Article and Interview by Bre Cura // Photos Provided by Artist
One of the absolute highlights of my four weeks of solitude has been the chances I’ve had to really dive into some of the incredible music that has been released. Peach Pit dropped their sophomore album “You and Your Friends” on April 3rd, and I’ve been bopping those tracks as I contemplate this quarantine ever since. Simply put, the album has been an escape from the anxieties and frustrations caused by isolation, and getting to chat with Neil Smith had the same effect.
Both thankful for some human interaction, we talked about the album, how the quarantine has effected this release and the really cool blender Neil has been making smoothies with.
So, how have you been doing? How has this quarantine been for you so far?
Neil: “Good! What’s up? I’m Neil, nice to meet you. It’s been good, it’s been sick dude haha. I feel like the first week I was freaking out a little bit and then the second week I was getting more used to it. And now like three weeks in or whatever, I’m doing okay. I’ve figured out how to entertain myself.”
Have you found that it’s impacted the album release for you guys?
Neil: “I mean, it’s impacted it in that it was a bummer because you know, we were excited to release the album. And obviously in normal circumstances I would have been hanging out with Mikey and Chris and Peter on the album release day and doing something fun with them. So we didn’t really get to see each other which kind of sucked. I guess positively, I don’t know. People are all over the internet right now, so maybe there’s like a captive audience.
I was even actually talking about this with a friend of mine but, you know how music sometimes gets attached to like a certain memory or a time in your life? You hear a song and it’ll take you back to like three summers ago or something? I feel like this album might get attached to this quarantine. So maybe it’ll be like extra ingrained in people’s brains.”
Bre: “I’ve been asking artists opinions because like obviously it’s gonna have a huge negative impact, but at the same time like you said, people are going to be on their computers and on social media listening more than ever because they have nothing to do. So, maybe it can help!”
Neil: “Yeah maybe it will help! I honestly don’t know. Our tour has been postponed to the fall which is too bad, but you know, I was worried about that for like five minutes and then I was really more preoccupied with just the world not collapsing.”
So for this album, “You and Your Friends”, how has it differed from your past releases?
Neil: “Well, I guess this time around there was actually people waiting to hear it which was cool, but also quite scary at the same time. I don’t really remember that well what it felt like to release our last album because it was three years ago now, and it just seems like a lifetime ago. I don’t think I was as anxious last time but that was probably just because there was a lot less people waiting to hear it. It’s the second album so there’s some pressure on it to be good if people liked your first one, so that was kind of scary.
As far as the recording process and the song writing, it was different. I wrote all nine songs (from the first album) over the course of like seven years, whereas every song for this album was pretty much written over a two-year period. It was a lot speedier than I had experienced, but all of us had fun recording it and we’re happy with how it came out!”
So if you had to give a thesis of this album, would you say it’s like a story or is it more of like a vibe? How would you encapsulate that for someone?
Neil: “I think the one thing that connects a lot of the songs is that they are about myself and about the people that are close to me, my friends and my siblings. There’s a few songs that actually name specific names. They’re all kind of pretty much true stories, things that happened over the last couple of years to me.
And then as far as like a vibe goes- when I listen to someone else’s album, I can kind of like see the whole picture as a big picture, you know? You can hear where they’re connected and stuff and kind of see it as a whole. I find it really hard with our own music to be able to actually see the whole thing as a whole, because all I can hear is this little guitar part here, and the harmony here. I have a lot harder time being able to see it as like a bigger picture. So I don’t know if I can answer that totally.”
What would you say was the most challenging aspect of this album for you?
Neil: “Definitely just the songwriting process in general. We put out our first album, and then proceeded to tour for you know a couple years or so. During that time was when we got a record deal with Columbia and when that happened we were super hyped. Once the record deal went through our label was like, okay, let’s record another album. We were kind of like, oh shit, I hadn’t really been writing any songs, we’d just been touring. So that kind of sprung like a year/two year long period of where we were writing all the time. We ended up demoing songs, and writing like 20 songs, 12 of which ended up on the album. So that was definitely the most challenging.
Once we kind of got the songs written, then everything was fun. We had a great time recording it but it was definitely scary for sure. Just kind of feeling that pressure and kind of crunch-time deadlines. It’s weird to write songs and have a deadline for when you’re supposed to finish, I’d never experienced that before.”
So on the flip side of that then, is there something that you’re most proud of?
Neil: “Probably one thing I’m most proud of was working with this producer named John Congleton. John has recorded tons of bands, a huge list of artists that we really admire. Towards the end of the album recording John was really putting pressure on us to write some new songs so that we could record as much as possible. So when I had a song finished I had to record a demo of it and send it to him. So I wrote these three songs which are on the album, (Figure 8, Thursday and Your Teeth)- and you know, I’m really proud of those songs. And John told me he liked them so I felt good because he didn’t give out compliments very much.”
So, what do you want listeners to walk away with after listening to this album?
Neil: “I wouldn’t say that I have any sort of specific wishes for what I want people to take away from the album. I guess if anything, I hope people can find some sort of like solace in it, especially right now during the quarantine. I know that’s like a huge thing for me is listening to music. Right now I’ve been listening to The Beatles album Revolver, which I hadn’t really listened to very much before, it’s kind of been my quarantine soundtrack recently. It’s just nice to have something that you can put on and sing along to, and kind of forget about your problems. Also even to put on a song and kind of lean into your problems a little bit, really just feel the shittiness of them or something. That’s what music helps me do. I hope people can find that in our album as well.”
Now would you say the sound of this album versus your most recent one is different?
Neil: “Yeah, definitely. It was kind of a conscious decision but it happened naturally at the same time. We wanted to have like a bit of an evolution on the album. I didn’t want it to sound exactly like the last one. But mostly I would say the difference in sound has to do with us working with John on the record. He really did produce the album. And before we recorded with him, I couldn’t have told you what the sonic line was going to be for the songs. I feel like he really helped us kind of create one solid piece of work. I would have to give him credit for that for sure.”
If someone could only listen to one track, which one would you have them listen to?
Neil: “I would probably have them listen to one of my favorite songs on the record, at the end where it goes Shampoo Bottles, Thursday, Your Teeth. There’s some songs on the album that I wrote two years ago, and then there’s some songs that I wrote like five or six months ago. I just tend to like those songs the best because they’re the newest for me. As you get further away from a song that you’ve written, you kind of start to like disassociate with it because maybe you have changed since you wrote it. So they seem the most like a song that I’m proud of.”
What’s the best way for people to help you guys out right now?
Neil: “Just streaming, listening to the album, sharing it with their friends, buying some merch. That kind of goes across the board, I would say. We’re doing okay honestly, and there’s a lot of bands out there that I know that are really struggling right now. So just in general, I think it’s important for people to be supporting artists. if you don’t normally buy merch online, maybe now’s the time to buy a t-shirt from a band that you like! I’ve been trying to do the same actually, treat yourself once in a while.”
Were there any things that I didn’t hit on that you think are important to mention?
Neil: “I got a new blender from my sister yesterday. So I’ve been making smoothies! She told me to put in frozen berries, some milk, some peanut butter and banana and some cinnamon. That’s my recipe and it’s it’s very good, the peanut butter makes it nice and thick and gives it like a nice taste.“
Bre: “You’ve got to make a chocolate banana. That’s my favorite kind.”
Neil: “How do you make a chocolate banana smoothie? This is my first time making smoothies, keep in mind.”
Bre: “I guess mine’s more of a milkshake, but you just do like vanilla ice cream, banana, chocolate syrup. You can put peanut butter in there if you wanted!”
Neil: “Like a peanut butter/chocolate banana smoothie!’
Bre: “Yes exactly! (Make sure to try this recipe out while you’re stuck inside). Well, thanks again for taking the time to do this!”
Neil: “Very nice job Breanne. No sweat, any human interaction is appreciated.”
Yes Neil, yes it is.
Make sure to check out Peach Pit’s newest album “You and Your Friends” here!
Drop in and browse their merch too, here 🙂