Members: Molly Puckering, Maxwell Shirley, Peter Redshaw
Current Release: Absent in Person EP on Practise Music
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When did you start writing/producing music - and what or who were your early passions and influences? What what is about music and/or sound that drew you to it?
Molly: Max and I had written music individually for years but it wasn’t until late in our 3rd year at university that we started to write together. We’d both been musical from a young age; I’d sang in bands at a music school in Brighton growing up and Max had drum and singing lessons from the age of 10. I grew up in a very musical household so music is something I absorbed and loved from as early as I can remember. My dad collected CDs and we had hundreds stacked around the house so I would listen to anything from Björk, Prince, Carol King to Daft Punk. I remember one of my favourite things as a kid was going on long car journeys and I would be allowed to pick CDs from the shelves to listen to.
For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and the transition towards your own voice? What is the relationship between copying, learning and your own creativity?
Molly: I definitely grew up emulating other artists. From a very young age I was obsessed with imitating vocalists I loved, and copying their phrasing and inflections. It wasn’t until I started writing my own music that I began to find my ‘voice’. That’s when I could really have fun with phrasing and and feel free to try different things with my voice. For me there is a strong relationship between learning from other artists and your own creativity. Nothing you do will ever be fully original but as long as it comes from an authentic place you’re doing it right I believe. I hope to think the way I sound is a concoction of every artist I’m inspired by.
What were your main compositional– and production-challenges in the beginning and how have they changed over time?
Max: We knew from the start that we wanted to make electronic music and I had been collecting synths and experimenting with sounds way before we officially started writing. But it was translating that love into something that worked and was plausible was very difficult in the beginning. Looking back we had no clue how to make a logic track that sounded any good or how to bring it all together so we could play live. It has been a continuous learning curve and we’ve had some real shockers a long the way. I mean we still feel like we don’t know what we’re doing half the time but how much we’ve progressed is quite amazing to us when we think about it.
What was your first studio like? How and for what reasons has your set-up evolved over the years and what are currently some of the most important pieces of gear for you?
Molly: So our home studio where we do all of our writing has definitely evolved a lot. When we first started we were writing in a cramped uni room using the speakers on our laptops to listen back to what we’d made and recording vocals into a usb mic. Now we still write from our living room but we have a decent sized desk with a good pair of speakers and enough room around us for our synths. Right now we’d definitely say the Prophet 6 is our most prized possession as it’s essentially what every idea on the EP came from. Every time you turn it on you can get a completely different sound out of it. We’re also obsessed with making weird glitchy sounds with GRM Tools, especially the Freeze program. I feel like being able to sample and loop things so easily is great for whenever you might be struggling with an idea/get writers block because you can make a boring mundane sound into a fun melodic texture very quickly.
How do you make use of technology? In terms of the feedback mechanism between technology and creativity, what do humans excel at, what do machines excel at?
Max: Technology is essential for me to write. I feel like my laptop is almost an extension of me and it’s a vital part of my creativity. It’s what I use to express myself and it’s how I create everything in the band. The potential of machines is limitless and that’s why it’s so exciting. But it’s the human element that can filter and curate those sounds into something that’s listenable and can be termed ‘music’.
Production tools, from instruments to complex software environments, contribute to the compositional process. How does this manifest itself in your work? Can you describe the co-authorship between yourself and your tools?
Max: The production tools and software that we use play an enormous part in how we create our music. Because all of the sound in our songs are electronic we’re so dependent on technology in the compositional process. But that’s why we love it so much. When the roots start from electronics you never know where you’re going to end up. Once you start messing around with different types of distortion or glitching it can become a whole different open sound world you can explore.
Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives through, for example, file sharing, jamming or just talking about ideas?
Molly: So our music is always a collaboration. We definitely have a preferred way to work where an idea will start from a specific sound or a synth part, then we’ll start to map out a melody and build a concept around it. Before I write lyrics I like to have a strong concept so I know what I’m writing about and the song can have structure. We’re also starting to collaborate with other writers/producers and this has been a really fun process for us. We normally like to be super prepared so we’d start a session with a pretty much finished idea that needed certain tweaks. However the last few times we’ve gone in with nothing and started from the very beginning. At first it was terrifying and we felt very out of control, however we’ve grown to love that process too and have created really exiting ideas in that environment. I think for us we much prefer writing in a room with someone, we’d much rather collaborate in person then over the internet.
Could you take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work? Do you have a fixed schedule?
Max: So we definitely don't have a fixed schedule at all. All three of us work very different jobs with conflicting hours so any spare time we have around that we’re writing or we’re rehearsing. I wouldn’t say we have a particular time of day that we like to write either. Sometimes it’s first thing in the morning or sometimes it’s late at night, it can depend entirely.
How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
Molly: I think it’s impossible to separate the two, they are so completely intertwined. Music is a constant for us; it’s on everywhere we go, it’s always on our minds and when it’s been a few days and we haven't tried to write anything we feel frustrated and disconnected. Then there’s the fact that everything we experience feeds into the music we create and all of our song concepts either come from something we have personally experienced or something we have observed in others.