‘We try to get a real groove into each song’: An interview with Harrison Koisser from Peace

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I caught up with indie rock band Peace’s frontman Harrison Koisser in a plain, mirrored dressing room backstage at Portsmouth’s Pyramid Centre. The band were around half way through their tour to promote their debut album release of In Love. Harrison gave me a quarter of an hour of his busy schedule to talk about groovy sounds, The La’s and his mum.

So how’s the tour been going?

Great! Really good. This must be the… fifth, sixth, seventh… no, eighth show now!

Two dates in London, right? How were they?

Yeah, we’ve never done really a big London show. We did KOKO on New Year, that was like a NME New Year’s Eve party. It’s like our like our last headline shows, before we did four headline shows at Birthdays, which is a tiny venue. But yeah, I don’t know, it’s been a great tour, really good.

Awesome! How are you feeling about tonight?

Good! Yeah, I like Sunday shows, they can either be like a bit more chilled with a really nice vibe, or then you’re surprised by it, so you’re kinda in a win-win situation with a Sunday show.

Yeah, that’s true. The crowd can be quite pumped for it, I mean some people are waiting outside already [6:00 interview, doors opened at 7:30].

Really? Wow, yeah. Ah, no way! Well, it might be a good show then. People might be really up for it. This is the venue that my manager went to for his first ever gig – he’s from the Isle of Wight so he used to come over. He didn’t tell me who he was seeing, but his first ever show was here which is quite sweet.

That’s really sweet! So, what can we expect from live shows?

It’s a good time to ask that question, because I think before the tour we got asked that a lot, ‘what can we expect?’, and I was like ‘I dunno, we’re gonna play our songs?’ I don’t know. But seeing what other people say from our shows now… a lot of people say that it makes a little bit more sense. It’ll clarify what the band’s about and we’ve got quite a nice light show going on which we’ve never done before, which is really exciting for us. And I know now that it works so now I can be confident in saying that it’s gonna be great, you know – it’s going to be an entire spectacle.

Do you get nervous before you go out anymore?

Not really…

So no pre-show rituals, alcohol?

No, not really… I used to… I used to be very like ‘you have to take the edge off before the show’ and that was kind of a nerves thing, but then after I guess Reading and Glastonbury, and a festival in Mexico where the stage was twice the size of the ones that we did at Reading, doing sort of venues this big now is kind of comfortable, so I guess that took the edge off for this tour, so we can just do our thing. We’re being looked after more now, and techies sort things out for us.

Could you sum up your sound in a few words?

Ermm… groovy? Although I hate the word groovy. Since recording more now for our second record, I realised the main thing we try to get into each song is a real groove. So I guess groovy, and a kind of a shaky sound, and… I don’t know. Even in slow songs there needs to be a kind of energy, it’s still got to have a groove to it even though it’s slower.

Major influences? Who would you say?

I think musically it’s almost impossible to nail down or even sum up influences because it’s so varying from music we’ve all listened to for so long. But I’d say I always loved great frontmen, even though I don’t try to be like that, I’m really influenced by Bowie, when he was doing the Ziggy Stardust thing, and would be like climbing all over Mick Ronson and on his knees like ‘raaaar’ with his tongue out. Or like someone like Freddie Mercury who really, I don’t know, controlled a crowd. I probably wouldn’t go about it the same way, but it’s something I would like to do. Maybe Led Zeppelin for the way that as a band – the four of them – the way they connected created a sound which doesn’t exist without either part of that. I quite like that idea, a four way equation that if you take out either part, does not work. And you know, I guess, really good songs…

Songs that kind of stand for themselves?

Yeah, if you listen to The La’s, they did ‘There She Goes’, which is a huge pop song and that record, the album was called ‘The La’s’ and was recorded a few times with different producers and I’ve got all the versions of it and they have very different sounds. One was done by Mike Hedges, who did The Cure, and that’s my favourite version of it; ‘There She Goes’ is a little bit lower and it’s got like fazer on the guitar, and it sounds like The Cure but it’s still obviously that song. And then there’s another one which was done by John Leckie [Stone Roses producer] and then when you listen to ‘There She Goes’ on that version there’s reverb on the drums and it sounds like a Stone Roses riff. Then the version which was the single, the Steve Lilly-White version, was so pop-y and makes the song a pop song almost. I quite like that the song is always going to be really good cos it’s a good song, and you can make it alternative and sound like Stone Roses, you can make it sound like The Cure, and it’s always going to be a great song.

And when you’re live you can change it up a little bit?

Yeah, definitely. When I got the three versions of that record I was like ‘wait a minute, if you’ve got a really good song you can do anything with it’. You can do so much with the sound, but its more about the song. So I think that record, [‘The La’s’ – The La’s] was influential.

So your album, In Love, was released back in March. Tell me a bit about that.

Yeah, I mean, it’s very much like a first record. We did an EP before which was a chance for us to experiment with sound and with writing, and what we wanted to be as a band. Then In Love was the first thing we wanted to do, so we were like ‘now we’ve experimented we know how we want to do it’ and we decided to go for a bit more live, like how we did the EP. Some of the bits on the EP we just recorded as a band in a room, and that was really nice to do, so we did the record like that. It was the first songs we had written, and we just thought lets just record in a room together and then only added what was essential, just to see what happened. We wanted to know what our first record would sound like if we recorded us rather than made a record, like rather than thinking about it too much. Lets just record what we sound like; we’ve got the songs so lets just play them, do whatever feels natural and just record it, and that’s what we did, and it’s a perfect example of that. Now we’re moving on from it, it’s a really good thing to have to do an album after, which we can think a bit more about recording. It doesn’t have to be just recording us anymore, it can be like us recording stuff.

So, talking about the future – new album coming out soon?

I guess spring or summer it’ll be out. We’ve started recording it, you know, the cogs are in motion, and we’re all happy with the first results, so it’s all good.

So new sounds for next year’s festivals?

Guess so, yeah. We’ve got to decide. At the moment we’re deciding how the year is going to go because once we know when we’re going to release the record then we’ll kind of build the rest of the year around it. We’ve gotta discuss every avenue. We might not do any festivals next year, just wait for the year after so we can really build the album in a different way. Because it’s almost going to be like pushing two albums; there’s a lot of people who don’t know who we are, and you really want them to know the first record and the second one. It’s going to be an interesting year, but yeah, I’d love to do some festivals. My first reaction was ‘we’ve got to do festivals, we’ve gotta do massive festival shows’, and we thought that maybe we can plan around it and then lead up to the festival season after and see what happens.

You played Reading & Leeds, Glastonbury, Bestival, and T in the Park this year. How were they? How was the reception?

Great, it was really good. You know, it was the first festival season we’ve ever done! We’ve been out of the UK for ages and it was great to come back and do those shows. To get that done I think for a band where you first play the festival you’ve been to so many times, it’s a really big thing, and you kind of need to do it, take a deep breath and then move on. For us, that was Reading. I was really ill for one thing and I was really nervous because I had never done anything like this, and then I was like what if no one comes? What if it all goes wrong? And then just did it. I can’t really remember the set.

You must have checked out other bands at festivals – any favourites?

Well [tour support band]Drenge were one. I didn’t actually go to see Drenge, with festivals we mostly go in and play the show and go out. We don’t really hang around because it’s quite healthy not to get too caught up in what’s going on – going to a festival and being like ‘we just played, let’s go out and like ruin ourselves’. So it was quite nice not to do that, and with Reading and Leeds you have to be there by the next day so you can’t really stick around. But Drenge were my mum’s recommendation, she’d never been to a festival before and she came to Reading, and she couldn’t really get her head around it. I spoke to her after, and she was saying like ‘I saw these amazing bands’, and she said ‘you’ve got the check out Drenge’ and I was like ‘Mum, I know Drenge’ and she was like ‘you’ve got to check them out live!’, so we ended up booking them for the tour pretty much on my mum’s recommendation. She came to London two days ago, and was star struck by them in the dressing room.

So you get interviewed a lot; most common question, most annoying question? What would you say?

I don’t know… Sometimes we do interviews where obviously someone would’ve been sent by a magazine or something and you can tell if someone doesn’t know or like your band. Sometimes we’ve done interviews where the journalist obviously isn’t interested, so you get a bit of a back-handed ‘distanced’ approach. They’ll just be like ‘so why are you so 90’s?’. Come on… if you ask too much or assume things, like ‘why do you do this?’, we’ll be like ‘we don’t actually feel like we do that…’

Okay, just quickly – best and worst things about being in the band?

The best thing is having the life of travelling with close friends and always being on the go and always creating stuff and always experiencing new things. But that can also be the worst thing. After six months on the road this year it was like, ‘wait, I want to be at home’. You want to be doing other stuff. You love what you’re doing but you know that you’re missing out on stuff. Over the last two years of playing constantly… well a lot of my friends I’m still friends with but a lot of people you don’t see anymore. It’s quite a weird thing to get used to. We’re not like mega young doing it, but you know.

Peace’s album is available online and in store now. You can find out more about upcoming tour dates here.

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Head of Events for The Edge magazine. Keen concert goer and angry feminist. Shared recycled oxygen on a 12 hour flight with Foals.

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