A Conversation With Peach Pit

Peach Pit is an indie surf-rock band that’s already played major festivals including Bumbershoot, Shaky Knees and Bonnaroo. The Vancouver quartet—vocalist/guitarist Neil Smith, guitarist Christopher Vanderkooy, bassist Peter Wilton and drummer Mikey Pascuzzi—has put out two well-received albums and will release its third LP next year. (New single “Up Granville” drops October 1.) The 2021 Firefly Festival was only Peach Pit’s second show in a year and a half, and prior to its set, the band was visibly stoked to be playing it.—despite having to go on a wild goose chase in a rainstorm in New York to get the requisite COVID tests to reenter Canada.

MAGNET caught up with Peach Pit right before the band hit the Firefly stage.

First of all, how are you guys? How has it been the past 18 months for you since the pandemic started?
The past 18 months have been, you know, super weird. But we just got together and played two nights ago in New York, and that was very surreal. It felt so good. And we are at a music festival right now—it’s absurd. I kind of forgot how much we liked it. 
Vanderkooy: Over the past 18 months, we also recorded a new record that we are really excited about.
Smith: And we added our buddy Dougie to our live shows. We just did our first show together, and it went killer! It’s been good. 

How did you collaborate for this new album? Did you do it mostly over Zoom? Did you get together?
Smith: We did lots of stuff over Zoom. 
Vanderkooy: We worked with a producer in Toronto who we still haven’t met face-to-face yet. We just did Zoom every day and streamed audio to him, and he gave feedback live over Zoom. 
Smith: It was one of those things where going into it, I was super nervous not being in the same room as the guy. I thought it would be weird, but it turns out you can become really good friends with somebody over Zoom. We spent, like, eight weeks together every day on Zoom in studio. It was great, honestly. 

How do you think the past 18 months has changed you as artists and as a group?
Vanderkooy: I think one of the biggest things is that we were planning to go on tour after writing a second record (last year’s You And Your Friends), and not being able to do that, we kind of went back to writing with the momentum we felt we gained from writing our second record. I think in a way, we wouldn’t have written the record we wrote unless we stayed home, and that is how the pandemic has sort of influenced the way we were creating.
Smith: But at the same time, I think the fact that we weren’t able to play shows for so long really put it into perspective that we are so lucky. We love what we do, but I think we might have started taking it for granted a little bit. When it gets taken away from you, it sucks. 

On this upcoming album, do you think your sound changed at all? And for readers who aren’t as familiar with Peach Pit, how would you describe your sound?
Pascuzzi: This next album will have more of a classic-rock vibe—a little bit country, almost. We were doing a writing retreat about two years ago on an island off the coast of B.C. We were hanging out one night, and I put on the album Ram by Paul McCartney, and the guys were like—
Smith: Yeah we hadn’t heard it before, and I was, like, “What is this, Mike?!” And it got us listening to more oldies rock over the next few years, which influenced this album.
Pascuzzi: It definitely has an older feel to it. Neil Young was an influence; The Band was another influence.
Vanderkooy: This is the first time we made an intentional record. It’s the first time we set out to make a record sound like “this,” and it came out sounding that way. Every other time, it was, like, “I guess this is just what we made—I don’t know!” It just kind of happened. 
Smith: When I was younger, I was in a folk duo and realized I really wanted to play electric guitar, and from then on, we were afraid to play acoustic guitar on anything. Now we are not as afraid! There’s some acoustic on this album. And keys. 

You have played multiple festivals, and I wanted to hear from you guys how you feel about live performances, specifically festivals, and what your experiences has been like here compared to other festivals.
Smith: We haven’t played the set yet, so not sure how this show is going to go, but festivals are usually fun to play because the crowd is already super hyped-up and lit already, so you don’t have to win people over that much.

It’s like having 20 opening acts!
Smith: Yeah! It’s just constant craziness all day, so by the time you get to play, it’s super easy.
Vanderkooy: We are also super excited about the food here. I just had raw oysters!

The food here is usually pretty amazing! So what is next for you guys? Are you planning any tour for this album or any additional festivals?
Vanderkooy: Yeah, we are planning on going on tour next year. It feels like it’s been pushed back and pushed back, but we have a record coming out with it, so we feel like we are getting reset on the whole cycle.
Smith: It really does feel like a reset on everything. We just played a show for the first time in almost two years two nights ago, and it was amazing but also terrifying. I haven’t felt like that in a long time. But it was still cool.

Kind of like what they’ve been talking about with workers going back to their offices. Everyone has lost their social skills and is, like, “I forget how to do this! I also wanted to learn a little more about you guys personally. What do you do in your free time when you aren’t making music?
Smith: We have all sorts of different hobbies! 
Wilton: I got married at the beginning of the pandemic, and my wife and I rented a five-acre property that is becoming somewhat of a farm. We have horses, a dog and a kitten. So pretty much, my time is occupied by taking care of animals.
Smith: He got a farm during the pandemic, and I got addicted to online gambling! [Everyone laughs]
Wilton: Our lives have gone in different directions. [Laughs]
Smith: We like to play disc-golf together. Real golfing. Cards.
Vanderkooy: Fortnite. We also were on this recreational soccer team. We lost every single game, even though we had the flashiest jerseys of all the teams.
Smith: You guys got professional jerseys made!
Vanderkooy: They were like expensive material, while everyone else showed up in white T-shirts and kicked our asses.

What position did you play? 
Whatever position the other person was running off of. [Everyone laughs]

Anything else you want to tell our readers and your fans?
Come see us play! When the pandemic kind of ends and we get to play more shows. 
Vanderkooy: We had such a good time playing two nights ago, and we are looking forward to playing new songs off this record. We feel like it’s the best record we’ve made so far, so we are really looking forward to playing it.

—Maureen Coulter