In a bustling corner of London fields, Harry and Sam Koisser are sat at the back of a coffee house packed to the rafters in the beating heart of Hackney. They are the enigmatic duo that make up Peace. It’s a chilly morning, but there’s an unmistakable warmth in the band’s demeanor as we sat down to chat.
We asked the question that’s been on everyone’s lips for the past five years, what happened to Peace?
What unfurls from the question is a heartfelt conversation of a band who’ve extrapolated their lived experience into their creative output, letting it unfurl into an incredible new album and revised live show. Half a decade has elapsed since the band last unveiled an album, and over a decade since their initial meteoric rise, adorning indie bliss and pop chanteuse to the masses. Today, they make their return, albeit with two voids – drummer Dom Boyce and guitarist Doug Castle have gracefully departed the band, leaving Harry and his brother Sam to forge ahead as a steadfast duo.
We kick off our conversation by reminiscing about their London show earlier this year, where they introduced their dedicated fans to their new musical direction. It was a transformative moment for the band, one that saw them redefine their sound and experiment in ways they hadn’t before. Harry talks about the magic of seeing former band mates Doug and Dom in the crowd; “it’s been a big change not having the guys up on stage with us”. Harry laughs, adding: “I think the most surreal moment was when Doug messaged me the day before asking if he could get guestlist to the show. A really lovely moment was Doug telling me that when he watched us at Colour Factory rather than being on stage he saw us in a totally different perspective, he said he finally understood what Peace was”.
“This time last year we were still very much experimenting with our sound. Like, we really didn’t know whether it was going to work,” Harry recalls. “We’re so happy with how well the shows have gone, but there were so many spinning plates that it could have been awful.” What made this London show particularly special was the speed at which tickets sold out. The band thought the site had crashed, due to the show completely selling out in minutes. Harry remembers the panic that ensued when their booking site appeared to have crashed. “We were panicking. We were blaming the promoters and just saying, ‘This is unacceptable. This is a disaster. People are saying no one can get tickets,'” he laughs.
However, it turned out to be an incredible success, despite the initial doubts. “It was great to get that reaction, seeing people fully embrace the way we’d changed things,” Harry says. “It was genuinely very daunting experimenting at times. Like, we really didn’t know what was going to work.”
Sam elaborates on the challenges they faced, especially regarding their live performance setup. “It was like an 808 Drum Machine clone, a really cheap one. That was then controlling two samplers, then sending MIDI to a small synth,” he says. “The nerves were insane for each of us. The fear was like, ‘Can we actually do this?’ There was just no backup plan.”
Their determination to perform live, with all its potential pitfalls, was a testament to their commitment to delivering a genuine live experience. “We could have made our lives phenomenally easy here with a lot of backing tracks, but we just can’t do it,” Harry explains. It shines a light on a band who refuse to put on rose tinted glasses. Rather than play a ten year anniversary show, they’ve returned with a wholly revised sound and vision.
The conversation shifts towards the band’s evolving priorities and purpose. “We’re incredibly curious now,” Harry shares. “If I had to have a critique of how we did things before, I think the times when I let my purism in were the times that led to failures.”
Peace have taken a more hands-on approach, diving deep into their music and production. Sam recalls the painstaking process of building their live show setup, which involved creating a palette of sounds and instruments, such as glockenspiel and drones, to shape the album’s sonic landscape.
They also incorporated field recordings from their surroundings, like birds and the environment, adding an immersive layer to their music. “The whole time we were working on the record, they were really loud,” Harry says. “When we started mixing and bouncing the songs, hearing it without those sounds, it was like, ‘What’s missing?'”
Despite the challenges, their time in Somerset proved to be a sanctuary for creativity. “We had a house full of musical equipment,” Sam adds, “it was literally filled with all the equipment we’ve amassed over the years.”
The band’s journey was one of reflection and evolution. They contemplated their past, understanding its significance while also looking forward to the new musical territory they were about to explore. Harry speaks about the deeper connection people have with their songs, tracks like 1998 and Bloodshake soundtracked the lives of thousands in the 2010s. “A lot of our writing during that time was very unconscious. With that said, we’re very respectful of the fact people interpret our music in different ways to how we would. We just keep moving and try to find meaning. I don’t know what it is, but I think of it as a continuum that started, however long ago.”
The conversation takes an intriguing turn as they discuss the concept of ‘Utopia,’ their upcoming album. Harry shares: “In this time of madness, it’s about finding divinity in the club. There’s something deeper to music than a brand or a collection. There’s something bigger. We’re here to make music sexy again”. Harry isn’t wrong, it’s an album that sends listeners to celestial heights, a wholly euphoric body of work for their ever growing fanbase to immerse themselves in.
Their vision for ‘Utopia’ was to create an experience somewhere between going to a gig and going to a nightclub. They explored the sacred energies of church and nightclub spaces, blurring the lines between them. “It’s like these places of worship sent me on a spiral, thinking about rave culture,” Sam says. The album title, ‘Utopia,’ was inspired by a Tokyo nightclub, further emphasizing their exploration of these divine and euphoric spaces.
As we wrap up the interview, it’s clear that Peace has emerged from their chrysalis, and ‘Utopia’ is their boldest statement yet. Their dedication to pushing boundaries and seeking meaning through music has led them to a place where the past and the future coexist. Their journey, marked by experimentation and curiosity, has brought them to a profound realization – that there is something sacred in the music they create, something that transcends time and space. Peace are poised to take their fans on a new journey, and ‘Utopia’ is the first stop on this exciting adventure.
Catch Peace live at the following shows:
3 Bath Komedia Bath
4 Birmingham Birmingham Town Hall
5 Southampton Engine Rooms
7 Leeds Leeds University Stylus
8 Glasgow Òran Mór
9 Newcastle Wylam Brewery
10 Sheffield Foundry
11 Manchester New Century Hall – SOLD OUT
14 London Heaven – SOLD OUT
Words: Josh Crowe