Touring in support of their second LP, Happy People, Peace play at Groovin The Moo Bunbury on Saturday, April 26, and the Rosemount Hotel on Tuesday, April 28. AUGUSTUS WELBY reports.
Peace – it’s a straightforward band name. Similarly, the UK foursome is a straightforward bunch.
To clarify, straightforward needn’t imply ordinary. For instance, a world where all individuals are nice to one another and the planet’s resources are shared to the benefit of everybody seems straightforward enough. Yet, world peace sounds pretty extraordinary, doesn’t it?
Last month, Peace released their second LP, Happy People. Though, anyone paying attention to the UK pop-rockers during the last year would’ve been familiar with half of the album material already. Starting with World Pleasure last March, five singles were released in the lead up to the album. The motivation behind this was fairly straightforward.
“There’s no point nowadays feeling traditional about the way to release a record,” says frontman, Harry Koisser. “World Pleasure, we put that out before the album was finished. We were still recording when Lost On Me was released. We thought, ‘Let’s just put songs out as we’re recording them and then get the album out at the end of it’.”
Opting to release songs straight after they’re recorded comes with various risks. For starters, it basically precludes any air of mystery surrounding an album, which many artists strive to evoke. Then there’s the potential of putting out something that you’ll later regret. But Peace weren’t particularly worried about such factors.
“If you’re making music in a certain way, that’s representing where the band’s at, whether it’s us experimenting with trying to be really polished and funky, or us recording live and as grungy as possible, that’s where the band’s at, so put it out. That’s just being genuine, rather than calculating this plan of how to look your best and how to look like the biggest or the coolest. It’s being completely honest with the world and with yourselves.”
Prior to the release of 2013’s In Love, Peace inked a deal with Columbia Records. The current era’s struggle to persuade listeners to purchase music means that major labels are more fastidious with artist signings than ever before. With this in mind, one would suspect the folks at Columbia were in the band’s ear, directing their creative decisions. Disappointingly for Koisser, however, this wasn’t the case.
“I thought there was going to be,” he says. “They’re really like, ‘Do what you want’. Our A&R at the label, he’ll be like, ‘That lyric doesn’t make any sense to a listener, if you want it to say something, you need to say it more effectively’. That’s a personal thing between me and him and he’s really good. He’s like the guy who’s holding the flashlight and shines it onto bits of lyrics which he doesn’t think are as effective. But that’s as far as it goes.”
Even though the folks at Columbia weren’t harassing Peace about the content that made it to Happy People, Koisser says the release-as-you-go strategy was a safeguard against the record potentially being delayed by the label.
“You hear a lot now of records being held back for two years and labels wanting there to be this big plan about it. By releasing singles and putting songs out as you go, they can’t do that then. If you’ve got half a record pretty much out there, you’ve got no choice. There’d be no point now in holding the album back or trying to make a big marketing plan.
“When we finished World Pleasure,” he adds, “I sent it to radio DJs on my own email without checking with the label. And it ended up getting played on the radio in England. The label thought it was cool, though. We were excited about it. We’d recorded this song and we were like, ‘Well let’s get it out there’.”
And so it is that all 10 songs are now packaged together and available to listeners everywhere. For an album called Happy People, by a band called Peace, it sounds exactly as you’d expect. Starting with the bubblegum ‘60s pop of O You, on to the throbbing dance funk of Lost On Me and the distorted exuberance of I’m A Girl, the record’s a work of upbeat and hook-heavy excitement. However, scratching below the surface reveals that Koisser’s lyrics often aren’t so carefree. Gen Strange bemoans a world of ‘general ache and pain’, while I’m a Girl points out the alienating nature of the masculine stereotype, and the title track simply questions ‘Where did all the happy people go?’
“That’s what I’m really happy about with this record,” Koisser says. “It was something which started off accidental, but by the third song in it became this thing that I was quite into – sonically representing something but lyrically not. I think it’s a really cool idea, having a song that sounds really happy but the lyrics are really sad. In World Pleasure, with the lyrics being about the grittiness and the litter and the more horrid sides to the world and then the chorus and the music going out into this uplifting section.
“It is quite cool to have this juxtaposition of the music and the lyrics, because they’re always two different things in my head. It’s quite interesting to do as a writer. It’s something that I’m going to expand on in the future because I’ve never done it before. And I’ve never heard that type of thing before.”