How the devil are you Black Peaches?
In the lead up to Green Man Festival we posed a few questions to Black Peaches band leader Rob Smoughton. You can catch them at the festival on Sunday afternoon on the Walled Garden stage.
Hey Rob, how the devil are you?
Very well, thank you.
First up, can you tell us who you are, and how you got together?
We’re six men based in the south of England. We got together through shared acquaintances and I imagine a certain amount of cosmic alignment.
What are the inspirations behind your debut record?
Get Down You Dirty Rascals is influenced by many things; funk, Latin american and tropical rhythms, twangy guitars, the lunar phases, mirror balls, good eatin’, big trucks, creased linens, spiritual jazz...
In an age of three minute radio songs and “instant grat” tracks it’s a ballsy move to open with a track that’s nearly eight minutes long. Do you think mainstream music today is too consumable? Too throwaway?
Mainstream music by it’s very nature needs to be consumable, and to a lesser extent throwaway. Like bubblegum, a blast of flavour, a little explosion then you get a bit sick of it. There’s only a few real ‘pop’ artists who have ever really transcended mainstream music to make something culturally and musically significant. And usually they’ve achieved that by going outside the 3-minute ‘instant grat’. The Beatles are the obvious example - 50 years on people want to talk or write about 'Tomorrow Never Knows' and Revolver rather than 'From Me To You' and Beatle wigs. I don’t really know anything about the mainstream music that’s being made today. From what I gather there’s some trends in pop music that seem to be designed to appeal to people en-mass - big singalong wordless choruses for festival crowds for one. Also there’s seems to be a real intent by the writers to constantly grab your ear, so songs have quite differing, short sections. There’s less of an adherence to the verse, chorus, bridge, chorus models… Often a pop song might have 10-15 people credited as writers, so for me there’s less cohesion and focus - which is probably why I’m not interested, and anyway it’s not aimed at people like me… But maybe there’s a point there, it’s aimed at someone or some demographic so it has to be consumable.
The music we make is open and freer - so a lot of the songs on the album go over six minutes. They’re made to be ‘consumed’ in a different way to mainstream pop. 'Double Top' has three minutes of repetitious groove and within that there’s room your mind to wander and your limbs to loosen.
You’ve worked with a bunch of different artists, so you’re somewhat of a musical chameleon. What aspects of those bands keeps you going back?
A 6-piece band is pretty big, among us we’re got musical interests right across the board and they’re not all going to fit in one group. It’s healthy to play music with a variety of people and keep things fresh. When we’re together as Black Peaches the music we make is where those interests combine. That can be addictive!
What’s the one song on the album that best represents where you are in 2016?
How have you approached songwriting for this record?
I write the guts of some songs, or came up with riffs and grooves - mostly without lyrics. Some of these ideas had started to form into songs when we started the band, others were just ‘parts’. We played them together and worked out which parts should go together. Played them some more - made recordings and I took them home. Fairly late in the day lyrics were added. That way the music could inspire the words. Some parts were written in the studio and assembled at the mixing stage, then we learnt those for playing live.
Is that any different from before?
This is the first album so it’s the only way we’ve done it so far. As an individual, and with other projects, I have usually written the whole song first, recorded a fairly full demo and then brought it to a group. This album was similar in some ways, but there’s been a lot more collaboration.
You’re playing Green Man this weekend, what are you looking forward to at the festival?
Green Man is a special festival - one of the best in the UK for sure. The balance is right - location, size, the bands, the food - all top notch.
It feels like there’s something special about the UK festival scene; do you agree, and if so, what is it?
The UK is particularly diverse, and has a long history of festivals and celebration from pagans to ravers. Plus there’s a real enthusiasm to incorporate the way the country changes for the better. It’s hard to think how certain festivals in the UK could happen anywhere else. There are some wonderful festivals all over the world, some favourites being Pukkelpop, Sasquatch, Bad Bonn Kilbi.
What can people expect from your live show?
Hypnotic grooves, good smells and guitar-offs - it’s going to be pretty full.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve played live?
I played at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas where they drained the pool for the dance floor, and showed us on a huge screen above the strip.
Social media is everywhere these days so my question is: pain in the butt or vital to artists in 2016?
Both. I can’t imagine how any band can get by without it these days.
If you could only listen to one song this week, what would it be?
'Clube Da Esquina' from the album of the same name by Milton Nascimento & Lo Borges.
What’s the question we should have asked you today but haven’t?
Who makes your clothes?
Finally, how do you take your coffee? (Or alcohol?)
Thanks so much for your time. Enjoy Green Man, I’m really looking forward to your set, the Walled Garden is a great setting.
Thanks me too - come say hi!
If you don;t manage to catch the band at the festival, their album is streaming now, and available to buy in all good digital download websites.