By Zachary Sniderman
“Music to fuck you in the heart.” That’s the first thing you might see if you visit Peace on Facebook. “Yeah, that was the first thing we ever wrote on our Facebook page,” says lead singer and guitarist Harry Koisser. “That’s the level we operate on, I guess.”
The second thing you’ll see there, though, is a picture of the band cuddled up on the cover of their debut album, In Love. Peace, made up of brothers Harry and Sam Koisser, Douglas Castle and Dominic Boyce, have been on a bit of a tear as the brightest, shiniest thing to happen to Brit-rock in a long while. Peace have been favorably compared to The Strokes and Foals, and In Love was named debut of the year by NME before the damn thing even hit shelves. And all this from a quartet of kids raised in the musical dead-end that is Worcester, England.
“It was all kind of a surprise,” says Harry on the phone from Paris, where the band have stopped on their 50-date world tour supporting In Love. It’s his birthday today, and he has tonsillitis, which he’s been battling since day two of the tour. “We’re kids of the Midlands and there’s no music industry surrounding us. We had no plans; we didn’t know what you did to be a real band. It feels like luck was involved, or fate.”
Peace are very much a real band, with a real record, and real songs that are earning them real fans. They channeled that rural spirit when recording In Love, driving out to a middle-of-nowhere studio that used to be a chapel. “There were no shops or anything,” says Harry. “There’s no phone signal there; you can’t call anyone. I think for your first record where you want to experiment and be neurotic about it, you need to be completely locked away and go insane for five weeks, and that’s exactly what we did.”
The album itself is a grimy romp of guitar rock. There are elements of punk, math rock and a little bit of psychedelia. Harry sings with a snarl and a yelp, but the real heart of Peace is their ability to flip a song from something sharp into something sweet. Songs like “Follow Baby” and “Toxic” belong in a dive bar but open up to a kind of romanticism more associated with modern indie. Anyone looking for a synth-line, however, need not apply.
Even though the band—and Harry himself—sound like hard-charging animals, they’re curious and eager to keep things moving, even if it’s just to avoid getting bored. “The thing to do is to keep spending all your money on new toys—new guitars and new pedals and new amps—so that you never get bored,” says Harry. “I bought a very expensive Hofner from 1961 as a warm-up guitar. I used to have a £30 acoustic back in the day.”
Back in that day, he worked holding promotional signs for a club called The Rainbow in Birmingham. Now, Peace is selling out The Rainbow and playing big-time festivals like Glastonbury, Leeds and North by Northeast.
For all of Peace’s devil-may-care image, Harry and company have come this far by caring very much about their music. “Dom, our drummer, did grades on drums, but me and Sam and Doug are completely self-taught, we just started when we were really young. I mean, I have a lot of trouble with music theory, but I don’t think that’s cool. I’d really rather have a clue about what I’m doing.” This is Harry, of course, underselling himself. “When it comes to recording and writing, we [take] as much time as we can. That’s the other purpose of the Hofner, I can write on it every night.”
Peace are dedicated to the study of music, even if their focus is just on some cheesy pop song. As part of a series with BBC’s Radio 1, the band decided to tackle a cover of Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat,” which, they discovered, isn’t a half-bad tune. “Yeah, the bass line’s amazing,” says Harry. “When I was listening to it, I was like, ‘Shit, we should do a cover of it.’” He admits that at least a part of their intention was to undo the harm that pop songs have inflicted on music. “They’re really well-written songs and they do have something in there, but the production on them is fucking awful, so I guess we’re doing it in our own way to try and polish it…to fix something.”
Peace are a band to watch because their war against boredom has continually produced unexpected gifts. Take In Love; take the NSFW music video for their song “Wraith”; take their desire to get out and just play, doctors be damned. “I’ll play the show and probably have a few drinks,” says Harry of his gig in Paris, “but I’ve got tonsillitis so I might be a bit…I don’t know, fuck it. Somebody sent me a bottle of rum, so we’ll see.”
3 albums that inspired Peace’s Harry Koisser to make music:
The Who Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy
It was a collection of singles that my dad had and it was the first record that I could remember that I loved. All the songs are really teenage on it. It got me really into music.
Led Zeppelin Houses of the Holy
It’s not just straightforward rock, there are a lot of weird sounds that are really inspiring. At the beginning of “No Quarter” it’s got the Wurlitzer sound with a phase on really fast… I get a strong reaction every time I listen to it.
James Brown Sex Machine
I got this one when I was really young and it was the music that I liked to dance to.