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Interview: Harry Koisser comes in Peace

Peace shot to the scene in 2013 with their debut album In Love and, earlier this year, released their long-awaited third album Kindness Is The New Rock & Roll which was a long and drawn out process as frontman Harry Koisser explains to Far Out Magazine backstage before their set at Y Not Festival.

The Birmingham band returned to the live stage last March after a lengthy spell on the sidelines. Playing a string of small shows, Koisser explained the run of issues the band suffered to get them back into a place they want to be: “It was a slow process coming back and doing shows, all of our equipment was broken, we bought a new guitar that didn’t work. It was fairly intuitive. We took a lot of things out and we had a lot of stuff on stage previously. We had built up this massive back-line and when we came back to it we were like do we all need four amps?” he said in a moment of reflection. It was at this point, the beginning of our conversation that I sensed both Koisser and the band had been through the wringer. The somewhat prolonged gap between studio albums was a painful one, that much was obvious.

There was a three-year gap between the release of 2015’s Happy People and their new LP and, delving in, I asked why: “We spent the first six months living in a farmhouse in Herefordshire then we went back to London and had some time off,” Koisser jumped in at the moment I began asking what the band had been up to away from the music scene. It was almost as though he had been expecting the question and wanted to get his answer out of the way in good time.

I sensed that the time he and the band had spent away from the mainstream had been too long, almost as though Peace feel like a new band, fully refreshed and rejuvenated. Opting to lighten the mood slightly, I allowed my curiosity lead the way and ask a little more about this farmhouse experience in Herefordshire: “It was spooky man, it was fucking weird and miles away from any buildings,” Koisser explained. “I was there every fucking day, I didn’t leave whereas the other guys sort of came and went. That was intense,” he added.

The process of farmhouse reflection had taken its toll. The band was ready to put their ideas into action and made the trek back to London to hit the studio and record some material. However, after a few months of recording, Koisser explained that “some kind of fucked up shit” took ahold of the situation resulting in six months of lost work. “We couldn’t get the booking that what we wanted, the engineer couldn’t do what we wanted and that ended up costing us,” he added still with a stinging disappointment in the tone of his voice. Disillusioned with the people pitted with the job of working alongside the band, helping them put their newly developed experimental sounds into a complete project, Kossier and the band were resigned to prolonging the wait to find the perfect team to record their music.

The band kept themselves busy by playing around a dozen weddings in that time, a somewhat unusual method of practice for a group that boasts their critical acclaim: “In those three years we took off, we did a shit load of weddings,” Koisser explained. “When you’re in a band, ever fucking family member, friend or tour manager, as soon as someone is getting married they’re like “Will you come to play at the wedding?” After a year we just said, ‘we can’t do this anymore’.”

“We got booked for a very high-profile wedding but I shan’t say who it was but it was insane money, like insanity but politically and as a human, I disagreed with what they stood for. Money can’t buy this,” he said before proudly pointing at his heart.

Earlier this summer the four-piece embarked on a lengthy tour of relatively intimate venues across Britain: “I enjoyed that very much, it was good to re-connect with the fans,” Koisser interjected when our conversation moved on to the subject of smaller venues. “I don’t know why we don’t do big places, we always do smaller intense venues. We work really well at festivals and at smaller venues. We try not to overshoot our touring too much, it’s way better for us to do smaller venues that are packed than do a massive venue that you’re struggling to sell tickets,” he added with what struck me as an assuring measurement of their status if not slightly underselling himself slightly. But what came brutally clear was that Peace isn’t just looking to sell tickets, claim a quick buck and move on to the next O2 arena. Peace are here for the long haul, they want their shows to be an experience and, most importantly, they want their fans to enjoy the gig as much as they do.

“I think we are the absolute opposite of any band I’ve ever come in to contact with, we are the only band who try to be a bit smaller than we are,” Koisser added. “Everyone’s a bit bombastic trying to be the biggest band while we’re desperately trying to keep it the same. It’s an investment in the future, the way medical science is going we’re probably going to be alive until we’re 150 so we need to keep that fan-base strong,” he adds with somewhat of a majestic smirk. “We’ve got 100 years of touring left.”

The group’s latest work is a lot more personal than their previous two records, especially the track ‘From Under the Liquid Glass’ which delves into Koisser’s mental health: “It’s great, our past two album’s people when I meet them are like ‘you know what, I love getting wasted and listening to your music at a festival’,” he said on the reception to their previous records. “Which is great but with this album, people are telling me ‘this means so much to me’,” he adds as he sits up and with a more serious tone to his voice. “The last two albums were all about the good times, this one’s not so much about the good times but there’s everything to play for and forever to play it in,” he added.

Earlier this year Frances Bean Cobain, the daughter of Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Hole’s Courtney Love, revealed that ‘From Under the Liquid Glass’ was her favourite track of the last decade, which came as an understandably surreal shock: “It was really weird, I got a text from my manager saying ‘Yes, Cobain’ and I just text back saying ‘Yeah man’ – not having a clue what he was on about but then I realised much later,” the singer said.

It’s in this moment when our conversation turns to the success of the band and the somewhat strange moments of acclaim, I notice that Koisser tends bat off praise like an annoying fly lurking too close for comfort. During our chat, I have partially used his achievements as starting points for our discussion and each one of the has been played down by the singer who, as he vehemently asserted earlier, wants to keep his feet firmly on the ground. Take, for instance, the connection with Frances Bean Cobain. While it is an impressive feat to be hyped up by a women with stringent rock n roll DNA, Koisser was quick to laugh it off: “I sent her an email saying thank you and I’m glad you like the song if you ever want a lift from the airport or anything I live near and I’m an incredibly safe driver,” he said while laughing. “Some emails don’t warrant a reply, it was just me being a fucking idiot.”

Playing music is more than just an occupation for Harry Koisser. It would be easy, if not supremely lazy, to judge Peace’s lead singer as being yet another young musician swept up in their own hype. From entering the stage at Reading and Leeds Festival, set to perform to thousands, Koisser remained unnerved, unfazed and donning his then trademark leopard print fur jacket. We discussed how the lifestyle of rock n roll can be an overwhelming one, when, out of nowhere, he divulged the bizarre incident in which he received a phone call from Kate Moss: “I can never quite understand this situation but someone had called my phone and I was with my friend who answered, when he passed it over I answered ‘hi’. I don’t know how this happened and what was going on but then the person on the other end of the phone replied ‘Hi, It’s Kate’ to which my friend whispered: ‘It’s Kate Moss’.”

“I replied ‘Hey, how you doing?’, to which she answered ‘my friend’s been telling me about you, do you wanna come to my house we’re having some drinks, how far are you from Highgate?’

He continued: “I was getting picked up at 6am to go to Glasgow to play at King Tuts to play to 300 Glaswegians and I had to make a split-second decision in my mind about who was going to get the better of me and I fucking turned it down. I went to Glasgow and gave those 300 Glaswegians the night of their life. All of my friends were like you’re a fucking idiot but I chose the music.” And that, in itself, says everything you need to know about Harry Koisser’s priorities.

Make no mistake about it, the last couple of years have been a rough ol’ ride for Peace. From the highs of hit records and headline shoes to the lows of leaving their major record label behind and losing six months of studio time. With work lost and time seemingly slipping away, there are four guys who have remained calmer than the rest in the midst of a fickle industry. The wave of popularity has no effect on Peace who are, without a shadow of doubt, plugging away in this line of work for all the right reasons. With tough times seemingly behind them, Harry Koisser and Peace are refreshed and ready to roll on again as Happy People.

Peace headline 110 Above in Atherstone this weekend, they are also set to appear at Glasgow Summer Sessions and Bingley Music Live later this month.

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