RENDEZVOUS: A Quick Catch Up With Peak Twins
“For me just the act of recording and witnessing a good song come to fruition is therapeutic, because it’s one of the purest forms of joy that I can experience as an adult. It doesn’t really get much better than that for me.”
Last month, Peak Twins released their long-awaited sophomore LP, Beloved. Much like its title suggests, the album is glowing with depth and honesty. Originally a duo formed back in 2012, the lengthy time between albums has only further enriched their sound. A sound so full that it now needs six members to exist. Lush instrumentals and sweet harmonies are often met by bursting string arrangements and scattered synth, it’s the perfect balance of darkness and joy – or potentially just a clever representation of one not being able to exist without the other. There’s a real sonic brightness to Peak Twins; a warm layer of open-heartedness where everything feels like it’s going to be okay.
We caught up with founding members Joel Carey and Liam Kenny to chat about their new album, what it’s like leaving six years between releases, and most importantly, who has the best moves.
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We've had your single 'Water' on repeat, it's divine. What's the track about?
JC: Our drummer James Mannix wrote the majority of this song, including the verse lyrics. I haven’t actually asked him what they are about because I believe they are quite personal to him. It’s heart felt and relatable, with zero derision or irony which I find very appealing. Mannix played me the demo of this song and it instantly leapt out at me. I love it’s sentiment and catchiness and I knew straight away that it would end up on Beloved. I wrote the ‘chorusy’ part with much less sincerity. Relationships can be hard to maintain etc. It’s not too profound but I think it helped get the song over the line. The beauty of this song is in Mannix’s spirited words, which I think any human being can appreciate. They made me feel good when I first heard them and hopefully they have the same effect on others.
What does the general Peak Twins creative process look like?
JC: Mannix will whistle me a melody which we will structure a song around. I will have a tune in my head that the others will somehow interpret into music. A couple of the songs on the album were written solely by Liam years ago that slotted in nicely. It could also be a guitar or keys that spark an idea, there’s no real formula, whatever works.
LK: Yeah it’s generally music first. Lyrics are always a bit of a chore to be completely honest. Trying to say something meaningful that isn’t either too banal or too abstractly poetic is probably the least fun part of the process. The best part is the arranging, which we got to do a lot of on this album. Deciding where the violin bit goes, where the third guitar drops out, that’s the part of song-writing that I’m most able to do at the moment and most interested in.
There’s been some time between releases. How do you think your sound has evolved or shifted since your first release?
JC: I think our sound has evolved with the help of other, really talented musicians. The first album was created in a dingy warehouse in which Liam, Jack Farley and I inhabited, with just Liam and I writing and Jack recording/producing. This time around we enlisted Mannix and Pat Telfer in the song writing department, as well as a little help from Tom Spall on strings and Ela Stiles, Stephanie Crase (Summer Flake) and my sister Ellen Carey (Fair Maiden) on backing vocals. They all played a crucial role in elevating the sound from acceptable to exceptional.
Pat and Mannix are all over this album. Apart from being great friends, I have long admired their work in other bands, like Old Mate and Mystery Guest. They present with no ego and are committed to doing what is best for the song. They’re both pretty tweaked in the best possible way and are wildly creative and fun to collaborate with. Peak Twins has always been pretty musically ambitious and on this album, I think we were able to realise some of that ambition, aided by working in a far more professional recording studio with some extremely nice instruments at our disposal.
Everyone seemed to take it up several notches on this record, including Jack who truly came into his own as a producer, guiding us into some really weird and memorable moments.
There’s some particularly experimental moments on your new album. What’s the weirdest instrument or recording technique you used while recording the album?
LK: Luckily we got to record in a space that had like fifty synths and all kinds of guitars and gear available. You’d probably have to ask Jack about the techniques he used, I know he was running basically everything we did through all kinds of pre-amps and reverb units and assorted things that nerds understand. Also tape delay was used a lot which I’m a big fan of using on pretty much everything. But yeah most of the ‘weirdness’ that’s on there would be from the synths we had access to, I don’t know what any of them were called, it was all trial and error.
Any funny stories from making the album that you’d like to share?
LK: No, music is serious.
Do you have a favourite track from the album – why?
JC: My favourite song is the title track Beloved. It’s a powerful number and carries the most emotion for me lyrically and sonically.
LK: Same, I love this song, I had nothing to do with writing it but I had a lot of fun arranging it and I played the bass line which I’m mildly proud of because I think its fairly important to the ‘groove’. If I say so myself.
Approx. six years later and you’re now a live six-piece. What kind of freedom does having additional people in the band give you? Is it easier or harder to work as a larger dynamic?
LK: Personally I get a lot of freedom to just strum chords and focus on trying to sing the harmonies half decently. Having Pat, Caitlyn and Steph taking care of the lead parts on a lot of the songs means I can try to be a bit more focused on rhythm. And they’re all insanely capable of both improvising and sticking to the script, and you need both. The only thing that’s harder about having more people is finding times to meet up to practice.
There’s a couple of nuggets of lyrical wisdom throughout the album. Do you think writing music gets easier with a little bit more life experience under your belt?
JC: To a certain extent I think it gets easier. In some ways I’m in a better, more secure place than I was in writing the first album. On the other hand, I’m probably more prone to over thinking things and generally anxious which can cause a real creative block at times. I’d say my taste in music has broadened over the years, which has definitely influenced my approach to song writing, however I seldom write autobiographical lyrics. I like to keep them pretty universal and open to interpretation.
There’s also a few moments of darkness throughout. Do you find making music is a therapeutic process? A way to better articulate your emotions?
JC: Perhaps more so in our early recordings. Some of those songs recorded in our lounge room in Adelaide were a not so subtle vent about disappointment and heart break. Reflecting back, It’s difficult not hear ‘woe is me’ sad guy desperation. I think it definitely helped sort through some unwanted emotions at the time but these days I’m less drawn to writing in that ‘dear diary’ format. For me just the act of recording and witnessing a good song come to fruition is therapeutic, because it’s one of the purest forms of joy that I can experience as an adult. It doesn’t really get much better than that for me.
How do you want people to feel when they walk away from a Peak Twins show?
LK: Ideally people should be walking away from any show, by any performer, feeling some kind of relief from the punishing reality of their life. Also they should buy an LP.
Finally, you obviously have an ear for music. How do you go on the dance floor?
JC: I can move baby.
LK: Yeah Joel can dance, and I can too because I learnt from him.
Beloved is out now via Our Golden Friend. You know what to do.