Getting older is just peachy for Peach Pit’s Neil Smith.
When I first got the email about interviewing Peach Pit’s Neil Smith I did a little dance. If you live in Vancouver, as I do, and you’re also a fan of indie music, you’d recognize Peach Pit to be, essentially Vancouver’s patron saint of indie music (sorry, Said the Whale). They’ve risen to a near mythic status. Everyone in Vancouver is one or two degrees of separation from the band members. You sit outside of a liquor store drinking a Rockstar Vodka before heading into the bar and to your left is Peach Pit’s drummer, Mikey, doing the same thing (true story).
The first time I heard a Peach Pit song it was a quintessential Vancouver day – that is to say, incredibly rainy. I was sitting on a steamy bus and my Spotify Discover Weekly queued up Alrighty Aphrodite for me. It was different than anything I’d ever heard before, I was instantly hooked. After the initial bus listening, Peach Pit quickly became one of my most played bands. Their first record, Being So Normal, featured guitar-heavy songs centering around getting drunk at parties and the pain that’s often associated with young love. As a university student it was the perfect soundtrack. So perfect in fact that it led to me making friends at my retail job. Alrighty Aphrodite once again came to the rescue when my co-worker, now best friend and roommate, said, “Hey, you like Peach Pit too?”
Their next record, You And Your Friends, was released in the pandemic. Me and my friends sent songs back and forth to one another. “My favourite is Camilla, no wait, it’s actually Your Teeth, well no, I think it might be Shampoo Bottles,” we’d say. The record was fun and jammy and to us it felt like the next, bigger, better iteration of Peach Pit’s music.
Then From 2 to 3 was released. My fellow Peach Pit fan friends and I were all working full time jobs, we’d moved out of parent’s houses. We were growing up. And Peach Pit’s sound had grown up too. This time their style was pared back – it sounded more raw, more live. Songs about getting wasted at parties were replaced with songs about getting wasted at parties and realizing this maybe wasn’t the best choice (Neil doesn’t drink anymore). From 2 to 3 sounds like a sober second thought. It’s still the same old Peach Pit, but it’s slightly more mature. They’re growing up right along with their listeners.
1883 sits down with Neil Smith, lead singer and rhythm guitarist, of Peach Pit. In our chat we discussed how weird it is to sing about being 17 when you’re nearly 30, how the band navigates creative differences, and why they’re hitting the road again after just getting home from tour.
I want this interview to be on the theme of growth and change as an artist and how growing up impacts that. But, before we get into all that, I just want to ask some light, easy questions. So let’s start with this – what’s your favorite song that you’ve ever written for Peach Pit?
Oh, man, it’s hard to say only because I guess it changes a lot. You know, a lot of the time when we’re working on a song that we really like, maybe it’s something new, that kind of becomes your favorite. But there’s definitely certain songs that stand the test of time for us that despite having played them hundreds and hundreds of times over the years, we still like playing.
Tommy’s Party is definitely one of our faves. I think a lot of people who listen to our music really connected to that song. So it’s meant that when we play it live, it’s fun because everyone’s singing along to all the words. At first that was very surreal for us, traveling around the world and playing these shows and people knowing all the words and stuff. So definitely Tommy’s Party ranks up there. And then one that I really liked, which is actually probably the maybe the least liked Peach Pit song of all time, is Your Teeth which was on our last record.
That’s one of my favourites. How can it be least liked!?
Oh yeah? I just see in the comments and stuff. It’s not a not a fan favourite, but it’s one of our favourites. It’s a really fun one to play together and it’s just a weird song.
Well, I think it’s like the ultimate diss track.
Yeah, it kind of is.
Those lyrics are pretty crushing. Are there any songs that you feel like, conversely, you’re so sick of you almost never want to play again?
Yes, absolutely. I really don’t like playing 17 anymore. That song… We just played it so many times. It’s just like… Weird. You know, I wrote that song when I was like 19 and now I’m 29. So singing about being 17 When you’re almost 30 is just like a weird thing to do. We played it on our last tour, and it’s fine when we play it at shows. It’s okay because you know, the teenagers that are there…. Maybe they’re just turning 17. It’s a special song for them or whatever. It gets them excited. But yeah, we don’t rehearse that song ever. We’re like, well, we’ll just wing it we have to play it live because it’s painful to try and play it in our jam space together.
So, what have been some of your biggest inspirations, musically?
Over the years, it’s changed a lot. I guess when I was in high school my biggest inspo was this folk singer named Josh Ritter. He was my favorite. I was obsessed with him. I got a fake ID when I was 16 just so I could go see his concert in Vancouver. And then after that, maybe later in high school, me and the guys were all super into a Canadian artist named Andy Shauf. We really loved Andy Shauf. Super, super into him. He was a big influence on us. And then as we got into our early twenties, we sort of delved back into lots of music from the 60s and the 70s.
Nowadays, I would say The Beatles are a big influence for us. Individually, like Paul McCartney, I love all of his records. George Harrison. Neil Young for sure. Yeah, lots of 70s music is really what we’ve been listening to over the past maybe like four or five years kind of thing. But we all listen to tons of music all the time. So getting inspiration from all sorts of different places. Especially oldies though that’s definitely my fave.
As you’re getting older, have you noticed your music changing and the type of music that you create?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, if you just look at the production on our records and how that’s changed over time. The kinds of things that we’re influenced by have changed right along with that. On our last record, we really wanted to try and make something that had a lot of natural instrument sounds, not a lot of effects all over the record like we had in our previous record. We wanted it to really sound like us playing together live because that’s what we like to do the best – we like playing live.
I don’t know, you get into these kind of habits as a songwriter where you have to kind of find your lane and you sort of run with it for a while and, so some examples of that are maybe Tommy’s Party or Shampoo Bottles, songs that connected with people who listen to our music in a big way. They all kind of have a very literal narrative sort of form to them with a melancholy or sort of nostalgic feeling, but they’re also funny. There’s funny lines in them. Whenever we would play Tommy’s Party live for people who didn’t didn’t know the song when we were first starting, people would always laugh at the second verse where I talk about being fucked up, and then the girl that you’re with being fucked up as well. People would always think that was funny. It wasn’t something that was maybe intentionally supposed to be funny, but we try to have that kind of like, maybe not so serious, serious lyrics. They’re real in the fact that like maybe they’re sad, but they’re also kind of funny at the same time and maybe more pathetic than anything. Same with Shampoo Bottles, like that’s a pretty fucking pathetic song, you know? I was just at home and there were some shampoo bottles of my ex girlfriends and I wrote a whole song about it.
No, but we love it so much.
So what was your question? How has it changed? I guess maybe as as it’s gone forward, I like to keep that sort of similar style in in my lyrics and stuff because I just enjoy writing songs like that, but I’ve also been trying to like branch out from there and write stuff that’s maybe a little bit more abstract or nuanced, than those songs, just because I want to try to learn how to write good songs like that too.
Do you ever get worried about how growing up, things seem less dramatic? And drama or exciting “big” moments are often what inspire us as creatives. When I think about being a teenager, the bar for drama’s on the floor, practically underground. Someone got drunk at a party and we’ll talk about that for weeks. It feels like the biggest thing ever. And then I think as you get older, it feels like the balloon has popped in a way. Everything feels less intense. Does that quiet for you as a songwriter? Do you get concerned about that from an inspiration standpoint?
That’s actually a really interesting question. I think it definitely does change as you get older, but you know, I for one like to try to find the interesting moments in life, that maybe wouldn’t be like the first thing to come to mind. I’m always taking notes on my phone about things that I want to write about or things that I think are kind of funny or would be an interesting point of view, from a songwriting perspective. So I’m always trying to log these kinds of things that happen to me, throughout my day, throughout my month, throughout my year, different things that I want to write about and try to find.
It’s not so much drama, it’s more just like, something that sparks some sort of inspiration in me that I’m like, I don’t know if anyone’s ever really written a song about that specific moment or that sort of a feeling or interaction before and trying to figure out how I can put that into a song. Which is really hard. I write all these notes, and then I write a bunch of really shitty songs about random things that I think would be good and only one in every ten or whatever ends up being something that we continue with and work towards. My life is not dramatic. I try not to make it dramatic. I like to live a very chill life, so it definitely has changed, but yeah, there’s just different things that I find inspiring nowadays, other than, you know, dramatic interactions with friends when you’re drunk at a party or something like that.
What have been some of the things that have inspired you recently, then?
I guess this year, we got to be back on the road a lot, which was really nice. We gotta get back out and tour and see the world again after a few years of just being at home. That has been really inspiring. Just hanging out with the band honestly, has been really great. And then also, I’ve had some changes in my life. I went through a breakup recently. I moved into a new apartment a couple of weeks ago. All those sorts of changes are things that are constantly on my mind and things that I’m trying to think about and how I can turn that into music.
On our last record, there was a lot of stuff talking about how I don’t drink anymore. About how I quit drinking, and how that changed life for me and what that means for me now. I think on this next record, I want to try to write more songs kind of like, having the adult perspective on things that happened to me when I was growing up and things that kind of made me into who I am today.
Honestly, a lot of things that inspire me to write tunes are super mundane things that wouldn’t seem like a very interesting thing to write a song about. Those are the things that I want to try… To like, write words that seem real in a song. That’s what I’m always trying to do – I’m trying to portray something in a super truthful way.
So I’ve definitely noticed a shift in your sound as a listener. Your music has changed pretty significantly from your first album up to From 2 to 3. When I look at other bands like King Gizzard and Lizard Wizard and they go from Fishing for Fishies to Infest the Rat’s Nest and no one really bats an eye at that. But then you have bands like the Arctic Monkeys, and they go from AM to Tranquility Base and everyone’s like, “What the fuck is Alex Turner doing? The band’s not the same anymore.” One thing that I think Peach Pit has is this great ability to change and grow and level up your sound with each record, but you still maintain that same overall ethos. How do you go about making those changes and getting that “leveling up” factor?
Well, I don’t know if we really think about it as leveling up necessarily. It’s more just like trying to make whatever music we’re inspired by at the time and to make something that we enjoy playing together. That’s really what our main goal is. Whenever we’re making a record we’re just trying to make songs that we think are good, that we think are fun to play. And then hopefully people also like them afterwards. Obviously we want people to want to listen to our music otherwise we wouldn’t have a job. But, you know, our main goal is just to try to make the music that we want to make, that’s kind of all we’re really thinking about.
For example, with Being So Normal, we were just starting out as a band. When we had nine songs that we could turn into an album we did — we didn’t have any sort of vision. We just were like, “Oh shit, we’ve got nine songs. This could be an album.” And then after that, we got to touring and stuff, we got a record label and then they wanted us to make another album. That’s kind of when our process became like, “Okay, let’s start making records.” It wasn’t just like, “Okay, we need to make a certain amount of songs.” It was more like trying to think about it as a whole. With each album we’ve progressed, we’ve gotten more and more comfortable with the idea of what it means to make a record. How you go about planning out all of the songs and try to make it into a cohesive thing.
And that’s just gotten easier with maturity as a band, and playing lots of shows and having been doing this for like eight years now. You know, you just get better at it. We just don’t ever want to stay in one lane. We don’t want to have every record sound like the last one. And it’s not so much like, “Oh, we need to do something different.” It’s that we don’t want to do the same thing we did last time. So, even on the next record, we’re already trying to put that together. We’re trying to find a way that we can blend together what we did with From 2 to 3, but then also take it back to what we did with Being So Normal with lots of rock songs and guitar solos and just kind of like, blend those two worlds together. I don’t know how that’s exactly going to work. And honestly, at the end of the record, we might be way off from where we want it to be at the start. It’s really hard to say at the beginning.
I think, when you’re making an album, it’s really, really hard sometimes to like, have the vision carry through from the beginning until the very end. I know there’s definitely some artists that can do that, but that’s not really us. I think you know, a lot of times people will be like, “Oh, yeah, it sounds like Peach Pit. You guys have a sound.” And to us, we’re not really trying to have any sort of specific sound. I think the reason people say we have a sound is just because when Chris, Peter, Mikey and I play together and make music, that’s just what our music sounds like. We’re not trying to make anything sort of specific. We’re not trying to be like, “Oh, this doesn’t sound like Peach Pit enough. We need to make it sound like Peach Pit.” I just don’t think we really know how to make music any other way. So even if we do change our sound over the course of records I think they’ll always sound like us. It’s not going to be anything super out there.
So you’re never really afraid of isolating your audience then?
Well, I mean, I wouldn’t say that we’re not afraid of doing it. Like our audience is always in our mind when we’re making music. At the end of the day, yes, we’re making music for ourselves, because we love making music, but I also want people to want to listen to our music. I want people to want to come to our shows. So of course we’re always trying to think about our audience. But, I don’t know… We’re pretty basic. So I feel like people will like it. Like the majority of people that listen to our music will be okay with it, you know? We’re not going to do anything too crazy.
For your last record, things are changing up with different band members playing different instruments, and Chris even writing a song.
Mikey’s on the guitar, yeah, Mikey’s playing harmonica. We got all sorts of different stuff. Chris is playing synths and things like that. Yeah, we definitely tried new things.
When you guys are trying these new things, is there ever any McCartney, Lennon, Harrison energy, where you’re like, “I don’t know how to tell you I hate what you’re doing. Or I want you to play it my way.” kind of stuff?
I mean, always. But that’s like every band though. I think that every band experiences that. You just get better at communicating. I’m the main songwriter of the band, so when we first started out, you know, I was very particular, very precious. I wanted things to be done the way that I had pictured in my head, and it definitely took me a lot of time to trust the rest of the band in their abilities as songwriters. And just as musicians in general.
We’ve just gotten better at it. We always used to have mottos. It was a joke but in 2018 our motto was, try everything 2018. So, whenever anybody had an idea, we always had to try it. We didn’t used to be good like that, like somebody might come up with an idea and then someone would shoot it down really quickly. Namely me. We’ve gotten better at that. We always have to try an idea, see it all the way through before we say no, it’s not working for us. We also have a very democratic thing going in our band. So we try everything, try to see if something works and if it doesn’t, we talk about it and then we can it, and move on from there. That helps us to navigate those awkward band moments where someone thinks they have a good idea and someone else is like, “No, that’s shit.” We don’t do that too much, we really try to see everyone’s ideas out and because of that we’ve found really awesome things.
One of my favourites on our last album was Look Out. Chris started writing that song, and then I took it and wrote some more to the song. And then we recorded this version of Look Out and at the end of it, we were like, “Oh, this fucking kind of sucks.” We were thinking about cutting it from the record. And then Chris was like, “No, no, let’s let’s re-record it. Let’s re-record it.” And we’re like, “No, no, that’s such a waste of time. Let’s not do it.” Anyway, we re-recorded the song and it turned into the version that we have on the record today and I really loved the way it came out. We tried all sorts of new stuff on the song.
So, we kind of learned from those experiences that you gotta give everything a chance. Just get your ego out of it. Like, I know we often feel like we know exactly what we’re doing all the time… I keep saying “we”. It’s me – I feel like I know what I’m doing. And I think I have the best ideas, but it’s not always the case.
Can you tell me about a song where you had an idea for something and then someone was like, actually what if we tried this and then it ended up going really well?
Oh, yeah, I mean, a lot. I mean, lots and lots of our songs, especially because of how we make music. Like 99 percent of the time I’ve written a song on my acoustic guitar at home and then I bring it to the band. And then we try to turn it into a Peach Pit song and so it vastly changes every single song I write. In Alrighty Aphrodite there’s no acoustic guitar on that song at all, and I wrote that on an acoustic guitar so it sounds completely different. So that’s like always happening for us. Where someone comes up with an idea for arrangement or something and it kind of gives this whole song a totally different life. We don’t really have that many songs that are like Alrighty Aphrodite on any of our records, it’s kind of different from lots of stuff. Just the way that we make music together, stuff like that’s always happening. That’s how we figure out our arrangements and stuff. Trying these wacky ideas to take things outside the box. I’m trying to think of anything specifically off the top of my head where we like, really went out there but nothing’s coming to me. I’m sorry, but it does happen a lot.
You guys are essentially going back on tour right after coming home from tour. So why are you guys hitting the road again? And why so fast?
Well, because of the pandemic, everything got pushed and pushed and pushed and pushed. We were meant to go on a tour for You and Your Friends. And then that got cancelled. So we ended up making From 2 to 3. On our last tour we had two records that we’d never ever played live for anybody before. We have a lot of songs now, we have almost twice as many songs as we did pre-pandemic. And so for one, we want to be able to play lots of new songs. This tour setlist is going to be super different from the last one. We’re going to play some that we’ve literally never played before. Like we’ve just recorded them in the studio. We’ve never played them live. And until like three weeks ago, we didn’t even know how to play them really. We had to relearn them.
We almost sold out the entire tour. We just want to get back out there and be able to play bigger rooms on the next tour. After not working for two plus years, it really makes you want to work and go on tour and like you know, make a living at what you’re doing. It was pretty scary just like all of a sudden, not being able to do that and you’re like, “Oh shit, like I don’t have any ability to do anything else.” I’m going to be 30 next year and I don’t really know how to do any other jobs. So we better tour a lot so we can, like you know, make a living.
So, where do you see the band’s music heading in the years to come?
I think right now, we’ve been really inspired by a lot of blues rock. Specifically Paul McCartney blues is what we’re really into right now. I would really like to have some sort of blues rock influence on some of our next records.
But honestly, I think our plan is to just try to make as many records as we can, while people still want to listen to our music. And just keep doing the same thing, like you know, we’re going to tour our butts off and then we’re going to make a record and then we’re going to tour our butts off and we’re just planning on doing that basically until nobody’s coming to our shows anymore and we have to do something else.
We all get along super great, we’re really, really good friends. And so, for us, it’s kind of like our dreams have come true, majorly and the fact that we get to do this… We’ve gotta strike while the iron’s hot and while people are still around and want to hear the records we have to make. So that’s kind of just like the plan for us. I mean, everyone’s starting their lives and things. Chris is getting married next weekend. Peter got married two years ago. Everyone’s getting older and going to start having kids and things so I think yeah, we just gotta get out there while people are still leading relatively simple lives. We’re going to try to make lots of music.
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