Peace at last
You haven’t heard of Peace? You will. The lads are coming straight outta Birmingham on a mission to rock like their role models.
‘K iss me if I’m wrong, but is your name Chris?” Not bad for a chat-up line, agrees Harry Koisser, the vocals/guitar frontman of Birmingham band Peace. It’s 10am and Koisser is yawning – he’s either tired or bored. Difficult to tell. Apparently, the chat-up line was so last night, as was sleep. Which is apt, seeing as Peace is the kind of band that organises its debut album cover shoot in a pub. You haven’t heard of Peace? You will.
Flashback several years, and the band – which also features Harry’s brother, Samuel (bass), Douglas Castle (guitar) and Dom Boyce (drums) – leave their respective hated jobs and start traipsing around Britain’s Midlands in search of glory. Actually, interjects Koisser, Peace don’t traipse – they pace, they prowl. Crikey.
“When we started,” he says, “we didn’t have a definite sense of what we wanted to do. It was the opposite – we had no ideas, no plans, no strategy, we were just taking it as it came. Staying as absent-minded as possible, yet doing as much as we could. We each knew how our individual band parts wanted to sound, and we found that was quite good for writing songs because there were no rules, no sticking to any guidelines. When you’re not trying to be something, then you can just do whatever you want to do.”
Behind the ambiguities, however, there is a band with a purpose. Clued in to a type or style of rock music that Harry classifies as “classic rock acts”, there is a sense that while the members of Peace might be bleary-eyed upstarts they are also hard-wired into a musical heritage that includes the likes of Koisser’s rock band heroes and – yes, young people of Ireland! – role models: The Who, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie.
“We wanted to do something that was rooted in a time when bands were exactly what they said they were – no nonsense, no pussyfooting. Bands such as The Who, Zeppelin, Bowie and a few others made statements, had longevity, and by definition a sense of timelessness. Ultimately, it’s the kind of music that works no matter what year or decade you listen to it.”
Peace might not be pioneers, but they are part of a growing scene in the UK’s Midlands; along with other Brum Beat notables such as Swim Deep (whose much anticipated debut album, Where the Heaven are We, is released at the end of this month), Peace aim to reconnect rock’n’roll with a few of its core concerns: the casual thrill of having youth on your side, sex, and not really caring about next day’s stinging hangover.
Peace - Lovesick
Peace, says Koisser, locked into the local Brummie scene, got to know a few venue promoters, bagged some support slots, and that was that. The band was fortunate, he affirms, that it started at a time when “there weren’t that many other music acts playing what we were doing. We never rushed anything, just allowed it to happen. And it feels like that period of time was groundwork for what we’re doing now. Then we caught the eye and ear of some record labels, and had an opportunity to engage with them.”
From that point onwards – mid-2011 – Peace knuckled down to an ongoing spate of gigging. Like a lucky charm, something clicked on the performance front; fan bonding corralled and multiplied via online social networking (the band posted a manifesto on its Facebook page: “music to grind, roll and smoke/music to f**k you in the heart”), and before you could make a peace sign, the riot police were called in.
“It wasn’t a manifesto like the way Manic Street Preachers had when they started,” remarks Koisser, who, seemingly, has come to regret the posting. “I’m not sure we have one anymore – we haven’t quite decided yet what it is.”
What hasn’t been regretted is the way Peace has moved along in tandem with the fanbase. As committed as those in the early days of Manic Street Preachers but not as misguided (perhaps) as those who stuck like leeches to The Libertines, the Peace stalkers follow the band around in clumps, adorned with “peace” symbols tattooed on their skin and shaved on their heads.
Koisser downplays the adulation. “A lot of people like to insinuate that they got them because they’re into the band, but we think it’s a tattoo of a symbol that people would probably get regardless. And you know, a peace symbol tattoo is a safe one, because if the fans get tired of us they can still show the tattoo as a badge of their liberal credentials.
“Fandom has been a slow process,” he continues. “It started with people coming to the shows, and then friends, and then people who became friends. It has gotten bigger, for sure, and grown quite naturally over the past two years or so.”
After the band’s Irish dates next week, Peace will be clocking up the road miles in the UK and beyond with a series of festival dates. For a band with a still-moderate profile it’s as much learning curve as thrill. It’s interesting, notes Koisser, seeing which bigger acts are still around from when he was a teenager.
“I remember seeing Arctic Monkeys years ago, around the time of their first album. I was never a huge fan - I liked them, mind – but I always had a lot of respect for them. As the years have gone by, however, I’ve listened to them more and noticed how good it is that they have constantly developed. I’m into that – they’ve done what I definitely didn’t expect them to, which is to evolve at their own pace.”
This, presumably, is what Peace aspire to? Koisser hums and haws a bit. “I don’t know . . . When we started, we were always insistent on not wanting to think about stuff like aspirations or ambitions, but rather just letting things happen. It feels weird trying to think about that, and it’s almost as if we shouldn’t. This year is going to be a weird one, because we know we’re getting that little bit bigger in terms of profile and radio play. I suppose our short-term goal is to make another album, sooner rather than later.”
Another yawn comes our way. Koisser could still be tired or still be bored (it’s still difficult to tell); either way, Peace is yet another UK band beloved by fans that choose swagger as much as smarts. For all his uber-cool “whatever” demeanor, Koisser seems the switched-on kind who knows that too much swagger can often over-compensate for too little talent.
“You see a lot of that - it’s quite a band thing, isn’t it, to put that on? It’s not very chilled, though, is it? That said, there’s a part of me that likes that type of attitude. I guess when the world population is ready for Peace we’ll do exactly that – we’ll swagger, and then we’ll knee them in the balls.”
yyy Peace play Whelan’s, Dublin, Tuesday July 9th, and Roisin Dubh, Galway, Thursday July 11th. Debut album, In Love, is out now through Sony.