With PEEL’s debut EP out to the airwaves, the world is that little bit gnarlier. Happy caught up with the Sydney 5-piece to chat gear and good boys.
PEEL’s music is full of nods to UK shoegaze but with the unmistakable bite only Aussies can offer. The band’s fuzzy guitars and driving rhythms send the listener into a trance-like state, hypnotised by cyclical melodies and washed out vocals.
The band slipped into the studio just as the bush fires were raging across Australia and finished amid a pandemic, adding to the melancholy soundscape. With their highly anticipated debut out now, we sat down with PEEL to ask them a few questions about it.
HAPPY: Gotta say I’m a big fan of your track Silver Spring, it makes me wanna break things (in a good way).
NICK: Thanks heaps. It’s definitely got an uplifting/destructive thing going on. Hopefully you can channel it at a show sometime soon.
HAPPY: Wondering if you could expand a little on these lyrics, particularly: “Theres a black dog, there’s a black dog waiting. Don’t let him, don’t let him in.”
NICK: The track is about helping someone to pull themselves out of a heavy place. Black dogs are used in folklore as a spectral entity representing the macabre, so that symbol came to mind as I was writing the track. Ultimately the track is about hope though, not letting that darkness take over, so that line is really the centre point of the track and we wanted it to pop.
HAPPY: Do any of you own a black dog?
NICK: I have a dog named Rowland S. Howler that’s got a bit of black in him. He’s a good boy though.
HAPPY: You mentioned you worked out of Blank Space Studios with James Christowski, what was that like?
NICK: It was incredible. We recorded these five tracks in batches across about six months, so each time we went in we were fresh and super keen to get stuck into it. The studio is all open-plan with tonnes of equipment on hand – synths, guitars, percussion, an old piano, tape machines, heaps of pedals. Everything is plugged in and ready to roll so it was easy to jump between instruments and throw down ideas – a very creatively conductive studio. James is an amazing producer too. He pushed us to try things and flesh out ideas as they come to us. We had friends drop in and collaborate and plenty of time to experiment – it was all very loose and free flowing. By far the best studio experience we’ve ever had.
HAPPY: Some of you had taken a break from making music before this EP, why was the middle of a bush fire and global pandemic the right time to start?
NICK: It just kind of happened that way. We started writing what would be this EP in 2019 (seems like forever ago now) with every intention of recording and starting to play shows as quickly as possible. Our first session was in the first week of January 2020 as the bushfires were at their worst. It was a pretty harrowing time to be making music and ended up directly influencing one of the tracks on the EP, Pink Smoke.
We made pretty good progress in the studio and started pulling our live show together, but then COVID hit and all our plans got put on hold. We didn’t end up playing our first show until November 2020. In retrospect, it was good for us though. It allowed us more time to record and mix the EP and refine our sound in the studio without having to focus on playing live. These past six months have sucked though. We are very keen to jump headfirst into playing shows again, that’s for sure.
HAPPY: Love the video clip for Memory Loop by the way, where did the inspiration come from?
NICK: Cheers. All the crazy VFX were done by a guy called FuzzWah. We came across his stuff through clips he’d done for artists like Rinse and Donny Benet and knew he’d fit the vibe we were going for. It turned out so well it ended up influencing the direction of the next two clips and visuals we’ve done for our live shows. That gritty, textural, hypercolour aesthetic is a good visual representation of what we’re trying to achieve sonically.
HAPPY: You said there were plenty of “noise-making tools” In the studio, any favourites you can tell us about? Or do those secrets go down with the ship?
NICK: Always more than willing to talk about gear… one of my favourite sounds we pulled was the rhythm guitar in Silver Spring. We got that fuzz tone by recording directly into an old Tascam 4-track tape machine with the gain cranked up. Such a good sound. I really like the choppy, distorted vocal sound on Memory Loop – that was from running the vocal tracks through two guitar amps (an AC30 and Super Reverb for anyone interested) with lots of overdrive and tremolo from the amps.
James has this janky old upright piano which we used quite a bit for some atmospheric stuff on Pink Smoke. Our friend Kat also brought in this weird old Japanese Korg synth which we used for all the sweepy sounds on DYNA. We used lots of synths and other keys to create textures under and around the guitars, which are central to most tracks – a Juno 106, Fender Rhodes, Moog Sub-37, Roland SH-101. I think this really filled out what we had demo’d originally and gave the songs an extra layer of complexity.
HAPPY: Favourite plugin for all the gear heads out there?
NICK: The Valhalla Supermassive reverb is absolutely insane, and it’s free…
PEEL’s self-titled debut EP is out Friday 22 October via Third Eye Stimuli. Grab your copy on vinyl here.