Interview: The Peeks
Staring out of the window of a small south London flat, like many people I sometimes wish I could be transported somewhere vast, uninhabited, and natural. Short of hopping on a plane, it’s difficult to envisage such a place when you can see the tops of double deckers sailing past your balcony vegetable patch. Before you book your tickets however, I urge you to have a listen to Melbourne indie-folk band, The Peeks, who have just released their debut album, ‘Grow Up/ Grown Down’. With an exquisite fusion of old school country and modern folk, the trio have painted an idyllic picture of the Australian landscape. Beautifully blended harmonies only add to this effect, with the nuanced vocal of lead singer and songwriter Fraser Henry. I spoke to the Fraser ahead of a month-long Australian East Coast tour.
KM: Some have said that this album is the perfect soundtrack for the Australian outback – and it is almost pastoral in its mood. Would you say your surroundings influenced this album?
FH: I’d say we took a massive influence from our surroundings in making ‘Grow Up/Grow Down’. A lot of my imagery and lyrics come from my youth. I loved being outdoors. Climbing trees, exploring beach coves, camping beside the Goulburn River where I once caught a Kookaburra with a fishing net and listening to so many great Aussie artists like Xavier Rudd, Lior, Missy Higgins, Silverchair and Something for Kate. I’m proud of the Australian landscape, the people within it, so I guess that flows through my being and my music.
KM: There’s a distinct country feel to this album, particularly in ‘Don’t Tell Your Mama’. Has this genre of music influenced you at all?
FH: I never grew up listening to huge amounts of straight country, but I think a lot of my big influences, such as Cat Stevens, Fleet Foxes, Kings of Leon and Band of Horses, have that country-folk element. I guess after listening to those guys for hours upon hours I was slowly transformed and moved towards similar writing styles whilst retaining my own voice. Though I do love some John Denver every now and then, ‘Country Roads’ is a ripper tune! ‘Don’t Tell Your Mama’ got particularly country in the post-production when we added pedal steel guitar and vocals by Anabelle Kay, who has a very strong country influenced sound.
KM: Did working with Annabel influence your writing/recording process?
FH: Anabelle is an absolutely awesome musician and person. In my opinion she is one of the best vocalists in Australia. We recorded everything, added her parts, mixed, mastered and printed the entire album, and had still never met her! We were looking for some female vocals on a couple of songs and we came across Anabelle. We sent her a message and she was really keen to get involved. So Anabelle recorded her parts a few weeks later in Sydney, whilst we finished the album in Melbourne. We never met, but I can’t imagine the songs without her. So Anabelle wasn’t really involved in the writing and recording at all, but her influence on the final sound was really special.
The elusive and talented Anabbel Kay
KM: So how did the idea for the video come about? Where you trying to be as unapologetically Aussie as humanly possible?
FH: Yeah I guess it would look pretty outrageously Australian from across the world. The idea was actually sparked whilst I was working at my bottle shop. I’ve never liked the idea of filming the band play the song or doing things too literal, so I thought, “Three people doing a choreographed dance in Australian animals costumes…why not?” I think we went with Aussie animals because it’s very true to our style. I wonder how it would’ve looked with a giraffe, monkey and octopus.
KM: ‘Grow Up/Grow Down’ is your first album. Did you come across any challenges in the writing process or was it all smooth sailing?
FH: The writing process was interesting. I was always second guessing the song list and quality. I was continually writing all the way up to the album, and I ended up writing around 50% of the songs two months before we kicked off recording. I really immersed myself in a creative mind set, and without other distractions, such as university, full-time work, and I managed to get a nice flow. I wrote ‘Gold’, ‘Postman’, ‘Aubergine Sewing Machine’, ‘Wild Roses Pt 1’ & ‘Wanaka’ very close to recording. Once I was happy with this final bunch of songs I jumped head first into recording.
KM: Did you have a particular vision in mind for this album? It seems like more of a cohesive statement rather than a collection of songs jumbled together.
I wanted the album to be a balance between a transportive, reflective, organic and eclectic sound. I hoped listeners could escape their stresses and worries with ‘Wild Roses’ and ‘Pomegranate’, be transported in ‘Wanaka’ and ‘Night Owl’ and reflect with ‘Gemstones’ and ‘Gold’. Saying this, I’m inspired by the fun and magic in life, and I wanted the album to be whimsical and colourful – lyrically and sonically. We added pedal steel guitar, flute, cello, violin, viola, theremin, melodica and mandolin, amongst the guitars and percussion. I think there’s a definite explorative adventure for the listener with our varied sounds and textures. The name ‘Grow Up/Grow Down’ was born from a running theme throughout the tracks. Finding one’s place, taking that next step and trying to understand what it is to be grown up. The album is almost a representation of my ‘growing up’ journey. I realised there’s no wrong or right way.
KM: You have an East Coast tour coming up this winter (summer to our mainly UK readership, yes Australia is MAD). Who do you listen to while you’re on the road?
We’re definitely mad! There’ll be a great mix of tunes on the road. Fleet Foxes, James Vincent McMorrow, Crowded House, Ben Howard and Local Natives will definitely getting a play. But you can’t listen to that all day, especially when you’re driving 13 hours. Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’, Counting Crows‘ ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ plus a little bit of ABBA, Cyndi Lauper and Alanis Morissette to mix it up a little.
Ideal driving music
Driving up the east Australian coast will give us plenty of time to run through our CD collection. We’re very jealous the UK cities are so much closer than the Australian ones. We’re hoping to play some shows in the UK early next year, so absolutely can’t wait! It’s been a while since my last visit in 2012, so very keen to get back for a pub pie.
KM: And we would be very happy to have you.
‘Grow Up/Grown Down’ is out now.