album From 2 to 3, their first European since their one in 2018 for the album Being So Normal. I sat down with lead singer Neil Smith before the band’s Leeds gig last Saturday.


With almost 3 million monthly listeners on Spotify, the band’s fanbase has grown exponentially over the pandemic. When I asked Smith what it is like touring now, in comparison to before, he explained to me:


‘It’s just really exciting for us because we get to travel all over the world know and play these you know thousand person gigs and people know our songs.’


Having been robbed of the chance to tour their second album, You and Your Friends which was released in early April 2020, due to the pandemic, the band have a wealth of new material to play on this tour, which made picking what to play on tour a real task. I asked how Smith and the band went about creating the setlist for the tour:


‘It’s been funny because we went from having like a four-song EP and a nine-song record as our entire repertoire, to now having three records and an EP that we’re touring. It’s been cool though because it’s meant that we just get to choose the most popular songs that people like and that’s kind of what we’ve been doing. It’s especially cool playing all this new material that we’ve never played before from the past two records and coming out and playing them for the first time and everyone knowing most of the words already.’


Having met in high school, the band have been together for almost a decade now, with Smith describing their current success to me as the realisation of ‘my dream ever since I was a little kid’. I asked Smith about the experience of realising their dreams as a group:


‘Chris and Mikey and Peter and I, we’re all best friends, so when we get to go on tour that’s one of the other things that’s so great is that we get to hang out all the time, we’re really just in it together, we’re all working towards something. During the pandemic you know we were working on music and stuff, but you know as we’ve gotten older, we don’t all live together in a house like we used to, everyone’s off with their partners and things. As you get older, everyone experiences this, you all start to not drift apart but your lives are not so intertwined as they used to be so it’s really nice for us when we get to be on tour and we’re just in it every single day hanging out and just have tonnes of laughs and stuff.’


From 2 to 3 is an unusual record for Peach Pit, both because it was written during the pandemic and also because it is very different to the band’s first two albums:


‘Most of the songs start out with just me writing a song on my acoustic guitar at home in my living room so that kind of stayed the same and I guess the only difference was we just had to send stuff virtually back and forth to each other. It was great actually, working on a record during the pandemic was great it kept us having something to do to keep us busy.

In fact, Smith was very positive about his experiences creating music in the pandemic regardless of the obstacles to the band’s usual ways of writing:


‘It actually showed us there are many different ways that you can work on music you don’t necessarily have to be in the same room as someone. I mean we recorded From 2 to 3 with this producer named Robbie Lackritz: he lives in Toronto, and he stayed in Toronto while we were in Vancouver. He was on a zoom call with us in his home studio and we were in the studio with an engineer. We played a show in Toronto a couple of weeks back when we were in North America and um we met Robbie for the first time we never met him but I know him super well and we’ve just been talking through facetime.’


Smith says the band’s experience of writing and producing a record during the pandemic has opened up opportunities because: ‘It showed us that hey if you’re a band and you live in Vancouver and you wanna record with a producer who lives over in London they don’t have to come to Vancouver to record with you, you can work with them virtually which is really sweet.’

When I asked about the inspiration for the album, Smith told me:


‘We really want to keep pushing ourselves to make records that don’t sound the same as the record before. With this one we really wanted to focus on trying to make it sound like a live record so we recorded the whole album live just us in the room all set up, we didn’t play to a click track so there’s no like metronome keeping us on beat the whole time it allowed us to speed up in places like it felt like we should speed up and slowdown in places where it needed to be slower so that was really cool. Production-wise we didn’t want to use lots of vocal effects and guitar effects like we did on You and Your Friends which has a lot of that in this one we wanted to sound a bit more natural, a bit more vintage sounding and I guess we were just inspired by lots of oldies music and we just wanted to make a record that kind of took inspiration from those guys.’


When I asked Smith about his own writing process he confesses to having an addictive personality where he listens to the band’s music over and over again, trying to perfect it, even to the point where with From 2 to 3 ‘we had it finished last year sometime and before it actually comes out I listen to the record over and over and over and over again to the point that like I completely hate it and think it’s completely shit before we release it and then you release it and everyone’s like woo we like it and we’re like okay thank god it’s not total shit’


In light of From 2 to 3’s success, I asked Smith about the band’s plans for the immediate future:


‘I don’t know if there’s an immediate destination but after being on this tour and just seeing the kind of reception that we’ve been getting at shows and just how great it’s really been it’s just kind of really given me a lot of inspiration or energy to want to work on music super super hard this summer when we get home from tour. I just wanna make as many records as we can, who knows how long our music career is going to be able to last for so while things are going well for us I just really wanna make lots of music so goals for the future is to write another record this summer and basically put out another record as soon as we can.’


Given that From 2 to 3 is very sonically different from the band’s previous albums, I asked Smith what direction they’ll be heading in next:


‘I don’t really know what the record’s gonna sound like. I wanna kind of join the two kind of styles that we’ve developed over the years, I wanna have like the grittier lofi sounds that we have on Being So Normal, and then the more like smooth hifi stuff we have on From 2 to 3 and I kind of wanna bring them together so that’s kind of our goals for the future. Maybe a mix within the songs maybe we’re gonna have some super chill songs and then some super heavily distorted tunes on the next record. From 2 to 3 has a lot of very chilled out tunes and I’d like to write some more rock because it’s fun to play the rock songs at the concert. Who knows though?’


In terms of pre/post show rituals Smith said: ‘Since we’ve been in the UK every single night we get back to the hotel at probably like you know midnight, half past 12 or something like that, and naked attraction is on TV and we don’t have that show in America and it’s just like the most hilarious thing to us that this is a thing that you have on television so we have been smoking some weed and watching naked attraction and just laughing our assess off because it’s the weirdest show I’ve ever seen.’


Despite admitting to ruining his own music for himself by overplaying it, and the fact that some of it inevitably feels outdated for him given how long the band have been together, Smith told me that touring helps them reconnect with their own music:


‘We had a song off our first EP called seventeen and collectively I’d say it’s probably everyone’s least favourite song now just because you know we’re not 18 years old anymore. Now we’re like 29, singing about being 17 just kind of feels weird, but then when we get to play it at the shows and there are lots of teenagers at our shows who are stoked about that tune because they’re 17. It makes me like the song again even though I would never listen to it personally, but I’m happy that like people are getting enjoyment out of it so yeah it definitely brings it back to life for us.’


The band’s love for touring was evident at the gig that evening. Despite people being packed into the pit of stylus like sardines, the crowd still managed for almost every song, even those that Smith himself claimed it would be ‘impossible to mosh to.’ From Smith and lead guitarist Christopher Vanderkooy both crowd surfing, to Vanderkooy even running into the pit to mosh with the audience at the end of the show, it was clear that Peach Pit truly thrive off of the tour atmosphere, a testament to what Smith told me himself: ‘Our main objective to put on a really good show, have people come out and just have a good night and enjoy listening to music with their friends. That’s all we really want.’

 

Words and photography: Sophie Fennelly

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