San Francisco-born Kim Taylor Bennett fled to Europe at 11, currently resides in London and once played guitar onstage with Green Day. She’ll report on new British music every other week.
I like Harry Koisser. He listens to Christmas songs when he’s blue, references episodes of The O.C. and makes ludicrous, tongue-in-cheek requests of record labels before signing on the dotted line, and then he’s surprised to find said demands typed out and verified in a contract (more on that later). As the frontman of Birmingham-based band Peace he also pens laidback tunes that bear the fingerprints of The Stone Roses, Oxford’s late-’80s shoegazers Ride and even The Beach Boys (on “California Daze”), while putting Peace’s own hypnotically chiming, cosmic-psych spin on things.
Before Christmas I caught up with Koisser while Peace were locked in recording sessions with Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, Adele), who produced their last release, EP Delicious. Read my interview below and check out their latest video for the new single “Wraith.” You’ve never seen a bunch of boys so comatose and disinterested when faced with two pairs of bouncing buttocks.
Let’s talk band members. Your older brother Sam is on bass, and drummer Dom and guitarist Doug met at school, but your initial meeting with Dom was not very promising… He really didn’t like me. He’d heard from a girl who had fallen over when she was drunk that I’d pushed her over, which was ridiculous. I hadn’t pushed her over; she was just very drunk. I had no idea who he was and he came up to me in the street and was like, “Are you Harry Koisser?” He was all angry with his sleeves rolled up trying to fight me and I was like, “Who is this weirdo?” And then on the first day of college we were in the same drama class and the teacher paired us off. It was like the episode of The O.C. where Ryan and Marissa’s ex-boyfriend—I can’t remember his name—get put together for a history assignment. There was an awkward silence and then, because we were both wearing Zildjian T-shirts, he said, “Who is your favorite drummer?” I said John Bonham and he said, “Mine too. We’re gonna be friends.”
I’ve noticed you’ve been tweeting about The Libertines a lot recently. Are you big fans? Oh we did a cover of “Vertigo” for the ten-year anniversary of The Libertines for a magazine. When we first met, Doug and I maybe bonded a little over The Libertines. We were probably 16 at the time and someone said we were a bit like Pete and Carl and I could remember thinking, “That’s so cool.” I had the pleasure of taking Carl Barat out in Birmingham in late 2011. He DJed at a club which I used to work for. We got talking and he wanted to get out of there so I took him to a pub called The Adam & Eve which is open 24/7. It was fun, but I ended up blacking out. I don’t know what happened. My girlfriend at the time said that I fell out of a taxi and then vomited all over my own white jeans. I bumped into Carl once afterwards and he didn’t remember who I was.
Your dad is in a covers band right? Yeah! He’s in an amazing covers band! He’s been in it since before me and my brother were born. We used to live in a bungalow in Kidderminster and he was annoyed because he used to have a spare room with his drums in and then they had my brother and he couldn’t have the drum room anymore. I think there were times when he had to seriously weigh up what was more important: the drum kit or the child.
Does that mean that you’ve jammed with your dad? I think I was 11 when I played guitar with his band. We may have played “Mustang Sally” and then immediately after I played drums to “I Feel Good” by James Brown. There’s footage of it somewhere. It was at my Nan’s [Grandma’s] wedding! Actually I remember there was a lot of James Brown around when I was a kid. I can remember buying “Sex Machine” on CD when I was very, very young.
Sounds like you had pretty sophisticated taste as a child. You say that but then again I remember buying “Barbie Girl” by Aqua. It was a good year, 1997. Haha! I’m going to try and hold my head high.
You said a few months ago that you felt like your sound and style is still evolving. Now that you’re recording the album, does it feel more solidified? Yeah I think so. Now everything we record sounds like us. It’s almost like there’s something Christmassy about our sound. That was the missing piece of the puzzle that glued everything together. There’s definitely an element of that which stuck with me. Recently we were listening to some stuff back and it sounded like a Christmas song that had nothing to do with Christmas!
When you signed to Columbia you asked the label to erect a billboard emblazoned with a picture of the band and the question: “WHAT THE FCK BIRMINGHAM?” Was that your only demand? I had said, “Get us a billboard, or the contract has to be written in the font Comic Sans.” They chose the billboard. That’s how much they hate that font!
Were you surprised? Really surprised! It was just a passing thing I said to our manager and he thought it would be funny to see what they said and then when it came to reading through the contract, the lawyer was like, “Oh yeah there’s one more thing at the end: the billboard clause.” Our manager was just laughing.
How has Birmingham affected your music? I used to work for a club in Birmingham handing out flyers for a techno and house night called FACE. Because I got free entry and my friend was a resident DJ, that was one of the first influences on us. It was something I really wanted to put into our sound—the rhythms of techno and the grooves of house music—but I don’t know anything about electronic music, so I wanted to make band music. My favorite music to party to is probably techno. My friends are mostly into techno or house. They’re all DJs and it’s a completely different world. It’s quite nice to be a bit involved in that without that being the type of music you create.
Along with bands like Troumaca, Jaws, Wide Eyed and Swim Deep [our next Dollars to Pounds band], there’s been a lot of talk in recent months of a Birmingham—or B’town—scene. Do you think this is accurate? I think there is a scene now. It was hard to think of it at first because we were all just friends in bands and then it was kind of surreal that there were people outside Birmingham looking at it as a thing. But now there are a lot more new bands and people are going to shows and getting a lot more involved. There’s no exclusivity or snobbiness; it’s just good times!