Within seconds of jumping on the phone with Harry Koisser of UK band Peace, he was on a roll. Gushing apologies about a confusion with the phone connection, he jumped straight into his theories on the lunar cycle and the role it has played in the recent success of their third album Kindness Is The New Rock & Roll.
Off to a positive note already, conversation dove straight into their recent time spent on the road. It would seem that for Harry, the reality of being home is slowly kicking in:
“I’ve just got home and spent the entire day yesterday just staring at the wall.”
“I used to be very metropolitan, in a band, going to parties, drinks, laughs, someone from some noughties indie band was DJing. That was the schtick and I fucked all of that off, the whole of my cool stuff in London I chucked in the bin.”
So what made this tour stand out? For a band whose steadily progressing career has gone somewhat under the radar, I was curious to hear about the scale of the shows, and just how big the impact has been upon them.
“We hadn’t toured for so long, we’d played venues that size before but I guess with three albums and a really long set, there’s no good way of saying this but we got really good at playing… we’ve gone through to the next step from being a band that is releasing records and doing stuff, to another step where, going off what other people have said, we have nicer shirts, nicer guitar pedals.”
So it seems that Australia has a great treat in store should Peace choose to visit. Although quite a simplistic view point, Harry’s Birmingham accent and quick witted flair reminded me endlessly of the early days in the great Alex Turner’s career. As we see the back of that scrappy British rocker in favour of suave lounge music, could Harry Koisser and Peace step into the spotlight?
This third record is really one that stands out against their earlier discography. Produced by Simone Felice instead of their longtime producer Jim Abbiss, the record is one of explosive passion and creativity. Having surpassed the rock n roll lifestyle and bound for yoga and spirituality, Koisser was surprised by a phone call from Felice, who stated in no uncertain terms that it was to be he that took on the project.
“He called me and basically said he was going to do the record, [he said]… ‘I don’t know anything about your band but I love the tunes and I’m going to record it and we’re going to go to Woodstock’ and all this stuff he had just planned out because he was just inspired by the sound… and then a week later I got a call saying ‘yo come pick me up from Heathrow airport at 11am’.”
Odd to say the least, but according to Koisser, just the kick in the butt the band needed.
“He flew over here and we hung out and then we went to Woodstock and recorded an album. There was no other option and that’s exactly what we needed. We’d had two years at that point where we had been fucking around and rehearsing and getting lost, being outside of the music. He was like a hand out of the sky that grabbed up and dropped us down into this studio and next thing we knew we had a record. He was a merchant of fate or destiny.”
It wasn’t the only instance in the album’s creation that stood out against the pattern of their past records. After seemingly too long in the spotlight and too much time indulging in the rewards of the music industry, Koisser took himself to the countryside to write in the months before Felice’s abrupt arrival.
“When I’m left to my own devices I become a hermit and climb into a hole and just go deeper and deeper into whatever it is that I find. Being left in the countryside with nothing but songwriting let me do that with music. I’ve done it with relationships and with learning instruments before but I’d never done it with music and so I spent six months in the countryside just doing that.”
“I didn’t see any of my friends, I lost my girlfriend and a hundred of my friends. I had about five people who cared if I was alive and I would just obsessively write songs all day and all night and grew a beard… I came out of it with all these songs and five mates and here we are.”
“I’ve been properly going to town on the songwriting thing, and getting really spiritual with the whole shebang,” Koisser added with a tone of contentment. “I used to be very metropolitan, in a band, going to parties, drinks, laughs, someone from some noughties indie band was DJing. That was the schtick and I fucked all of that off, the whole of my cool stuff in London I chucked in the bin.”
As he said this, my interest was triggered. Although one should usually always be on the side of health and well being, I can’t help but hold a degree of love for rock n roll culture and all that came from it. Bands like Oasis, The Libertines, Arctic Monkeys, and countless others before them were born of this wild eyed lust for life, substance and stories.
Does Koisser believe that rock is still alive and well or are we, as this latest album name suggests, entering a new era? Koisser pondered the question.
“I think it’s still there. To an extent that’s not really me as person and I was dragged into that in a big way. I really did it for a while, but it’s not me and I guess if it was I’d still be there, I could just live out my days going to fashion parties and wearing free things… for me it doesn’t work and I think it will always there in some form. There will always be people who like fast cars and fast women and cool suits and DJ sets and people with names. But I’ve tapped out of that.”
A standout track on the record is the opener Power, and it was here I decided to engage Koisser in talk about the meaning behind his new record. Clearly a welcome topic of conversation, he was chomping at the bit.
“Music is like a vice. Music is so powerful and means so much to people, our fans get shit tattooed on their bodies and scream stuff at us. This was the first time I really understood what that means. When I was out in the country, I’d never really been there before and I was standing there in the power of nature and music and what it means to write songs. It was a sacred force that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. So I tried to grab it and get the guys really pumped about it, so you literally are playing that… play the guitar like it is the sky.”
This album has been heralded a standout for the band, not only in its sound but in its intent. It’s a very different story to their earlier work, as Koisser explained:
“We are 100% ourselves. We were so young really when this all started. I was 19 and the past six years were just touring and total hedonism. I was painfully uncool before then and not in a dicky way but everyone wanted to hang out with me. And even people in bands who I thought were cool wanted to hang out with me and I couldn’t fucking handle it… we had one debut record which people thought was groovy and towards the tail end of that we went our own way a little bit and enjoyed ourselves a bit too much…”
“The other thing is that bands will go on tour, and between us we probably make a quarter of the total of money. There’s people who want you to play for four years straight. We were putting other people’s kids through school. To do anything that much it’s going to lose it’s meaning. Playing those songs over and over and over all year you can’t expect it to mean as much as it did in the beginning…”
“We were finishing the second album and everything had lost its meaning a little bit.”
And yet as this record took its first steps into the world, there was an air of rebirth. As the singer mused, “When we went on tour and were playing those old songs it was like opening an emotional time capsule.”
Peace are a band who have taken a calculated turn off the highway to hell and into what appears to be a picturesque cobblestone lane. While their sound is still as wild and intense as ever, they are not out to rile us up and rock the boat, rather Kindness Is The New Rock n Roll ushers in a new era of conscious coolness.
Kindness Is The New Rock n Roll is out now.