“I’m going to do that... maybe not”. Peace’s singer Harrison seems unamused as we try to lighten the interview by persuading him to 'do' a Robert Plant from his favourite band Led Zeppelin and swap his skinny jeans for a blood-stopping-crotch-savaging tight pair of flares and bare his pigeon chest. Although, such a sudden change of style wouldn’t be the weirdest thing to happen to the Midlands born singer.
In the space of a less than a year, his band has been nominated for the BBC Sound Of 2013, played the NME Awards Tour, and released a critically acclaimed debut, In Love. A little bit of nudity would be a minor footnote in their nose-bleedingly quick rise to success. As Harrison arrogantly confirms, “it’s all one constant highlight, y’know?”
So, what’s so great about Peace? In essence, In Love, is an upchuck of shoegaze and Britpop with a bit of Foals’ assured unit selling math rock thrown in for good measure. Their sound and look sits nicely on a sterilised Topshop/man playlist next to the recent glut of other bands that have sloppily raided their parents' Shine CDs, grown out their hair and bought a chorus pedal.
Of course, music has always been derivative, yet lately the cycles for regurgitation are getting shorter and shorter and the ‘inspiration’ is becoming tiringly easy to spot. At a time when music fans have never had so much choice and bands have the most direct access to the industry it’s a strange and somewhat depressing reality that labels are still signing nuts and bolts guitar boy bands, like Peace.
We decided to speak to Harrison to unravel the band’s appeal and rise to success. Met with drawled verbs, yawns and an almost compulsive level of, “I don’t knows”, over our long 20 minutes we discovered that Peace’s original foray into music was trying to sound like Explosions In They Sky (“but now we don’t want to sound like anyone”), how they think the NME are “cool” and that Kidderminster will always be their “spiritual home”. It was a revelation.
You started the year headlining Koko, you’ve gone on to release your debut album and play Glastonbury. How’s the year been so far for you?
It’s been good, yeah. It’s gone really fast, I guess. I don’t really know, it doesn’t feel like half a year yet it feels like a few weeks – it’s been enjoyable.
Have there been any highlights in particular?
Glastonbury. It’s all one constant highlight, y’know?
When you came out there was a lot of buzz around you with the Guardian calling you the “future of indie” and the NME putting you on the cover. What was that like at the time? Overwhelming or fun?
I can’t really remember, but it was definitely just like fun. We were in a whirlwind we didn’t really know what was happening, we just went with it.
Did you see it as a good thing to happen considering the NME has a dodgy track record of hyping bands, like The Vaccines where it worked and bands like Viva Brother where it failed miserably. Did you worry about becoming an indie poster band?
Not really. You don’t really know it’s happening. I wasn’t really aware of what they’re like, they’re cool.
You signed to Columbia. What made you decide to sign to them?
Because they were the most clued-up, most interesting people to talk to about music and they were the nicest people and it seemed like the right decision. They were the people coming to shows early on before anyone else, really. It was just a bit of a no-brainer. They’re not really evil.
Not like industry corporate bastards?
I think that’s a bit of a cliché - it doesn’t really exist that much. I think that’s something from a film... I guess it kind of exists, but not that much.
Going back to when you first started as a band, obviously you and Sam [Koisser] are brothers and you all went to college together, but what made you look and think, “I really want to be in a band with these people”?
We all met in college and we were friends and we played together, but I don’t know, it was just quite natural.. we just let it happen, we didn’t really think about it too much. It just kind of happened I guessed from playing together.
Did you have shared music tastes at the time or were you discovering bands together?
Yeah, we were all into just like classic music together, more older stuff. We didn’t really bother with new music until we were a new band.
When you say ‘classic music’ what type of bands did you like?
I guess when you’re at college not many people are into The Who or Led Zeppelin or David Bowie...just like staples. That was the music we thought was cool.
You’re all from Birmingham. How important is Birmingham to you?
We come from all over the Midlands. I grew up in Kidderminster, so that’s like my spiritual home. Birmingham was where we formed and when we started Peace that was where we were playing and hanging out – it was just an important time socially for us as well. Every time we go back there it feels good – it’s our home – it’s where the band came from and you can’t forget that.
So, you’re not going to move to London now?
We haven’t lived anywhere for a few years because we’ve been on tour constantly – it’s not really an option. The world isn’t that big, you can just travel around.
You said before that you started listening to new bands when you were in a band yourself. What bands in Birmingham do you rate?
Obviously the lads that were around when we were there, like Troumaca, Swim Deep. Superfood are my favourite new band.
When you first got signed you had your record label put up a billboard in Birmingham that said, “What the fuck Birmingham?” Why did you do that? What was the reaction?
It was just a joke, but I guess it had a cool reaction – people liked it. We were joking at first, but then it got taken seriously.
Still glad you did it?
Yeah, no regrets, right?
In Love was released in March and you got overwhelming reviews. How did it feel at the time to have your debut album getting that much praise?
I don’t know, I didn’t really realise...I don’t know, it’s perfect. When you release a record if people like it it’s good, and the press hear it first so when they like it it’s cool. I don’t know, I don’t really know how it felt.
It’s a bit more reassuring if it’s getting a good critical reception rather than worrying about persuading people
I don’t know... it’s cool you’ve made an album and people like it.
You recorded the album with Jim Abyss who produced the Arctic Monkeys, Adele and The Kooks. Why did you choose him?
Because he seemed like he’d be able to sort us out; his attitude was to just go in and play really straight-forward to see what happened. When we met him he just seemed like a really sound guy and it was a lot of fun.
When you went into the studio did you have all the tracks ready or were you working on stuff when you whilst you were recording or like you said he helped ‘sort you out’, so were refining what you had already?
All the songs were written - we’d written like 30 songs – he helped us pick the best tracklisting. We didn’t know how we wanted it to sound at all or anything - it can be quite dangerous going in and deciding you want sound one way or trying to sound like something – he just put us in a room and made us play and then played it back to us and said, “that’s what you sound like, that’s what we’re going to record”.
The album itself goes from tracks like ‘Bloodshake’ that are math rock and quite percussive to tracks like ‘Waste Of Paint’, which are more hazy and shoegaze. Was that your intention?
Not really. The thing was that we didn’t try to make it sound like anything, we just played as we were are, we weren’t thinking about sound at all just the best songs.
Where do you think your music comes from – the way you are, the way you sound?
I don’t know, we played live a lot before and we just sound how we do and we didn’t want to sound any particular way, why would you?
You’ve said previously that the album is very honest, real and personal. Was it inspired by particular people or experiences?
I don’t think any songs are really like..I think they all have a different meaning to anyone that listens. They’re personal, but they should be able to be personal to anyone they’re not like really for myself or self-indulgent at all but they are personal.
A lot of the songs are anthemic which runs against the current trend for soundscapes and lack of structure. Are you a fan of having big anthemic songs?
Yeah, we used to do that when we were in our college band as we were in a post-rock band together. We used to do the whole soundscape thing, but by this point now it seems a bit old and it does and we were pretentious sixth-form students when we were doing that. Now we wanted to break-out of that and do something real. I guess, it’s more natural.
When we were 17 we wanted to sound like Explosions In The Sky; they’re a great band and seeing them live is cool, but now we don’t want to sound like anyone but we are interested in writing good songs. It’s a bit of a no-brainer.
A lot of people have said that you are revisionist of early 90s music, like around the time of baggy and shoegaze. Some of the reviews of the album that were less favourable said that you’re not doing anything new. What do you think of criticism like that?
I don’t really pay any attention. There’s major cultural breakthroughs every few minutes, but even then it’s always from something else. You can be as critical as you want, but I don’t really care. It’s more about the songs and if we want to make them sound like a certain way for whatever reason we probably will.
Are you a fan of music from around then like The Stones Roses, The Charlatan, Smashing Pumpkins?
Yeah, they’re all good bands but by no means the extent of any of our music tastes or what we would want to sound like or be like as a band.
You’ve said before that Led Zeppelin is your favourite band. What do you admire about them as a band?
They were just one of the first bands I got into after The Who. The Who were probably my favourite band, but Led Zeppelin came a close second, maybe a joint first. I don’t know, maybe just great riffs, great songs, a sense of magic – that’s like what I’m into...they did a lot of albums, I like that, loads of albums
You could take it to the extreme and come onstage like Robert Plant in spray-on jeans and your shirt open.
Yeah, I’m probably going to do that...maybe not.
Talking of style, the way you dress has been spoken about a lot. Where do you think you got your style from?
I have no idea. Girls? I used to wear just girl’s clothing. I just wear my girlfriend’s clothes most of the time.
Girls clothes are more interesting
Is there anyone you look up to for style or do you just pick-up whatever?
Just go with the flow, I guess.
You did a residency at birthdays in Dalston. Why did you do it?
I can’t remember why we wanted to do that. It’s a bit of a blur...it just seemed like a good idea to do small venues rather than a London venue.
What’s your best tour story from this year?
I can’t remember any.
You’ve got a homecoming show at the O2 Academy in Birmingham in December. What have you got anything special planned?
We’re planning lots of stuff now as we’ve got a lot of time. So, yeah definitely. It would be ridiculous to reveal it now.
Have you got any plans for doing a second album yet?
In a word ‘yeah’. But again probably not going to go into it now.
You got so much attention as a band that there’s always the risk when you’ve had that level of attention on your first album of falling from grace on your second. Are you worried about that?
I don’t think any of us are worried, we’re not really thinking about it. I don’t think we did get that much attention, maybe we did, I don’t know I’m not there.
On your Facebook it says “music to fuck you in the heart”. Where did that come from? Has your mum seen it?
Probably. I think it was just a funny thing we wrote on there, I dunno, it came out of somewhere a long time ago.