Neil Smith discusses the band’s latest LP, You and Your Friends
Alex Rigotti
22:11 21st April 2020

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To say life has changed considerably for Neil Smith would be an understatement. Speaking from his apartment in Vancouver, his band Peach Pit have just released their latest LP, You And Your Friends. It’s a collection of portraits ranging from tales of past lovers to parental love stories, doused in their signature indie pop sound. 

But of course, the elephant in the room is coronavirus. Like most of us, Smith has been cooped up, self-isolating. But from the sounds of it, he seems to have slowly discovered ways to get by. “Oh man... I feel like it was hard to get used to for maybe a week and a half, but I'm starting to figure it out,” he says. “I think the important thing is to get up in the morning and do something productive early in the day or else... man. It all starts to blend together, it starts to slip away.” To combat this, Smith has been doing a range of things such as: “trying to eat some vegetables and fruits. Keep my apartment clean. Reply to my emails without waiting too long.” 

It all sounds rather idyllic; doesn’t Smith feel an inkling of the pressure to stay productive? “I felt definitely like I need to be more productive and I actually think in some ways the quarantine has made me the most productive that we've ever been in terms of trying to connect with fans on social media and creating some content for people to distract themselves with,” Smith admits. “Like we're just putting our record out, you know? It was good timing in some sense because people definitely need the distractions. It's definitely a lot of stuff happening all at once so music is a good way to take a deep breath and relax and get some comfort. So I hope some people can get that from our music.”

Music might have the ability to calm the listeners, but the people behind the music are struggling. Countless festivals have been cancelled in the wake of the pandemic, and live gigs make up a hefty portion of an artist’s income. Coronavirus poses a threat to the entire economic stability of the music industry. Fortunately, Peach Pit are “OK to pay their rent," but Smith still has his anxieties. 

“I am nervous about it, you know? Everything has been postponed to the fall, but I really hope that people take COVID stuff seriously and stay inside and allow live music to get back on its feet because it’s crazy that it’s all completely shut down. It’s something that we can if we work together and really try hard and listen to what our public health officials are telling us, we can get back out there and play shows again. But it depends on if people are listening and paying attention and doing the right thing.”

“My heart really goes out to so many different bands that I know who have booked entire tours and only got to do a portion of it and had to come back. It's so devastating.”

Peach Pit have been dedicated to promoting as many of their beloved bands as possible, encouraging fans to buy their merch and support indie artists. Smith has his own personal favourites, reeling off a list of records he’s anticipating the most this year: Braids (“they haven’t put out a new album in quite a while and I'm a big fan of them, so I'm really excited”), Montreal indie rockers TOPS (“they just put out a new album, and I'm a huge fan”), and future tour-mate and “good buddy”, Hayley Blais. “She has a new song as well and a new record coming out, so I'm super excited about that,” he enthuses. 

The band are fond of their Canadian hometown, and it reminds me of the picturesque, snowy scenery in their song, ‘Figure 8’. Does Canada generally play a large role in their music?

“Maybe yeah, I can see that in that song for sure. I mean, that whole song is about New Year’s Eve a couple years ago, and being away in the interior of DC, the province we're from, and it really gets snowy there, so we were on a frozen lake we were outside so that was cool. But I was thinking about this the other day, our music is influenced a lot by the West Coast folk music that was really popular in Vancouver when we were in high school. We're definitely not a folk band, but I would say our music definitely has those folk influences. Maybe not as much on this album, but definitely in the past for sure, our songwriting was kind of influenced by that. But maybe our Canadian heritage does play into it a bit.”

But it’s not just Canadian West Coast folk music: Smith confesses that the Beatles were a huge influence, too. “I think we always have been Beatles fans for a long time but it was one of those things where we were really getting into their music and really getting familiar with different records.”

Whilst ‘Figure 8’ was a snapshot of NYE, ‘Brian’s Movie’ portrays an entirely different story. “It's actually supposed to be from the perspective of my Dad, looking at my Mom who was dating his best friend, when they were young. The whole song is about him looking a the two of them being together and the chorus kind of implies feelings towards my Mom, and then the third verse of the song wraps around and it's supposed to be about him talking about his good friend and a friendship that he really valued.” And the verdict? “Yeah, he liked it. I was stoked. He's been showing it to some of his friends because it's named after one of his friends and some of his friends are also named in the song. They've been taking a listen to it and saying nice things about it, which is cool.”

Despair is woven throughout the entirety of the record; was there a time where he felt the most rejected or unwanted? You might find the answer on ‘Black Licorice’. “So I quit drinking two years ago, and the song is about the end of when I was drinking a lot. The kind of feelings I would get after getting blackout drunk and waking up feeling super ashamed and embarrassed, and being super not happy with who I was, so I talk about that a lot in the song with my struggles with drinking and things like that. And just, you know, the main themes of the song are how I did have a couple of people still around like my brother-in-law and my sister who I can always count on to still love me – even after being a total idiot.”

In an industry that regularly promotes binge drinking, does Smith find it tough? “Yeah, it can be tough, but it’s been a couple years now that I haven't drank anything, and I have found it's become easier and easier. And I would say nowadays it's becoming super common for artists and musicians that I meet to not be drinking anymore, and it doesn't feel so much like I’m a loner, and there's a lot of people out there that I can talk to and relate to that have had similar experiences to me.”

Despite the dark moments that plague the album – and world outside it – Peach Pit are soldiering through the pandemic, one step at a time. And with all the time in the world, perhaps there might even be an album to show for it. 

You and Your Friends is out now. Read our review of the record here. 

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