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Interview: Peach Pit

Peach Pit on being quirky, perfecting their sound, and why their upcoming record will be all about the live show

From just across the “pond,” Vancouver quintet Peach Pit have three wildly successful indie-rock-pop albums under their belt. Their success is arguably not just attributable to their infectious guitar lines and catchy lyrics, but also to the way they connect to their fans both on and off the stage with a fun, party-loving attitude.

Before headlining at Phillips Backyard Reverb festival, lead singer and rhythm guitarist Neil Smith of Peach Pit had a phone call with me to chat about how they manage to get such a crisp, clean sound both on record and live, how their music will change as they enter a new decade, and the best part of being on tour.

MM: There are a lot of fan comments online saying how good Peach Pit is live. What’s the secret to pulling that off?

Smith: I don’t know what we sound like, I think we sound OK, but I think more than what we sound like, it’s just we try to put on an entertaining show. We’ve got lots of sort of chill tunes that people like and when they’re coming to our show they’re expecting it to be a little more subdued, but we like to just have a full-on rock show. We’re headbanging like crazy on stage, going super hard, and I think the key I would say for putting on an entertaining show is to try to have fun on stage … I think bringing that kind of energy makes people at ease.

The key is just the headbang, all you have to do is have long hair and headbang. That’s why I can never cut my hair.

Peach Pit consists of singer and rhythm guitarist Neil Smith, lead guitarist Christopher Vanderkooy, bassist Peter Wilton, drummer Mikey Pascuzzi, plus a newer fifth member, Dougal Bain from Victoria. (Courtesy Peach Pit)

MM: Is there a song you’re most excited to play live?

Smith: We’ve got a song on our newest album called “Give Up Baby Go” – kind of got a country bounce to it. That one’s fun to play. I get to put on my country cowboy duck walk on stage which I think is fun.

READ MORE: Phillips Backyard Reverb returns: Peach Pit, Jesse Roper, Fleet Foxes and more

MM: The latest record, From 2 to 3, has an exceptionally clean and tight sound. What goes into being able to perfect that?

Smith: We just decided we wanted to have a very natural-sounding album with not a lot of affected vocals or guitars and if we were going to use effects, we were going to try to use things that were from the 1970s influence of rock ‘n roll. That was a cool one because we actually recorded that with producer Robbie Lackritz who does all the Bahamas records and if you look into those, they are a very clean sound. So that’s why we wanted to work with Robbie. Our record previous had a lot of effects and lots of crazy stuff going on on top of it so we wanted this one to be more naturally influenced.

MM: You’ve said before that your favourite track is “Tommy’s Party” because it’s about a time at the beginning of adulthood when you were still figuring stuff out. Now that a couple of the bandmates are married and you are transitioning in your lives into your 30s, in what ways do you think the music on your next record will change?

Smith: We’re actually working on it right now and I think our main goal for the record is just to have as many songs that are fun to play live. From 2 to 3 record is cool, there are some songs that I like playing live, but it is more of a subdued, chill record that’s fun to listen to in your headphones and a lot of the songs don’t necessarily translate into the live stage. We’re just trying to make more of a heavier-hitting rock record that’s just fun to play live. We’re back on tour all the time and we wrote the last record when the pandemic was happening and there were no shows. We wanted to make some more rock songs for the show.

MM: Peach Pit is known to be quirky and you guys flaunt being off-beat. Were you always a little quirky and artistic in high school or did becoming a band open the floodgates for letting your weirdness shine?

Smith: I think I was quirky but I was actually just thinking about this. I don’t know why – I was moving a bunch of crap and shoes and stuff – I was thinking about in grade nine, I had these plaid Vans shoes and I thought they were so cool. I remember I left them in math class – I went to a Catholic school so I had my sneakers with me, we weren’t allowed to wear them in school … I ran back to the classroom right as the grade 11 class was walking in and my shoes were sat down beside this cool basketball player dude. I don’t know why I was looking for approval and I asked him, ‘These are cool, right?’ and he said ‘No, those are f****** lame’ and I was crushed. So I guess I was a little bit quirky, I thought I was cool with the plaid shoes but the cool guy thought they were lame.

MM: I remember the Vans shoes very well. I would’ve thought they were cool if I saw them.

Smith: Thanks. Yeah they were sick, you could get all the different patterns.

MM: How do you keep finding inspiration or magic in everyday life in order to keep creating?

Smith: For me, I kind of like to write songs about personal life, day-to-day life, friends and family and things that happen to me. It’s the easiest for me to write about things that come from reality. You don’t have to make it up as much, you can just draw from what happens and just try to make it rhyme basically.

MM: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome as a band?

Smith: When you’re in a band, you have to navigate all different personalities, and the four of us – and then we’ve also got our buddy Dougal who’s from Victoria – when you’ve got different personalities, you’ve got to figure what sort of things piss someone off that you should avoid doing to just keep the peace in the band. Maybe when we were younger and working on songs, things would turn argumentative and we don’t really go into that territory anymore. Now we’re pretty good at being able to talk about music and business, annoying stuff that can get a bit edgy, not stepping on each other’s toes. Now we’re easy breezy, but you’ve got to figure it out the hard way.

MM: What’s the best part about being on tour?

Smith: There are lots of places that you’ll go where nobody would ever really go on vacation, but there are cool things in every city. I wouldn’t go on vacation to Cincinnati but Cincinnati is cool, you know? They’ve got some good food there, they’ve got this weird spaghetti that’s covered in like a mountain of cheese that everybody eats there – I don’t know how to explain it. But, just things like that that you wouldn’t get to see otherwise.

Getting to see the people that listen to your music all over the world is a pretty wild feeling. Sometimes it gets pretty repetitive, you’re playing all the time so it’s hard to really enjoy the moment because you’re just used to it, but we played this show in London and the crowd was electric. Really good crowd and the whole time I was just on stage really feeling it, enjoying myself and thinking, I can’t believe I get to do this, this is wild.

MM: In terms of Victoria, are there any things you like to check out while you’re here?

Smith: The first thing that comes to mind is I like doughnuts a lot; my mom and dad own a doughnut shop in North Van called Cream Pony. There’s Yonnis Doughnuts that they sell at Discovery Coffee, those are really f****** dank. We like to play disc golf usually on tours, there are a couple of good disc-golf places in Victoria. We love to eat on tours, so the only thing I can think of is food places. Sen Zushi that place is really good.

MM: When did Dougal join your band?

He’s been playing with us since our first tour back from the pandemic. Dougal’s been a good buddy of ours for a bunch of years now. When we used to come to play Rifflandia, we used to stay at his house and that’s how we met him. He was a friend of our manager at the time. Now we need a fifth member to play all the extra stuff, so Dougal plays guitar, he does lots of guitar harmonies, he sings backup vocals, he plays violin, keyboards, percussion, so he’s like this fifth guy who does the extra stuff.

Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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