Music Features

Underground Festival 2012 - Peace (Interview)

Last weekend, the citizens of Gloucester were treated to their second free popular music festival of the year.  The Underground Festival, which took place at the city's Guildhall, featured an eclectic lineup of new and upcoming bands from all over the world.  Such was the anticipation and interest in this year's festival that a queue of over 100 had formed an hour and a half before doors opened on the Saturday, and the festival was at capacity within twenty minutes of doors opening.  With the hotly-tipped Bastille, Peace and Lower than Atlantis all featuring on the bill (not to mention the Thomas Nicholas Band, featuring Thomas Nicholas aka Kevin Myers from the American Pie franchise), you can understand why - you'd be a fool to pass up a free ticket.  Previous editions of the festival have seen performances from bands including Pulled Apart By Horses, The Joy Formidable, Stealing Sheep and Chapel Club, all of whom have gone on to have notable success.  And there's every chance that some of the bands on this year's lineup will go on to achieve just as much.

The sterling lineup aside, the festival was extremely well-organised, with sets running smoothly and sound quality high.  The organisers can be proud of the festival and its achievements, which easily rival those festivals that charge for entry.

One of my highlights was Birmingham-based indie band Peace, whose set was before headliners Bastille on the Saturday.  After their set, I chatted with vocalist and lead guitarist Harrison Koisser about November and the Criminal, techno music and their upcoming UK tour.

You're on the pineapple juice today?

I am on the pineapple juice. After the show, pineapple, before the show, I had a carton of mango.

Did you drink an entire litre of mango juice?

Yes. And I will drink a litre of pineapple juice right now.

Are you on a sugar high?

I'm chasing the high at the moment. I'm trying to keep my body functioning. I'm trying to keep my eyes open.

Well, considering the way you're feeling, the set you just performed was pretty fantastic.

Thank you.

I understand that it's your second time at the Underground Festival, is that right?

Yeah. When we were in a band before Peace, we played our final show here. The band was called November and the Criminal. And after that show, we took a break. We played the same song twice in our final show, and that was the first song we'd written for Peace.

What was the reason for the reboot?

We'd written a whole different group of songs, which had a different feel. And November and the Criminal was more of a high-school band, when we were in college. It was never anything serious. And when we decided that we were going to do music, we decided that if we wanted to be in a band, we ought to do it properly. It just made sense.

Did you carry some of the songs over from November and the Criminal? Because one of the observations I have from watching your live show and from listening to your EP [Delicious] is that there are so many different styles within your music.

We wrote all new songs for Peace, we started fresh. We put November and the Criminal to bed. It was really fun, and we didn't want to take it any further. Someone said to me once that they admired how I had absolutely no respect for the idea of genre. And maybe I don't. But I think it's because we all have very diverse music tastes. And also because I want to write songs without really thinking about genres. I don't want to think, “Peace's sound is this,” so we have to write a song in that style. Because if you can put it on paper, it's probably going to be boring soon.

So who is it that writes the songs? Do you each come up with ideas and then form a song around it?

I write songs and then we bring it all together. I tend to write lyrics and then chords and ideas, and then we put it together as a band.

So presumably then, I guess you've got quite a wide range of influences?

I think so, I think so. I like classic songs, not necessarily defined by genre. Whether it's Led Zeppelin, or The Beatles, or AC/DC, I like classic songs from the last sixty years of popular music. And at the same time, I'm into techno and house music. And funky things that have more of a rhythm and are more tribal. And I guess that's where Peace came from. I was always into The Who and Led Zeppelin. And of course, I would have been influenced by what my parents used to listen to, which was mostly 90s pop music and other music from that era. It's a mixture of everything.

It's interesting that you mention tribal music, because that seems to be a recurring theme amongst up-and-coming bands at the moment. The Other Tribe comes to mind, are you aware of The Other Tribe?

Yeah, I know The Other Tribe, they played before us at a festival. I think that techno music is basically rhythms and it's almost tribal in so far as it makes you want to move and shake. But it's electronic. But I don't really focus on whether music is electronic or...non-electronic. I want to say dry. Or wet. That's never really the focus. The focus is more on the feeling.

Did I read that 1998 is a rework of a trance song?

There are two sections to 1998, which are the chord progression and the style of 1998 by Binary Finary, the classic trance song. And it was completely intentional to do that, and to credit them, it was something that I really wanted to do. I was inspired by this electro techno duo called Joe and Will Ask, from East London, who did a remix of Binary Finary's 1998 a few years ago. And I thought it would be really cool to do a cover of it as a band. And Binary Finary got in touch with us and they said that they'd been talking about it for ages and said that as long as we credited them, they were happy. And they played it on their radio show and on YouTube.

That's quite the compliment.

One of my best friends, John Green, is a techno DJ. And he loves classic trance as much as the next guy. He said that he was absolutely astounded that Binary Finary got in touch and that they liked it.

Given that you're such a techno fan, what do you think about the current state of dance music and the way the industry is heading? There's no denying that dance music has become more popular, but it's been popularised with artists such as Skrillex and Chase & Status – very crass, not "traditional" dance music and not especially well received by most critics. Do you go along with the new sound or do you prefer the more traditional house and techno beats?

I prefer the more traditional. Not necessarily older music. But it's always been about house. There's a night in Birmingham called Face, at Rainbow, which is a house night I used to work for and it's really good. I was just working there to get money at first but I grew to love the music. And I was just listening to the music and thinking about how you could translate it into band music. A very good friend of mine was a resident DJ there, and he was always taking the piss, saying that he didn't like band music before 1990. And saying how music started in Detroit with house, and has only gone uphill from there! I like Frankie Knuckles' Your Love, a remix of You've Got The Love, where the synths go out of time because it's all analogue, it's amazing. I used to play it when I DJed at indie nights and no-one liked it because it went on for maybe eight minutes. No-one liked it as much as me.

It's quite unusual to have a band stem from a love of dance music. Because, like you say, historically, the people that have been passionate about dance music haven't been fans of band music. Was it easy to incorporate a dance music feel into a band?

I never wanted the music to sound electronic. We couldn't really sound electronic, because I don't know how to play the keyboard so we could never play synths. But I think our sound is as influenced by dance music as it's possible to be without creating dance or electronic music. We're all on the same page musically, so we're all feeling the same thing. It's just clicked.

It certainly seems to have clicked. There have been such good reviews and feedback from your debut EP, Delicious. Were you expecting such a positive reaction? Has it added pressure now to release an album equally as good, or has it relieved pressure now that you've lived up to the hype?

I wasn't expecting as big a reaction. I thought it would be quite a quiet thing, it wouldn't be our main thing, but it turned out to be. I try not think about the future. I'm happy with the songs we've released and the songs that we've put together for the album, it's all sounding really good. I think that if you start to worry about how the songs are going to be received, thinking too far ahead, that's when you start making changes that you don't actually want to make. We played with The Vaccines on their first tour, in Birmingham. And I remember saying the same thing to them - “you guys are so hyped, what are you going to do with the album?” And they were like, “we're not really thinking about it”. And then they went on to release a really good album. So I think the key is not to overthink it. Maybe that's not what they meant, but that's what I got from it - try not to think too much about it.

I think that's the only way you can really play it. If you start to get pressured at this stage, it'll take its toll and the band won't end up being a long-term thing. In terms of the album, do you have a release date in mind, a name in mind?

Not sure, I think it'll be early next year, maybe spring next year. The name...somebody said to me that we should call the album Of Cake. And I didn't get it for ages and then I realised what they meant - “Peace - Of Cake”. But I don't think that's going to be it. I'd quite like to just call it after one of my friend's names. Call it Tom Murphy or something. That's what we used to do before we called our songs names.

I like that. That's a bit like ¡Forward Russia!; do you know that band? They used to just name all their songs after numbers - Nine, Nineteen, Eighteen etc.

Yeah, someone's told me about that before. I think we should call the album SWIM DEEP. They're good friends of ours. We go a long way back. I went to college with Austin, I've known him for a very long time. And Cavan's one of my best friends. So I like the SWIM DEEP boys, I've got a lot of time for them.

And what do you have coming up for you over the next few months?

We're recording in the studio. And then we've got a tour, which is going all over the UK. And that continues up to December. In fact, I think tomorrow is one of my only days off until December 18th.

Working as hard as you are, does it feel pretty intense at this time, or is is still a lot of fun?

It's still fun. I think with everything – with exams at school and stuff – I've never worried about it. I've just sailed on through and thought whatever happens happens!


For the latest on all things Peace, including details of their upcoming tour, check out the band's official website, and their Facebook page.  Be sure to check back soon for an interview with another of the bands who played at the festival, Australian indie-poppers Last Dinosaurs.