Depending on what generation you’re from, it’s really hard to nail down a band like PEACE. They were definitely darlings of the early 2010s indie scene within the UK, shaking things up with rough versions of Follow Baby and California Daze when they dropped on Soundcloud in late 2012. They’ve come a long way since then, with their live show and early releases such as EP Delicious and debut full-length effort In Love (both 2012) proving they’re not just one trick ponies but truly a force to be reckoned with. However, by the release of Happy People in 2015, some of their listeners appeared to have lost interest, perhaps matured, and Peace either kept their hardcore fans or gained a new, younger generation of keen indie pop heads.
After that, they went off the grid, relocating from London’s busy metropolis to a National Trust farmhouse in Herefordshire, to rebuild their sound and come back fighting. Since 2015, lead singer Harry Koisser has also openly discussed his new sober lifestyle of yoga and putting wellbeing first, which chimes with the band’s new image on third LP Kindness Is The New Rock And Roll. In a recent Twitter post they stated a new mantra that’s behind this – “Get rejuvenated for the renewal, regenerated for the resurrection and reincarnated for the revival”. They certainly seem like they’re fully revived and rejuvenated and have set their sights on higher, more altruistic goals, with emotive single From Under Liquid Glass, which supports the mental health charity MQ. A powerful statement from Koisser came with this, acknowledging that “although this song is deeply personal, it’s really for everyone as most have had, come into contact, or will have some degree of mental health issue in their lives.”
Despite their evolved image, singles such as Power and You Don’t Walk Away From Love with their familiar guitar lines and catchy choruses will appease any Peace fan, old or new. Peace are back, bigger than ever, playing with indie giants The Courteeners and headlining plenty of festivals this year. Their headline turn at Sound City this year comes just a couple of days after Kindness Is… is released, where they’ll find how their traditionally boisterous Scouse fan base reacts to their maturing. Georgia Turnbull spoke to frontman Harry Koisser about this newly invigorated Peace, the thought process behind their new image and the songs on Kindness Is…, and why discussing issues on social media is a crucial responsibility for bands today.
“New management, new record label, new outlook, new tunes, new year” is the main message from Peace in 2018, with a mantra of personal rejuvenation running throughout your work. What sparked off this immense evolution and do you feel this new perspective and image sets you apart from other bands at the minute?
I think things can just get quite complicated in this business, all the wires can get quite tangled and the business can become more important than the music to some. So, we took some time off and, to be honest, it was writing the new songs that started the rejuvenation. Everything was so complex and moving in different directions and then we wrote a load of songs out of that process, in the countryside together. That set in motion the changes, it demanded certain changes to be made and for us to take certain things more seriously. Maybe it does set us aside from other bands, I don’t see many things evolving. I think people are starting to move forward, and using their power for good. I always go to the movie A Bug’s Life – it takes one ant to stand up to the grasshoppers, and then when one ant realises and says something, others begin to realise and follow suit. But maybe it’s good we’re pushing this direction of good music, and doing good things.
You also went off to record in a Herefordshire cottage away from civilisation for your new album. Where did the idea of moving out of London into a rural area come from?
Really, like I said earlier about everything getting complicated, the idea was we wanted to get out of London. We’d all been there for quite a while, and there’s lots of distractions, traffic and woe that we wanted to avoid, so we got out of there for six months. It was this idea of just getting out of that environment, and that someone told me the guy from Snow Patrol used to go write in the country [laughs]. I mean, you can’t argue with that.
The new album was produced in the mountains of Woodstock with Simone Felice, who has previously worked with The Lumineers and Bat For Lashes. What was that experience like?
Yeh, I mean it’s a very magical experience. Woodstock is one of the most obviously associated places with peace, because the hippies and the 1960s counter-culture. It’s such a powerful place, like the scale of the mountains, the mighty Hudson River, as they call it, and the pine forests. It’s amazing there, definitely inspirational in regards to unlocking something. You know when you’re looking at a fucking gigantic mountain range, and thinking ‘Wow, I want something to sound like that!’ or have that sort of emotional impact sonically, and channel something like that into the music. An environment like that opens everything up, and makes everything a lot louder somehow. It was great, I love it there.
From Under Liquid Glass was released late last year, with a very thought-provoking statement attached to it, and was a collaboration with charity MQ, who do amazing work regarding mental health research. How important would you say it is that musicians use the platform they have to discuss important issues within our society, and our own lives, such as mental health?
I think it is really important. Social media has done its thing, it’s here now and we know how it works. It’s arrived fully, and we know that that it’s a way of communicating ideas directly to fans and other artists, you really don’t have to go through too many layers of people and all that; instead, you can just directly communicate ideas to each other. And this direct communication is a really new idea, and now we’re adapting to that as artists. You’re not just talking about free shoes you got or something someone’s said that was funny. We can’t change the way the world is instantly by writing something on social media, but we can help things move in the right way by doing that, you know what I mean? If more artists take on the responsibility – once again like the ants from A Bug’s Life – once they all realise that there’s a lot of them and when they work together they’re really powerful, then maybe there can be progression and change in the world.
Power has a sound that will please any long-standing Peace fan. What were the influences for it?
I was playing on a loop pedal, Ed Sheeran-style, in the farmhouse. And I looped together, just on guitar that little intro, and I was just jamming. That’s why that song sounds really Peace-y, because it started from just jamming. The two guitar parts, the little riff, the sliding guitar part and the bassline fit together really nicely, but it was a lot slower when it was first written. I recorded a couple of minutes of this early demo and looped it on my phone, and I used to take the loops upstairs into my bedroom in the farmhouse and stay up all night listening to these repeating loops, writing vocal ideas over it.
I’d go for walks in the woods and down by the lakes, get inspiration and think about Jim Morrison and shit [laughs], write lyrics and sing stuff over it, so I just started singing the chorus over this really slow loop. And then we started jamming it as a band, which sped it up a lot, and we added some more chords, so it started to come together. It was still a bit all over the place, but then we met Simone [Felice] in London. We were listening to it and he was saying about unlocking more power out from the song, so we rehearsed it more. I wanted it to sound like a really powerful train, slamming it through the mountains. So that’s why we moved the chorus to the intro, so you get two seconds and then you’re kicked into it full speed.
Headlining Sound City this year as well as many other festivals, how does feel to be back and bigger than ever?
I guess nothing has actually set in motion yet. We’ve got all the plans, the posters, the announcements, but to be honest we haven’t done much yet. We’ve still got the record to be released, so there’s still that sort of anticipation. It’s not like we’ve been rewarded with the actual moment yet, something could still go wrong [laughs], but I’m just hoping it doesn’t. But it’s gonna be super fun, like the more we’re planning rehearsals now and promotional stuff towards the release, it’s getting more and more exciting. You know when it turns 1st December, and you’re like ‘Oh wait, it’s gonna happen in like 24 days!’. The first door of the advent calendar is gonna be opened shortly for Peace.
Peace perform at Camp and Furnace on Sunday 6th May.