PEANESS. Yes, you read it right, but don’t get carried away with dirty images. The name has a much more innocent meaning than you may think. Peaness are a self-proclaimed ‘pea-pop’ trio hailing from Chester, made up of Balla (guitar and vocals), Jess (bass and vocals) and Rach (drums), who specialise in a deliciously catchy vein of indie pop which bubbles along with a faintly punky, punchy growl. Huw Stephens is a fan, as is pretty much anyone who lays their eyes and ears on them. Peaness have a way of leaving a lasting impression.
I first heard the name Peaness at the Sound City+ music and digital conference, when, during the Musicians’ Union and Association of Independent Festivals panel, John Rostron of Sŵn Festival explained the reasoning behind the pea badge he was sporting. Not surprisingly, there were a few titters when he mentioned the band’s name, which all three members have grown accustomed to now. “I saw an image with the word ‘peaness’ and a bowl of peas on Tumblr and just thought it was funny,” Jess clears up. “It was a joke name when we started off, and it just stuck because we couldn’t think of anything better or worse. For us it’s just funny, but for others it’s not, which makes it even funnier.” “Some people have been offended by it, but it’s not like we’re called Cock ‘n’ Balls,” adds Balla.
The band originally met at University and eventually formed a band after they’d all finished in 2013. The original aim, Jess says, was to form a band that sounded like Sex Bob-Omb from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but “it kind of turned out less fuzz and more pop”. After a flurry of travelling, moving up and down the country separately, and struggling to find somewhere to practise, the band bagged their first gig two years later in July 2015, in Oxford for The Young Women’s Music Project 15th Anniversary. It’s not often your first ever show is an out of town do, never mind a celebratory one for a special cause, so there must undoubtedly have been some nerves? “It went really well,” says Rach of their debut outing. “We were all really nervous but everyone seemed to enjoy it so it spurred us on.”
Of course, everyone enjoyed it. In fact, it’s hard not to enjoy a set from Peaness, combining as they do the winsome indie of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart with the upbeat Britpop bounce of a Two Door Cinema Club. After watching their set at Sŵn in Cardiff 2015, Stephens’, the festival’s co-organiser, took a shine to them, mentioning them in NME and on his Radio 1 show soon after. Adam Walton of BBC Radio Wales has adopted the band too, giving them a spin on his show almost every week, with a bunch of online blogs also replicating this word-of-mouth popularity in featuring them. Sticking to the grassroots, Jess claims that the band are “very DIY, we don’t have any managers or booking agents, we just do it all ourselves.”
The most pleasing aspect about the band’s popular ascent has been how organic it’s been. Not all bands are chasing the dream of ‘making it’; and not all those that do chase it end up making it. “I can’t stand all the bullshit that supposedly comes with trying to get signed,” Jess says. “I’m tired of getting emails about paying for followers or views or plays or paying for sponsored posts on Facebook!” Balla adds, “I think the independent label scene is a lot more exciting that the majors,” which Rach agrees with: “We like the idea of being signed by an indie label more than a major label because we want to have control over what we do.”
However, they do dream of being able to have the band as their day jobs – although that doesn’t mean being tied down to contracts, being told what to wear, who to talk to and what your next album should sound like. Luckily there are the likes of Pledge Music, which London band The Tuts have recently used to release their debut album – and, of course, the power of the internet.
‘Women in the music industry’, in front of and behind the scenes, is an ongoing topic of discussion in the press and among those who work in the industry, which in recent months has been gaining a lot more, deserved, attention. Peaness are an all-girl band who couldn’t have started off with a more ‘GIRL POWER’ first show. How do they feel about being called a girl band? “We don’t really think it should be made a point of that we’re girls; you don’t see all guy bands calling themselves ‘boy bands’ unless it’s something like *NSYNC,” says Rach. “So, we don’t see why we should. With that in mind, though, I think women in music should be celebrated, so if other bands put themselves across in that way, then that’s cool too.” Jess thinks that it’s “a tricky and confusing subject, and I find myself thinking about it a lot. It’s hard to decide what’s good or bad or right or wrong for feminism. Whether we should shout it out that we’re female, or to ignore that fact and just be a band.” Balla summarises the point neatly when she says, “You wouldn’t really be referred to like that in any other profession, like a ‘female plumber’. You’re just the plumber. If you can do the job, I don’t care what’s going on downstairs.”
Peaness think they’re lucky to have fallen in with the DIY scene, locally and nationally, having nothing but positive experiences in playing with different types of bands. “We did a show in London called DIY Pop Fest in April and it struck me then how many bands have women in them in the DIY scene,” Jess says. “It shows that the musicians are out there. They’re just not represented on a wider scale in bigger bands. It’s cool that there are so many other women doing the same as us, though.”
Despite being Chester-based, the band already have a reasonably full association with Liverpool, which you can even stretch back to Jess being featuring in Bido Lito! back in August 2011 with her previous band The Thespians. The Shipping Forecast, Forever True Tattoo, Bar Burrito and Maguire’s Pizza Bar all hold a special place in Peaness’ heart too, and they’ve done the hard yards already in embedding themselves in their adopted home. “I once practised at a rehearsal room which was literally the grossest thing I’d ever seen,” says Rach. “The drum kit was rusty and there was a slow cooker in the corner full of piss.”
If you want to catch a ‘pea-pop’ band who like to sing about life in your mid-20s and the thoughts and struggles that come with that, a band who unashamedly like Pokémon and who are all about having an all-out fun time – then be sure to catch Peaness. You’d be foolish not to.
Oh George is out now. Peaness play Liverpool Calling at Camp and Furnace on 9th July.