Interview: Peach Kelli Pop is Growing Up

By Anthony Bibian

Allie Hanlon has spent the last decade writing infectious melodies married to fast tempos as she navigated the music scene by way of Peach Kelli Pop. Originating in 2009 in Ottowa, Canada, Hanlon has carried her power pop-punk anthems from her bedroom to crowds in her current home of Los Angeles, and even across the Pacific to audiences in Japan. Now 4 LPs deep (in addition to some collections of demos and rarities), Peach Kelli Pop is bringing their creative space cadet intuition down to earth. While remaining authentic to herself, Hanlon’s years in the biz have granted her an aura of professionalism, helping her navigate an industry generally devoid of a blueprint for artists to follow.

Peach Kelli Pop’s latest release gives us a taste of a crisper, cleaner sound on top of the loud guitars and energetic drumming we’ve all come to know and love. “Hardcovers”, put out through Lauren Records, is a fun throwback of iconic hits through a pop-punkier lens. Hanlon puts a fresh spin on her take at covers of Ace of Base’s “The Sign”, Alice Deejay’s “Better Off Alone”, and tATu’s “All the Things She Said”. Engineered and mixed by Alex Estrada (Joyce Manor), “Hardcovers” is six and a half minutes that will leave you dancing (or at least put an extra oomph in your step).

Allie Hanlon sat down with us to chat about how the industry has changed in her eyes from age 22 to 35, the people and places that continue to inspire her creatively, and how “Hardcovers” encapsulates the sonic evolution of Peach Kelli Pop.

What’s your star sign, and how do you feel it reflects you as an artist?

I’m a Pisces, and I discovered that my sun and moon are Pisces. I feel like it makes sense. Pretty emotional, pretty sensitive, lots of feelings. I feel like that’s kind of classic for a creative person, or someone who kind of writes about their life experiences. I also have a twin sister, and her and I have talked a lot about it. We’re just sort of curious. I think we’re classic Pisces, and yeah, it’s kind of funny.

Your Spotify bio mentions that you tour annually in Japan. How did the connection between Peach Kelli Pop and Japan come to be?

I’ve always loved Japanese culture, even as a kid who didn’t really know a lot about it. I just sort of loved certain animes and Japanese culture, and energy. Something was always drawing me over there. But one of my former bandmates was friends with someone from Tokyo, and that was definitely the connection. He’s basically our tour manager slash friend there. He just booked us little tours there.

When I lived in Canada, where I’m from, the tickets, at least on the east side of Canada, the airline tickets are very expensive. They’re a couple $1,000. So, I was always like, “I don’t know when I’ll go there. Maybe one day, you know?”. But when I moved to the West Coast, I started finding tickets for like, $500, which is not bad. So it started to become not that big of a deal to go over there. And then when I fly back to Canada to see my family, it’s often more expensive than that. So it’s surprisingly affordable, depending on the time of year that you go – so that, plus having someone that was willing to set up shows for us. Especially our first time there, we were kind of like babies. The culture shock was pretty intense. None of us spoke the language, and our phones didn’t work. So we were kind of just following our friend Jin around like baby ducks the entire time.

And now, I don’t really need a host, because I’ve been there a few times. It was very, very magical, especially the first time there. And not to go off on a tangent, but it’s such a great place to visit, for lots of reasons. It’s just extremely safe. And the transportation is really impressive. It was one of the few places that I felt really safe, kind of being a little bit tipsy. And just be like, “I don’t really have to be super aware of my surroundings as much as I would in other places, I guess.” It’s a really different place than anywhere I had ever been. And then the music scene is incredible, of course, that’s why we were there. The crowds are so welcoming, and just so enthusiastic and excited. It’s a great place for an artist to play.

Peach Kelli Pop has grown to a veteran-like status since you started the band in 2009. The industry has evolved in many ways since then, both in how artists make a living and how listeners consume music content. How have you found your footing in the middle of all of it?

That’s a really, really good question. And that’s something that I’m kind of watching play out. So when I started touring, I think the first tour I went on was 2010. And I was selling the regular stuff, like band shirts, but I was also selling, like, burned CDs, which sounds crazy now. You could never sell something like that. But I was selling burned CDs of demos and things like that. For a while, most of the income I had from the band was through Bandcamp. And so, people were buying the mp3s, and it was awesome. I was paying my rent like that. And then, of course, things changed, and now we have Spotify. And, you know, there’s a lot of negative things that people would say about, you know, artists not making too much money from streaming.

I don’t know, I personally accept the way things are. I don’t love them, but I use Spotify a lot. I’m always listening to Spotify. It’s interesting to be a creator of music, and then you have feelings based on that experience. But then also, most people, most of us that make music, are also listeners like everyone else. So yeah, different perspectives.

I don’t know how things are gonna keep panning out for musicians. But for myself and most other people, I’d say that the best thing that can happen is you get a really good licensing deal. Like, someone wants to use your song in a commercial or something like that.

In terms of putting out new music, with streaming, the best thing that can happen is your song gets on a playlist. So it gets a lot of plays, and new people that might not have heard it, will hear it. And yeah, I’m honestly pretty confused about a lot of how things work. Like, especially on the music business side.

I have a friend, and I guess it’s sort of PKP’s unofficial manager, Aaron Kovacs – he also runs Lauren Records. He’s helped me with so many things, like figuring out how to register all of my songs, so I get back pay for different like mechanical royalties and things that he’s explained to me. But I’m just like, “I don’t understand, just tell me what to do.” And [there are] lots of things, like artists needing to register their music on different… I guess there’s one organization called SoundExchange, and they’re a nonprofit company, I think, that helps search for, basically, royalties for artists that they maybe wouldn’t have known were out there. And they help the artists get them, and Aaron helped me with that. It’s been really, really helpful. So, there’s just a bunch of money that I didn’t know about, and no one will tell you.

So that’s something that I didn’t have to do even a few years ago. And there’s no guidebook for artists, like, “Make sure you sign up here,” and “This is who you have to talk to.” So things like that keep changing. I don’t know how most people figure it out. I have one friend, but he’s also really busy. And he works. So it’s sort of like, it’s hard to know how to navigate things. And it’s always changing. So, I’ll leave it at that.

The business side is definitely a lot to think about as an artist.

Oh, yeah. And it’s funny, people that are artists and songwriters, and, you know, on the creative side of the spectrum, it’s funny that we have to figure out things like that. Maybe it’s not our forte, you know, to be like, business admin people. It’s really interesting. Like, it’s always funny, because we all connect to and love music, on a personal level, but it definitely is a business – especially for bigger bands that have a manager and a booking agent. Like, that’s how those people make their income. I’ve sort of learned to never take things personally. Like, maybe there’s a band that you love, but they don’t draw that many people to their shows. My point is, it’s such a business. It’s also something that’s really special and authentic and meaningful to people, and it can be interesting to have those exist side by side.

But yeah, when I when I first started out, I didn’t really understand the business aspect of it, and now I definitely do. Shout out to Aaron Kovacs, who’s helped me with everything that makes me money with music, you know? So, yeah, there’s a lot of people working really hard in the background a lot of the time.

By Thomas Henry Green

Has the way you approached songwriting and the subject matter that you find yourself sticking to changed in that time?

When I started Peach Kelli Pop, I was 22. And I’m 35 now. So I’ve definitely grown and changed as a person. When I started the band, I just did it for fun. It actually wasn’t a band, it was just like a project where I tried writing songs for the first time. I didn’t know if anyone was ever going to even listen to the songs, so I was just writing purely for my own enjoyment. And then, I didn’t consider things like, “How are the songs I’m writing going to translate to a live show with other people playing the music with me?”. So, some of the first songs that I wrote had so many different tracks, where if I wanted to do it live, I’d need like, eight people –which I probably would never, never have happen. But now when I write songs, I think about things like “How am I going to recreate it live?”. For instance, is the vocal melody that I’ve chosen something that I can sing well live, and not just really quiet, close to the microphone, in my room, you know? So there’s things like that that I think about that kind of help the consistency of the live show.

And then also, the subject matter has really changed. Well… you know, I’m not sure if it has really changed, I still sing about a wide variety of things. I might just come up with an idea right there, and then that’s just sort of an abstract thing and not really based on a personal experience. Or, I might sing about something inspired by a personal experience. But if it is based on a personal experience, it’s probably different, because I’m in such a different place now, you know, so I’d say the natural process of growing up has changed things. And then also, honestly, when I started the band, I was fully just a creative person, and I didn’t understand or even really have an interest in the business side of things. And then when I started to have band mates and go on tour, it really sort of thrust me into having to learn to be a business person.

I ended up sort of connecting with that part of my personality. And I think that changed me into more of a pragmatic, logical, focused person. Whereas in my entire life leading up to that, I’d always been a space cadet, like I would lose things. And I was late for things. And then I had to really snap out of that. So, the band, and being in the position of a leader, and having other people who I don’t want to waste their time, and things like that [has changed]. It really made me grow up in a lot of ways.

“Hardcovers” is a fun little EP of throwback covers you recently released. You’ve mentioned before that you think these are the best sounding recordings you’ve ever done, what was the process of putting together this project like?

So basically, in the past, like I said, when I started the band, I was just recording stuff for my own enjoyment. From anyone that knows about recording, they would be horrified at how I was recording things. They’d be like, “No, no, no, what are you doing?”. But slowly, I’ve started to learn to record music in a way where, you know, the production values are better.

And this time, I recorded all of the tracks with a recording engineer and mixer, Alex Estrada. I actually found out about him through Joyce Manor, he has worked with them a lot. He’s basically the best vocal coach. I started off playing drums and I was really shy about my vocals at first, and I could never record vocals with someone. It always has to be just me in a room. And I want to be able to do as many takes as I want and things, but I’m at the point where I was like, “I don’t care if I sound dumb.” You know, I’m not self conscious about it like I used to be.

And so, I was really excited at the prospect of working with someone who could really help me do the best vocal take and kind of guide me on stylistic things with vocals, and it was like the best thing. He was really, really helpful with all parts of the process. And then he just has like an excellent ear for making things sound cool. His intuition, and I guess, like, stylistic choices, were very on par with what I how I hoped things would turn out. So it was a really good match. So, I would credit the sound of the record to him.

And then also, I had our drummer Pete Sosa. He played drums, and he’s such an excellent drummer. He’s the best pop punk drummer. His drumming style was perfect for these songs. And then my friend Allison, who plays bass in Peach Kelli Pop, she played bass. So it was really, really fun. It was, I’d say, one of the easiest recording projects that I did, and I just had really excellent people working with me.

by Thomas Henry Green

You played your first headlining show last month since before the pandemic, what was that experience like for you after being off the stage for that long?

Oh my gosh, it’s so funny. I think I had the same experience as a lot of people, coming back playing shows after…not after the pandemic, but like, at this point where we can have shows now. I wasn’t so nervous about the music, but so much time has passed. And I was sort of like, “Oh my gosh, is anyone gonna go to the show?”. It was exactly like when you host a party, and you’re like, “Is anyone going to come to my party? Is it going to be fun? Hopefully people have fun.” And so I was worried exactly like that.

And then Aaron, who I mentioned, who helps me, he was like, “You gotta push the ticket sales.” He was helping me make sure that I post a lot, and people know about the show. But it kind of made me nervous. I was like, “We’ve only sold this many tickets!”. Previously, I kind of mentioned, it’s good to not take things personally. People don’t really buy tickets that far in advance. And then also, especially during COVID, a lot of people are like, “I’m not gonna buy tickets till the day before, and I know I can actually go,” and things like that.

So I was nervous about ticket sales. And just hoping that people would have a good time. It ended up being one of my favorite shows I’ve ever played. It was just fun. That’s why we were all there, you know? So I was proud of how we played. And The Echo, where the show was, is one of my favorite venues to play and go see bands at. So it was really positive, there was no need to worry.

My favorite track of yours is “Big Man.” The general meaning of the song is pretty obvious, but do you want to share more about the inspiration and what was going through your mind when you wrote it?

Oh my gosh. My sister inspired me to write it. She had a story where she was just crossing the street and [a guy] yelled at her. And then she was like, “No, thank you.” And then he was like, “You’re ugly.” And she was just like, “What the hell.” And so anyways, we’ve all had experiences like that, where we’re just interrupted, and going about our day, and just something like that happens. Or it’s like, “I didn’t ask for that.” And, I feel like I get really frustrated by things like that often. I think I was just writing it from a place of that frustration, where I was just sick of it, you know?

I forget the lyrics, but they probably check out with what I just said. It’s sort of, I’d say, a faster punk song. But that’s basically what it was inspired by. And I’m sure some people can relate to that type of experience.

by Timothy Aarons

So even though “Big Man” contains some lyrical themes of frustration, it, like many of your other tracks, contains these candy-like, infecting melodies. Your music is very punk-structured— how did you find your own personal balance between these harder-sounding structures and the sweetness of your overall sonic landscape?

I think it has to do with what music I personally like to listen to. And then also, the kind of music I like to play live. I do really enjoy sort of mid-tempo, more chill songs. But I think for me, the most enjoyable show to attend, or to play, is a high energy kind of show. So I always want to play faster songs, and ones that get people kind of amped up. I think that influences my choice of writing, sort of more fast paced songs with energy. But then the other aspects are just like, I think, who I am as a person, and I can’t not do things that way.

Your Spotify bio mentions that you are heavily inspired by the Ramones. But besides the Ramones, who are some of your other influences?

Some artists inspire me in different ways. I feel like Kim Deal is a really inspiring person. She has such a great voice. I love her energy. And then, I really like her contributions to the Pixies, of course, and then her own songs with The Amps are super cool. So she kind of makes her own lo-fi music, and then is just such a great bass player. But I’d say her energy and her voice are really inspiring to me.

Kim Shattuck from The Muffs is someone who I looked up to, I guess, a bit before I started writing my own songs. And the first thing that stuck out to me was her voice, like, she does these crazy, awesome kind of screams. The Muffs have just such amazing, kind of poppy-punky songs. So it’s kind of weird to say, but I think a lot of people we look up to, maybe the first thing we notice is that they look really cool. And so, I always thought Kim Shattuck looks amazing. Like, her style is so cool. And then you check out their band, and it’s so good. I feel like someone else like that is Björk. I always was just like, “Björk looks amazing.” I feel like I’m actually more of a visual person. I process information visually. And so, things like that matter to me. I mean, we all like style and aesthetic and fashion, but I definitely appreciate it, even though it’s not really connected to the songs. It’s something that can lure you in. So artists like Björk, I was just like, “She looks amazing. I’m gonna check out all of her music.” You know?

I’d say lots of my friends inspire me. Like I just said, Joyce Manor work with Alex Estrada. So it’s things like that, I guess, that really make the biggest difference. But yeah, lots of awesome rock’n’roll ladies inspired me.

You mentioned that you’re a very visual learner. Do you process your own songs visually?

Definitely. I think when I’m writing music, I’m always picturing a scene. I’m basing the lyrics that I write off of this scene that I’m seeing in my head.

You’ve teased the possibility of a new full-length album coming down the line, what can we expect to see from PKP next?

That’s a really good question. Sound-wise, it might sound more like “Which Witch?” which is a seven-inch that I put out a few years ago. And when I wrote that, it was sort of like how I described earlier, it was really organic and just fun. I ended up being really happy with how it turned out. So I would like to do something similar to that in terms of sound, and then I would also really like to involve my bandmates again. It’s really fun to work with your friends and sort of delegate different responsibilities to people. When I started the band, I recorded all of the instruments, and it took a really long time, and I’m not the best drummer. But the drummer that plays with us live is amazing. So I would really like to involve my friends who specialize in different things, and work together. That would make it a lot more enjoyable, and I think have a better outcome. So, that’s my goal.


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