In conversation with Peaness @ Great Escape 2018

Chester guitar-pop band Peaness are on the tail-end of a stint touring with Glasgow’s The Spook School and a run at the first festivals of the season, so they’re understandably exhausted by the time they arrive at The Great Escape in Brighton. Made up of bassist Jess Branney, guitarist Balla Balbenta, and drummer Rachel Williams, the three-piece sing about topics important to them in infectiously catchy ‘pea-pop’. They’re working on something to release sometime soon, and while they don’t know what or when yet, sticking to their melodic equation are sure to please.

Down at Big Scary Monsters’ showcase at Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar before their one-in-one-out packed show, we sat to talk about what drives the band.

What kind of stuff are you writing right now? What sound you’re looking at pursuing?

Balla: Just kind of similar stuff to what we’ve been doing before. Keeping it happy, poppy, Peaness pea-pop.

Rach: We do have a few more slow songs than what we’ve been doing before, but you have to buy the release when it comes out to find out. (That’s a sales technique.)

What kind of influences do you draw from to write music, whether that be from other music as well or other things (life experiences, other art forms)?

Balla: It’s probably a mixture of experiences – like ‘Same Way’, that was about living in Chester and stuff like that.

Rach: We’ve written about stuff that annoys us as well, so ‘Oh George’ was written about George Osborne at the time of the budget coming out, so we had a conversation about how he annoys us and hate his face, so we wrote a song about that. We do take influences from other bands as well, a lot of bands that we listen to. It all comes from different places.

Going off of that, how do you feel that living in Chester and coming from there has influenced you guys as a band, both in sound or outlook on the industry?

Rach: Because Chester’s quite a small place, it’s got a pretty tight-knit music scene there as well, so it doesn’t really feel competitive or anything. We’re all really close friends with everyone that does music there, which is really nice.

Balla: But then it’s also quite central to everything else, so you’ve got Liverpool, Manchester, North Wales in the area as well.

Rach: A lot of Chester bands move to either Liverpool or Manchester and onto that music scene, so we’ve kind of wanted to stick to Chester to help that come along itself, not just abandon it for a bigger city. It’s nice to help the local scene there. There’s a few little venues there which we’ve played quite a few times.

Balla: There’s loads of really good bands and stuff sticking around in Chester now as well. There are a few bands, but because it’s such a small place you don’t really hear about it as much as what you would in the Manchester scene. It’s nice to be involved from that.

Especially as women in the music industry, to what extent do you feel using your platform as a band is important?

Rach: We never really started the band with the aim of having a feminist statement or anything. We just started because we just wanted to make music and we’d been friends.

Balla: We’ve always made a point of trying not to necessarily market ourselves as this girl band or all-girl band. It shouldn’t really matter. It’s the music and the stuff that’s more important.

Rach: Exactly. I think the issue’s still important, definitely, but I think sometimes it’s nice to just release music in terms of being just a band as opposed to just being a girl band so you don’t get compared off that. It shouldn’t be comparable. 

You also talk about stuff, like in ‘Ugly Veg’, being more environmentally friendly as well.

Rach: Yeah, again, we talk about stuff that we talk about a lot, and this kind of stuff is important, especially for our generation as well, talking about things like food waste. I think our generation are more in touch with it now as well, so I think we just talk about stuff that affects us.

When you release a song for people to listen to, or perform in front of an audience, what’s the biggest impact you hope to have on them?

Rach: We just want people to enjoy it and not take it too seriously. We don’t want to be taken too seriously. We started out with it just being a bit of fun, and we want to keep that going, really. We don’t want to have this conversation in sunglasses and parka coats. I want people to just enjoy it and be light-hearted, and not heavy.

Where do you feel you are or hope you are going from here?

Rach: Hopefully not death metal. I’m not sure, really. We’ve not really thought about it yet. We’ve talked about adding me doing harmonies, maybe. I suppose that’s not really so much of a difference. We haven’t really talked about any sort of specifically different sounds or anything like that yet.

Balla: Wait and see what we come out with, anyway. We have got a few songs that are a bit different with that we haven’t released yet. A few more heavier songs and one that we called ‘Radiohead song’ as well, so if we put out any more songs that sound like that, it might go in that direction.

Interview and images by Francesca Tirpak

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