Cosseted within an LCR dressing room clearly designed for perhaps three people at most, the four-strong Birmingham-based Peace, their tour manager and myself attempt to make ourselves passably comfortable. With only three chairs available, the tour manager and I lean against a wall, while lead guitarist Douglas Castle sits in the sink.
Somewhere behind him a crew member is doing something disagreeable in the toilet cubicle – the air, already heavy with cigarette smoke, now also carries the unsavoury aroma of roadie-waste. As I arrange myself among the debris, I cannot help but think that this might well be the most clichéd band interview ever conducted.
But even if the scenario feels clichéd, Peace certainly don’t come across that way. The band may be all skinny jeans and leather jackets – but ballsy, TV-out-the-window rock stereotypes they are not. From the first minute that I invade their already limited personal space they are sociable and warm. Jokes are bandied to and from with easygoing abandon, and the atmosphere in the room is one of steady contentment.
And so it should be – during the last six months Peace have broken out of obscurity to become one of the most hotly-tipped acts of 2013. They’ve also become the figureheads for the most exciting scene in Britain since Madchester – what with the emergence of young bands such as Swim Deep, JAWS and Troumaca, Birmingham has become the new stronghold of British indie, with Peace’s unique brand of dreamy surf-rock firmly at the forefront.
With such a backdrop in place, it’s unsurprising that this is where conversation turns to first, and it soon transpires that the scene is actually much more tight-knit than you would ever guess. Frontman Harrison Kossier begins to explain; “when we first started, they were all friends with us, they were all from around the same places. Austin [Williams] from Swim Deep went to college with us, he was in the year below”. Castle, still straddling the sink, adds, “we’ve met Sam Baylis [Troumaca] many times, from just being out in Birmingham, he’s a good friend. I mean yeah, I suppose we’ve just known each other for years, even before the music took off.”
It wasn’t a scene constructed of casual drinking mates either – with such a concentration of talented young musicians, it was inevitable that they would cross paths creatively too. “I think that we all definitely bounced off each other from going to each other’s shows, supporting one another at gigs”, says Castle, before smirking, “it’s kind of a healthy competition as well, I suppose!”.
If the tight-knit nature of this embryonic scene had to be summed up in a single anecdote, then it’d surely be the one Kossier now provides. “Cavan McCarthy was our merch-guy on one of our first tours, and at a show in London we were being supported by Swim Deep”, he explains. “Cav was on the merch stand and then Swim Deep’s manager comes up and says: ‘You’re our new bassist.’ Cavan said he didn’t play bass, but the manager didn’t care. And that’s how Cav joined Swim Deep!”.
In terms of musical influences, Peace downright refuse to start listing off specific names and groups. What they do disclose, however, is a newfound admiration for records that have lasted over time. As Harrison Kossier puts it, “now that we’re all here together actually physically making music, going through the actual grittiness of it, we really respect people who have made stuff that’s lasted for ever.”
This healthy respect is something Peace have taken with them into the recording studio – “it’s stupid to sit back and just say like ‘ah we’re signed, fuck it, get the album out! Of course it’ll do well, it’s Columbia, it can’t go wrong!’” explains Kossier, “because in fact 9/10 bands on these labels do go wrong”. Kossier’s brother, bassist Sam, is quick to agree: “That’s why we’ve spent so long mastering and tweaking the record, and why we tour so hard in support of it.”
Humility is clearly something Peace hold in high regard – their gruelling tour schedule and recent five-week stint in the recording studio are testament to this. It’s a mindset the band are sure can be traced back to their Birmingham roots: “no one had any expectation of their own bands or each other’s bands, there was no grand ambition” says bassist Sam Kossier, “so it’s all built on quite steady foundations I suppose, just playing to friends in pubs or whatever, we were a very grounded group”.
Grounded, humble and hardworking – not a set of adjectives you would usually associate with NME’s newest hype band. But Peace are used to defying clichés, and thank God for that.