Finding out about a band called Peace is no easy task; the name isn’t exactly Google-friendly, but whether it be through word-of-mouth, stumbling across a music video, or even hearing about the band on sites like yours truly, they’re well worth the quest. The UK quartet released their full-length, In Love (still not making for an easy Google search), just last year and have already made the US rounds a couple times since their American debut in Austin.
After hearing Peace from afar at SXSW and then properly seeing them at the Echo, I couldn’t wait to catch the group again at El Rey in October. Due to unforeseen circumstances, though, the band had to unexpectedly fly back to the UK the day of their show, but before they did, frontman Harrison Koisser was kind enough to sit down and talk about the new album, touring, Bret Easton Ellis, and much more.
I saw you play at the Echo the last time you were here on your first US tour. How did that show compare to playing at home or in other countries?
I guess just distance. The shows are usually fairly similar. Subtle differences. When you play, you think of that place in film or pop culture, do you know what I mean?
Yeah, like an iconic symbol or scene you can relate to?
Yeah, just like you go to New York and think “I’ve seen that in Frasier.” That kind of thing.
What do you think of when you’re in LA?
There are so many films, but only when I came here could I picture the book Less Than Zero, and I was like, “Oh, I can really imagine it now.”
And you’re staying right on Sunset Blvd. That’s the heart of Bret Easton Ellis’ settings.
Yeah, there’s a certain romance to LA that I quite like. It’s quite nice to just do nothing here.
I know NME has shown you a lot of love. They actually connected you with your label, didn’t they?
We were lucky in that when the editor of NME first came to see us, she was married to the A&R guy who signed us. I think she recommended us to him or I think the both of them were quite into us, so it was lucky and came at quite a good time for us.
Have you felt any of that kind of attention or love from any US publications?
The US now reminds me of how it was in the UK before we got signed. The earlier shows before many big publications had done much about us (it was like that for almost two years in the UK), those were some of the most fun times. You can do whatever you want. It’s almost like we’re doing it all over again, but it’s quite nice to do it. It’s not a bad thing.
I saw you play at SXSW, and it was amazing. It’s always such a different experience to see bands in the whirlwind of a festival. Do you have a preference of venue tours to festivals?
SXSW was a blur. It’s amazing. I always find that when you’re doing one, you’re missing the other. Now that festival season’s over, I’m just looking forward to next year. We’ve got a lot of touring to do now, and I want to do that, but I know that we’re excited for the festivals. When we were at festivals, I was just thinking, “I can’t wait to have a tour where you get a soundcheck.” I guess the grass is always greener.
You do most of the writing for the band, right? At least you did for In Love.
Yeah, it’s always been a thing of convenience, though. It’s never been like, “This is me and then this is the band I play with.” It’s always been like, “I’ve written songs and we’ve done it.” If one of the other guys wanted to write a song, I wouldn’t tell them no. I’m a songwriter, so it’s just always been really natural. I imagine when we have time off to actually write another record, I can imagine someone will write a song and say, “Let’s play it,” and we will.
I always like it when I find out a guitarist has written a song, I’m trying to think of an example. There’s a really good one that I just can’t think of. Fuck it, it’s gone.
It’ll come to you as soon as I leave, I’m sure.
Yeah, I know. There’s a really good example of when a guitar player wrote a really fucking brilliant song. I don’t know, but I’m not the kind of frontman who’s like, “No, this is my vision.” It’s all of us. It would be way too much to be like, “This is me.” It’s just not.
I feel like an open mentality like that will make you guys last a lot longer as a band.
Yeah, fully. I think the guys will want to start writing stuff a bit further down the line; they’ll probably get bored of just playing my songs. I think my songs are the type of songs that they’ll be like playing in five years and thinking, “Oh, not this again.” I don’t know. Maybe not.
Well, you mentioned that you’ve already started writing your new record, so touring hasn’t hindered that process at all?
No, not really. I weirdly ended up at a strip bar the other day in Portland with the singer from The 1975, and he was saying he hadn’t been able to write being so busy, but I think the way that I write has always been that stuff gets stuck in my head — choruses, verses, or lyrics — and I just write them down. Then as soon as I get a moment to myself, I just record a demo of it with a guitar, and that’s it. I’m quite fortunate in that. Most of the time it happens in here [gestures to his head]. I can kind of do it upstairs.
Technology helps with that a lot, too.
Yeah, I’ve got like hundreds and hundreds of videos on my phone of me singing or whispering stuff from all the songs on In Love and all the new songs. I put them on my computer, and sometimes I look back so that I can find the first time I came up with pretty much every song. It’s me singing a really bad acapella version while filming the floor. I quite like it, though.
I feel like I should hate technology just because, you know? I’m totally one of those people who should be like, “Fuck the iPhone,” but actually without it, you wouldn’t be able to do anything.
I remember a few years ago seeing a news story on a local band called The 88 when they were one of the first bands to record an entire album on their iPhones. It was such a big deal then.
Really? That must have been hard. That must have been really hard. Now there just needs to be a really good songwriting app, and then it’s all over. Anyone can do it.
That’s kind of how DJ-ing can go now where, if you wanted, it could just be you and an iPhone.
Yeah, I’ve actually only ever DJ-ed from an iPhone or a computer. I’m not really a fan of DJ-ing. It’s not like I’m trying to educate people. It’s just what I want to listen to, not necessarily what I think people are going to like, so I’m really bad at DJ-ing.
I did try it out recently. I did two DJ sets and they were…alright. They weren’t very good, though. I was just feeling like, “I want to listen to the Sex Pistols,” then I played it and realized that it was totally the wrong environment. You’re there DJ-ing as a band, and people are there watching you and thinking that that’s what you’re about, but it’s just what I wanted to listen to.
When you perform live, is there a certain song you particularly like to play?
There are quite a lot of different sides to how we play. Our live show is more diverse than our record. The first track off the album, “Higher Than The Sun,” is quite nice to play live because you can just slam down those chords. That’s always fun, and I’ve been really into that. It’s a bit rocker.
Does it change over time for you?
Yeah, all the time, and I get really pissed off at songs sometimes, and our tour manager will have to be like, “You’ve got to play this song. It’s great,” and I’ll just tell him, “Yeah, but I can’t sing it right,” and he’ll have to tell me to shut up. [Laughs] I constantly need people to tell me to stop or just do it.
How do you approach your music videos? Do you guys really want to be involved and want to have a hand in directly influencing how the video is made?
With our first video, “Bloodshake,” we really wanted to have complete control over it. That was the first time we’d done a video, so we had a list of like 50 things we wanted to make sure were included in it, and the directer just told us, “I can’t do all this.” Some of the stuff made it in there, like the easiest of the list, and then while editing it, we were like, ‘Make that on fire,” and he’d just tell us, “I don’t know what you mean.” We’d just tell him, “Make it on fire. Film some fire and make it on fire. Do something.”
After that, we did the video for “Wraith.” The original idea I had for “Wraith” was me stalking John Cusack and being really obsessed and having t-shirts and shrines to him and then trying to kill him because I loved him so much. I was just going to be following him around. The band would be playing as a band called John and the Cusacks, and there would be a Cusack cult with people dressed as him with bad plastic surgery trying to look like him. Eventually I’d kill some of them because they said something bad about him. I dunno. I wrote this massive idea, and Sony was really trying to make it happen, but at the last minute, John Cusack said that he didn’t want to do it.
At that point we had two days before we were supposed to start shooting the video. Then we got Jesse Jenkins, who was a friend of our tour photographer, and we said, “Look, we’ve got this much money. Can you do something?” and he was like, “Do you have any problem with dancers?” and we told him no, so he said, “Just trust me.”
It was a great shoot. I think it’s a cool video, and his ideas about it are fucking brilliant, so after that we decided to just trust directors a little bit more. You know, if a director came up and told us how to do music, we’d tell them to shut up, so with that in mind, we started to trust people more…but I still want to do the John Cusack one.
That idea sounds awesome.
I went through a phase of thinking he was a god. I watched a load of his ’80s films. I think it started with The Sure Thing — that was one me and my mate used to watch years ago. Eventually me and a friend got obsessed with being more like him and less like us, and I just felt like we needed to do something with him.
You just need to come to LA more. Maybe you’ll run into him.
We were actually somewhere on our last US tour, and we knew he was nearby, so I was furiously tweeting at him, “You’ve got to come to the show, please please,” but he never got back to me. Bloody John.
I’m sure as you keep doing well, you’ll keep making connections, and at some point someone’s going to just say, “I’ve got his number. Let me call him up.”
Yeah, one day. I’m picturing it. In like five years time, he’s going to come up to me and just be like, “I’m so sorry. I love you guys.”
That will be a huge moment in your career.
That’s it! You know, I always get asked, “Where is this going? What’s it leading to? How will you know when you’ve done what you set out to do?” and I always think, “I don’t have any fucking idea.” That’s actually it. When John Cusack comes up to me and wants to shake my hand, I’ll know that I’ve achieved what I always wanted to do. I think I just want to meet John Cusack.
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