Peach Pit Band Interview: Fresh Fruit, Jams and Biting Into the Juicy Details

Peach Pit Band Interview: Fresh Fruit, Jams and Biting Into the Juicy Details

Catching Up With the Band Peach Pit

Peach Pit at Levitate Music Festival, July 2023 Photo: L. Klein

 Levitate Music Festival – July 8th 2023 – Marshfield, MA

With the quartet of friends who make up the band Peach Pit, we talked about everything from a cold Cambridge night resulting in an unexpected gift months later to topless teen rides on the train to win concert tickets and everything in between. I have to admit, as a 90’s teen, the first thing I think of when I hear Peach Pit is the retro-style diner where the kids of 90210 gathered to “like totally” unpack whatever drama was happening in their tiny little vapid high school lives at the time. It wasn’t long, after adding Peach Pit’s music to my playlist that the diner became a distant memory replaced with the sounds of this Vancouver based “chewed bubble gum pop” band. When the band was over on our East Coast, I sat down with Neil Smith (singer and rhythm guitar), Chris Vanderkooy (lead guitar), Peter Wilton (bassist), and Mikey Pascuzzi (drummer) to find out more about what exactly chewed bubble gum pop and Peach Pit is at their core pit.

Bubble Gum Pop is a term that was new to me so of course I took a deep dive, unwrapped a stick, blew some bubbles, and ruminated on this new to me term. It refers to soft, sweet, catchy pop music mostly aimed towards teens and adolescents. Peach Pit is as far from Bubble Gum Pop as they are from the characters of 90210.

Neil Smith, singer/rhythm guitar, Peach Pit
photo: L. Klein

City Living Boston: What exactly is chewed bubble gum pop?

Neil Smith: So basically, when we started the band, we had to make a Facebook page. You know, you’re not a real band unless you have a Facebook page, right? And in the genre section you have to put a genre. And honestly, when we first started the band, Mac DeMarco was like our idol. We really loved his music, and we were in our late teens, early twenties. He had, in his genre, that it was Jizz Jazz, which is a lot funnier and more clever than chewed bubble gum pop. I don’t know, we just wrote that in there. It doesn’t mean anything. Yeah. It’s meaningless, but we get that question asked a lot. 

City Living Boston: I mean chewed bubble gum does have some texture and grunge to it.

Neil Smith: Right. it makes you curious. I don’t really know how we came up with that.   

City Living Boston: I read that you (Neil Smith) like to focus in and flesh out songs before you bring them to the group. Is that still your process?

Neil Smith: Yeah. Most of the time, but it kind of switches, you know. 

Chris Vanderkooy: On this latest record, it probably has been the most spontaneous, in the studio, writing that we’ve ever done. So we are toying around with that way of doing things.

Chris Vanderkooy, lead guitar, Peach Pit
photo: L. Klein

City Living Boston:  Are there any specific songs that went a totally different path than expected?

Neil Smith: Done in a different way? They always do. I would say a lot of the time, you know, like one of our songs, Alrightyy Aphrodite.  It’s a rock song kind of driven by the bass and the drums. When I wrote it, it was just me on my acoustic guitar. So it had a totally different feel. That happens all the time for sure. 

City Living Boston: And will you just improvise when you come together, will you take a song out and just try different things? 

Neil Smith: For sure. It’s, literally just making it up on the spot until you find something that’s good. Hear it until you feel it and you like it. 

Chris Vanderkooy: There was one example on the last record where we kind of had been messing around with this song From 2 to 3 and putting this kind of like weird funky drum beat over it. Then we showed it to our producer and he was like, “Guys, this is a sad song. Why are you try trying to give it this funky vibe?” He made us strip it back and I think it served the song really well. So sometimes you need an outside influence.

City Living Boston: Does that happen with the lyrics too, where you’ll play with them or do those stay as written? 

Neil Smith:  Sometimes. It kind of depends, but most of the time I’m pretty precious about the lyrics. So I just write them and then that’s the way they live, but sometimes they change.

City Living Boston: Switching gears now to tour life a little bit. Does performing on different continents have a different vibe or is a fan a fan regardless of country or culture? 

Neil Smith: In some aspects, yeah, like I would say that when we play in the UK the shows are always just generally more crazy. I think people just like to party in Europe a lot more maybe. And, I don’t know, the crowds are definitely pretty wild over there, but our fans are generally pretty much the same across the board, I would say.

City Living Boston: The Brits are known for their stuff upper lip and then when they let loose they really let loose.  

Mikey Pascuzzi: The thing is, what they’ll do is they’ll chant along to the guitar solos as well. Like dun na nuh na.  

Neil Smith: Yeah. They sing the guitar solo. 

Chris Vanderkooy: I would say anywhere there’s a heavy drinking culture, the shows are gonna be a lot more exciting.

Peter Wilton, bassist, Peach Pit
photo: L. Klein

City Living Boston: Are there any things that you seek out in specific countries that you want or are interested in?

Peter Wilton: Yeah, mostly food stuff. 

Chris Vanderkooy: Yeah. We were just in Europe recently and we didn’t play a show in Germany, but we were driving through Germany and there’s one specific kebab place called Kebapland in Cologne. And we were like, we have to make a detour just to stop there. So, there are certain markers in different cities that we’re always trying to revisit if we like.

City Living Boston: So Pepsi on The House has been described as a blast it and drive with the windows open kind of song.

Neil Smith: Who said that? 

[Slightly obscure but I came across it during my research.  It was Emily Kovalec in The Promethean]

City Living Boston: I wanted to know what tune you’ll put on as your blast the music and have the windows open song. It can be anybody’s song.

Neil Smith: Yeah. Actually lately I’ve been listening to, this Big Thief song. It’s their biggest song right now, but it’s called Stimulation Swarm. And I’ve been like, yeah, that’s good! Blasting that song for sure for the last few weeks. 

Chris Vanderkooy: Young Americans by David Bowie that has been on repeat for the past like month for me. I just love that song so much. 

Mikey Pascuzzi: I, every time I go for a bike ride these days, I listen to the song Biking by Frank Ocean; the solo version.

Peter Wilton: Smashing Pumpkins.

Mikey Pascuzzi, drummer, Peach Pit
pboto: L. Klein

City Living Boston: When you’re not performing or creating music, is silence golden or do you still have music to the soundtrack of your life?

Peter Wilton:   I am kind of like the silence is golden type. All the music I discover these days is from my wife.  I don’t personally put on music. My wife is my DJ. 

Neil Smith:  I was going to say, my girlfriend plays music all the time. I just listen to whatever she’s listening to. 

Chris Vanderkooy: I discover everything through my wife. That’s literally how I hear music. 

City Living Boston: So hopefully they have a good taste. 

Chris Vanderkooy: Yeah. she’s amazing. I mean, has amazing taste.

City Living Boston: Inspiration comes from life in general or like specific events. Are there any songs that had a particularly unusual inspiration? 

Neil Smith: The unusual situation we had that was unexpected is… We have a song on our first record called Chagu’s Side Turn. And it’s all about this guy that I met, this local Indonesian dude I met, when I was backpacking with a buddy of mine. And, uh, yeah, Chagu was cool. He was a guitar player and, and I asked him how he learned how to play guitar and he told me it was on crystal meth that he learned how to. That’s what taught him how to play. So we wrote a song about playing guitar and smoking crystal meth. 

City Living Boston: All right. So we’ll go from that to Give Up Baby and Go, which has a very different approach to substances.

Neil Smith: Yeah, for sure.

City Living Boston: And so do you wanna talk about that a little bit?

Neil Smith: Yeah. That’s just a song about…  I quit drinking like five years ago. I’m not sober, but I just don’t drink anymore. 

City Living Boston: California sober. 

Neil Smith: Yeah, exactly. And uh, I still smoke whatever I’m California plus. And. It’s just a song about what it feels like to, I don’t know, not like yourself when you’re drinking basically. And also, yeah, just why it’s so fun to drink all the time. 

City Living Boston: Anybody else have a similar experience or connection really in any ways? 

Chris Vanderkooy: Well, we’re also not sober. None of us have given up alcohol. Yeah. but, I think that song [had an interesting process] Neil wrote that song and we’re kind of like trying to figure out the vibe. And then I, uh, watched a video of Chet Atkins playing Mr. Sandman on live TV in the fifties. And I was like, oh, that’s cool. And I just started learning that part and then I just basically stole the first chord of that song and then followed along with what Neil was doing with like a bit of a picking pattern and we got this like, country sound out of it that we hadn’t had previously and haven’t had since.  That was kind of a unique one for how it developed. 

City Living Boston: Yeah.It’s very catchy. I feel like a lot of your music is relatable but not generic. So many people can relate to this. I have worked a lot with chefs who…

Neil Smith: …loved to party. 

City Living Boston: Yes. So many become sober at a certain age because their lives are insane. 

Neil Smith: Everyone can relate to hating themselves after.

Peach Pit performing at Levitate Music Festival July 2023, Marshfield, MA photo: L. Klein

City Living Boston: Okay. Tell me more about your cult and the hand clapping

Chris Vanderkooy: Oh yeah, that’s a, that’s a deep dive on the Instagram. I don’t know, that was, a video of me playing with my wife’s band. They’re called Babe Corner. They released a record recently and we were doing some hand clapping in on the record. I posted about it.  I really love that band and their music as well,

City Living Boston: Are you superstitious either for performance like before you go on stage or in life? 

Neil Smith: I’m not superstitious.

Peter Wilton: Maybe slightly. I’m a little “stitious” just little things, you know, it’s like tie the left shoe before the right shoe.

Neil Smith: Really?

Peter Wilton: I dunno. Something weird. Yeah. 

Chris Vanderkooy: You know what I can’t do? I can’t have my volume on an odd number in the car. Yeah. A friend of mine told me once. Dan was like, oh yeah, I don’t like it on an odd number put it to an even. And, ever since that day I’ve just had to. It feels better

Mikey Pascuzzi: When you microwave things. Do you still go like 1, 1, 1 or like 2 2, 2 

Chris Vanderkooy: Yeah, if you wanna heat it up for 45 seconds. I do 44. 

Mikey Pascuzzi: Are you superstitious? Aka do you have obsessive compulsions.

City Living Boston:  How about you? 

Mikey Pascuzzi: No, I don’t have any.

City Living Boston: So looking back, I’ll set the scene, it’s 2017, you’re in Cambridge, you’re playing upstairs at the Middle East.

Neil Smith: Remember the Middle East, uh, where were we? 

City Living Boston: The Middle East, Central Square, Cambridge 2017

Neil Smith: We were gonna open Central Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Mikey Pascuzzi: Is that the show we missed because our band broke down?

Neil Smith: No, we played that show. 

Chris Vanderkooy: Wait, what? No, no. 

Neil Smith: Or was that the one where Yeah. Greenman came too, I think that’s the one where Greenman came.

Chris Vanderkooy: Oh, yes! Diane Coffee. 

Mikey Pascuzzi: Babies babies

Neil Smith: I would say in some ways we should look back at our younger selves and learn something from them because we were just traveling across the country. We had just done a whole North American tour, got home, drove all the way back across the country in our van packed full of stuff. And we were tired. We were definitely a bit broken, but we were still having fun and we weren’t as jaded as we are now. Not that we’re super jaded, but it happens so easily, you know, like we get to do bus tours now. It’s very relaxed and sometimes we fucking bitch and complain on the bus tours, but like, we’ve gotta listen to those younger boys because they were just would be so hyped right now. 

Chris Vanderkooy: Something cool came out of that show. This guy showed up with his daughter and she was waiting outside and I was chatting with them a bit. She was cold and we got her a coat and then when she…

Neil Smith: You got her a coat. Yeah. You gave her a jacket. You’re trying to make it sound like nothing. No, he gave this girl his jacket.

Chris Vanderkooy: Anyway, so her dad came into the show with her and chatted with him for a while longer and he was a luthier. He was asking me what my dream guitar would be. And uh, we chatted for a while and then like four months later saw them at a show in Seattle and he had made me a guitar, like a beautiful guitar. And I’ll have that thing forever.

Mikey Pascuzzi: Just to thank you for giving his daughter a coat.

Chris Vanderkooy: He was just moved by that. Just like wanted to, hook you up. So that was sweet. His name’s Christopher Greenman and his daughter Vivian they’re very sweet. 

City Living Boston: Where do you imagine yourselves five years from now? Or do you prefer to just be in the moment and see where it leads? 

Neil Smith: Yeah, I think there’s something good about having goals and I feel like we are just so happy with how this is going and we want to stay on this trajectory, but I think we’re more of a see where it leads… we’re those kinds of people you know. We’ve never been like: ‘We’re definitely gonna make it. We’re gonna do all these things and have that confidence.’ We’re just kind of blown away by how well it’s going and hope it keeps going. We’re gonna ride it for as long as possible. 

City Living Boston:  Great. If it is good. Just keep riding it. Right? 

Peter Wilton: It’s easy to not think about those future goals when things keep progressing the way that they are. We don’t really have to think, you know, it’s just naturally getting bigger, which is really cool. And, we’re lucky.

City Living Boston: If it’s organic, it is the best you can ask for, right? Okay moving on or rather moving back in time: First concert you ever went to.

Neil Smith: Peter, what was yours? 

Peter Wilton: I think it was that Kings of Leon show that I went to with Chris. We won the tickets or something 

Chris Vanderkooy: It was like.. there was a radio station contest and you had to ride the SkyTrain with your shirt off. Because we showed up when we were like 16 years old and they were like; “Oh this is like not the vibe that we want to be promoting,”, but they had to give us the tickets anyway because we did it.

Neil Smith:   Uh, wait! Actually I didn’t know that.

Chris Vanderkooy:  Yeah, the topless train ride of fun. And then you just rode the sky train without a shirt on and they gave us nipple pasties and like it was us and a bunch of like women in their twenties.

Neil Smith: Oh, that had to have been better than the concert, right? 

Chris Vanderkooy:  Yeah, it was awesome. But, yeah, they were not stoked that we were there. They were like, you’re supposed to be 18, but you’re here and whatever. we’ll give you tickets. But, the show was awesome. That was when they had released Only By The Night. They were playing all those hits.

Peter Wilton: We were super into them at that time. And yeah, it was a good show. 

Chris Vanderkooy: My first concert was Nickelback. It was sick. I remember that. I just remember I wasn’t a huge Nickelback fan, but I bought their CD and like memorized it like a week before so I could sing along. I did my homework. 

Mikey Pascuzzi: Mine was Oasis.

Neil Smith: Billy Talent. Canadian pop Punk band. 

Mikey Pascuzzi: They’re a Canadian gem

City Living Boston: Who would you want collaborate with: either musician, visual artist, or some other brand? 

Neil Smith: Man. Uh, I, I pretty much, I’m not wearing them right now, but I only wear Stan Ray pants. They make really comfortable pants, so I want, I want them to give me free pants. 

City Living Boston: Have you reached out to them? 

Neil Smith: No. I’m too shy, but maybe they’ll read this interview and then they can give me some.

Mikey Pascuzzi:  Yeah, for me, I think would be Tim Heidecker to maybe do a music video with.

Chris Vanderkooy:  Tim Heidecker. That’s a good one. Yeah. Tim Heidecker from Tim and Eric. He’s a musician, comedian and yeah, that’d be sick. That’s a good answer. 

Mikey Pascuzzi: Yeah. Tim Robinson too would be amazing. From, I think you should leave, the Tims…

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