Meeting Peace

In early 2012, Worcester-formed Birmingham-based four piece, Peace, found themselves caught up in a whirlwind of hype as the music press frantically searched for proof that British guitar music wasn’t dead. More often than not, widespread hype campaigns do more harm than good for a young band, and there are countless has-beens that could testify to that. A good image and a catchy first single don’t necessarily equate to a strong band capable of writing a solid album. When Peace released their debut album In Love in 2013, they confidently silenced their naysayers and proved themselves worthy of every shred of praise they had received in the previous year. Their raucous, high-energy love songs came across perfectly live and made them instant festival favourites.

With a strong reputation as a live band and a busy touring schedule, it may come as a surprise that their as of yet unnamed second album, should follow so quickly (expected this summer). However, early tracks ‘Money’ and ‘World Pleasure’ certainly don’t disappoint. I called up frontman Harry Koisser as the band embarked on a small town UK tour to chat about the new album, style icons and Made In Chelsea.

You’re on tour at the moment visiting some really strange towns.

Yeah, I’m in Warrington right now, living the dream… I’m into it. The main reason we went for was because none of us grew up in a city and we never had bands come and play where we lived so we thought why not just do it? Also, we did a tour last year in December of all the cities, and we can’t go back now to do the cities again but we did want to go on tour again, so we decided to go to some other places. It’s how people used to tour it’s a vintage vibe.

I grew up near Bournemouth, which was always left off the circuit, so when bands did come it meant a lot.

I think if I was a bit younger and was a fan of us, I would really want this to happen. We’ve always gone through with odd ideas. We did some free shows recently as well. At the end of the day, why not?

 Your new single ‘Money’ has quite a political angle to it.

I guess it’s got more of a conscience a social conscience more than an antisocial one.

 Is that a theme that runs through the next album?

I think in places, yeah. I’m quite an emotional person, and I think there’s still a lot of heart in all of it. I only ever write songs about what I’m feeling.

 Do you think more music these days should carry a message?

I think it should be a little bit braver. All songs, whether they’re written by an artist or brought in from someone else, have to have come from somewhere [emotionally], but music doesn’t seem very brave at the moment. Any of the tracks on our new album might not be as brave as stuff people have done before, but I think it is for the moment and the year it is and the age we are. I think there should be more music like that; that isn’t afraid to just say something, no matter if it’s stupid or wrong. People will say ‘oh, what do I know about politics’ I’m not claiming to know fuck all about politics in the big scale of things, but at least I’ve got an opinion. It’s good to flex it, even if it’s not anything profound or outrageous. If I could write something that makes people think, rather than shoving my opinion down people’s throats… It’s an odd one, isn’t it?

People often say that this generation has no voice or identity and it doesn’t stand for anything.

The subcultures today aren’t defined in the way they were over the last 60 years, so I think it’s very confusing for anyone who lived through that to understand today. It isn’t as black and white there’s no punk any more, no hippies or mods and rockers. There are no chavs any more, but there are people I know that dress really hippie and are really violent. It’s a confusing situation! I don’t think subculture defines itself in the same way nowadays; in fact, I’m not 100% sure how it does define itself, but it’s definitely there.

Five or ten years ago, Peace would have fallen into ‘indie’, but that’s now fallen apart as a subculture and is just used to describe a type of music. 

People call all bands indie these days, but it’s not necessarily a relevant label.  All it means to me is ‘they’re a band’. Arctic Monkeys are still called an indie band, but the closest thing their new record sounds like somewhere between Black Sabbath and Dr Dre. Where’s the indie in that? It’s not the kind of ‘pointy shoe’ indie you think of when you hear the word. I guess that’s 2014 for you. It’s comfortable as well not having to know what you are. That’s something we felt on our new record, because we never really wanted to be a genre or one particular thing, but now we’ve kind of pushed how far you can take that without pigeonholing yourself and just doing one thing.

People often anticipate a ‘difficult second album’. Have you felt much pressure on the second album to do well?

I think that used to be a thing but now the whole game has changed. The way we approached it was kind of like a debut album; we just tried to write different stuff and then didn’t really worry about it being ‘us’. I think when you focus on sounding like ‘us’ that’s when you start to run into problems. All the demos sounded really, really different. Nothing sounded at all like any of the stuff on In Love. There were no guitars in the demos and no drums, there was a bit of acoustic and a lot of sampling. It was almost like doing covers of pop songs, like you’d do for Live Lounge.

The video for ‘Money’ has some awesome handshakes in it, did you guys come up with those?

The director’s called Ninian [Doff], who we’ve just done our next video with too, and he got a guy called Supple [Nam] to come up with the handshakes. He’s a choreographer and he made up all these handshakes and taught them to everyone in about 3 hours it was amazing. He’s done some stuff in the next video that we shot the other day which will be good. But yeah, this guy Supple… legend.

Let’s talk about your appearance on Made In Chelsea.

(Laughs) Yeah! It’s really twisted I really liked the idea of playing ‘Money’ to the people on that show. When I was there I realized that it’s a really weird show. The way they make it is so weird – it’s unscripted and none of the people get paid to be on it. The weekend happens, and then they just reproduce it during the week, but all the emotions are real and all the storylines are recreating things that happened. It’s like a Truman Show where they’re aware of what they’re doing – everything they say to each other is completely real, and they’ve waited to say it so the cameras could be there. It’s a concept that completely threw me off and I enjoyed being so confused and questioning everything. Since going there, I now enjoy the show, there’s something real about it but it doesn’t make sense. It seems to be against everything I know about the way you deal with a situation with someone and they do it in front of millions of people. It’s fucked, seriously fucked. We didn’t get paid to go on it – we did it more because it was a cultural clash. It’s exactly the sort of thing we wouldn’t do.

Has there been much backlash?

Yeah, just the extremes of either people saying ‘you’ve completely sold out’, which is an old concept that doesn’t exist any more. All the new cool bands are sponsored by shoe brands anyway and you don’t make money any more. Or people have been really supportive of it. No one’s just said ‘yeah that’s alright’ except for the people who watch the show. I guess for fans it’s quite a dividing thing, but maybe only through the conflicting extremes of opinions people will actually understand what was going on. It’s healthy to feel something and say ‘I’m angry at that’ or ‘I loved this’– it’s good for people to feel something and have an opinion, even if it’s only about your favourite band going on Made In ChelseaIt’s good to ignite a little fire in peoples’ bellies, you know, make sure they’re still capable of thought.

Let’s talk fashion. Would you say your style has evolved along with the sound going into the second album? You’re playing a Gibson instead of a Fender now – that change is usually symbolic of things getting heavier.

Everything’s kind of polarized, I guess. In a style way – before I wore whatever, I had a mixture of hand-me-downs from my parents or vintage stuff and things girls were giving me. But now that I have my own clothes, I either have super expensive stuff that I’ve been given or bought, mixed with stuff I’ve had for years that’s totally trashed. When we were recording the new album I became obsessed with Ziggy Stardust. That’s why I got the Gibson Les Paul Goldtop from that year was one that Mick [Ronson] had when he was playing with Bowie in the Spiders from Mars. I got that guitar and bought a few catsuits as well as some other stuff and dyed my hair orange (laughs), but now I’m kind of on the other side of that and dealing with the consequences and the things I have in my wardrobe now which I’ve bought from around the world. I’m sort returning to my normal style, but I’ve got a few nice things which I’ve kept and I’ve still got on the go. There’s a real fine line between looking Spinal Tap with that kind of thing. Dom [drums] is definitely poshing up his style, going for the ‘stylish menswear’. It’s good though, fair play.

You’ve been quite lucky in the UK with your promotion, especially as Birmingham came onto the musical conscience of many.

The UK has Manchester and obviously London, and Liverpool often gets some credit too, but Birmingham very rarely kicks off even though it has a good musical heritage. The four of us grew up around Birmingham and when we started the band and moved there, we played there every week it was a really good time. It felt really good and there were loads of other bands doing it too. I can see really easily why a lot of people latched onto that, because it was a really genuine thing.

Catch Peace live on the tail end of their small town tour or at any of their festival appearances this summer. Tickets here. Tickets for Reading and Leeds here and here.

Words by Henry Evans Harding