To a lot of casual music listeners, if you say ‘Foals’, they’ll think My Number. If you say ‘The 1975’, they’ll think Chocolate or perhaps The Sound. But if you say ‘Peace’, they probably think ‘ah yeah they’re that… indie band…right?’. They’re close to releasing album number three, but Peace just never seem to have quite managed to breech that gap between indie success and commercial stardom.
Living in Birmingham, it’s basically impossible to not be aware of Peace. They’re our most successful musical export since Mike Skinner told us to dry our eyes, mate, with The Streets in the mid-noughties. Part of Digbeth-based, indie movement candidly referred to as the ‘B-Town’ scene, Peace seemed set for stardom with the release of their 2013 debut In Love.
But they never quite seemed to get there. It’s not that they haven’t managed to migrate out of the second city. Indie lovers up and down the country have screamed along to Lovesick at pre-drinks and blissed out to California Daze on a (rare) sunny day. But they just don’t seem to have reached the levels that they deserved to. Both In Love and Happy People are undeniably great albums, full of an eclectic mix of indie-pop-rock sounds and that slightly deliberately unpolished sound that defined the b-town phenomenon. Their songs are musically interesting and catchy, and the albums show development in the two years that they span. So what is it that Peace have never quite had?
Maybe the answer is Matt Healey. If we’re carrying on with this Peace-1975 comparison (and let’s face it, we kind of are) this seems to be the key. I know both of Peace’s albums very well, and like them a lot, but I still had to Wikipedia the band members before writing this article. Contrastingly, I’ve known who Matt Healey is since soon after their first album was released, despite having only listened to a few singles. This is probably a conscious decision on Peace’s part, but having a controversial front man like Healey can only really help when launching to success. On top of this, The 1975 have become a marketing tour de force. The band’s dramatic social media changes before the announcement of I like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it built up such a buzz that the album was bound to bring them even more commercial success – the consistent use of the recently names ‘millenial pink’ has only spurred this on too, despite the album being released a year ago.
Looking at Foals, they remained quiet indie darlings for years until the release of their arguably most successful track, My Number, from their third offering, Holy Fire. Played on radio stations and indie club nights all over the country, this song is basically the reason Foals could tour arena’s with their 2015 album What Went Down. Even if people have never heard of Foals, they’ll have heard My Number. Peace don’t really have this kind of a hit. Sure, Bloodshake was a big tune, and Lovesick is one of the best singalong indie tracks of the past five years. But they’ve never made anywhere near as much of an impact as My Number did for Foals or Chocolate for the aforementioned 1975
The thing is though, that as I’m writing this, I find myself asking ‘why does it matter?’ Sure, Foals and The 1975 are playing stadiums and having hits smoothly intro’d on BBC Radio 1 and creating edgy covers in the livelounge, as well as headlining festivals. But is that all that having success in the music industry means? If we (perhaps riskily) take NMEs word for it that ‘B-Town seemed to roll out of bed, insular and uncontrived, smirking at its own in-jokes, smelling faintly of K cider and intent on nothing loftier than the pursuit of a laugh’, then perhaps the mark of Peace’s success is that they are relaxed about their success. They are making music for a living and having a hell of a lot of fun doing it.
Maybe that’s all that matters.
Check out Volume #17 here.
Words by Holly Carter