Peaks, also known as Ben, has been playing his way around Manchester and the country for the last few years, bringing his own brand of ‘loop driven emo pop’ alongside him. He’s celebrating the release of his latest, fantastic EP Happy Medium, and has been completely busy taking it on the road, but he was kind enough to give us a bit of time with him to discuss how this year has been for him.
Can you tell us a bit about who Peaks is and what you get up to?
Peaks is just me, Ben, hi! I’ve been doing this project for about two years now and have managed to release a few EP’s and I play up and down the country as often as I can. I’ve been involved in the DIY scene here in Manchester since I moved to the city seven years ago from Shropshire and I have a lot of fun both playing and going to shows! I’ve spent most of time here being in noisy, riffy rock bands so Peaks is a very different beast for me, but I’ve really enjoyed doing the solo thing again!
We loved your set before Charlie Barnes at The Eagle Inn, Salford. How was that gig for you? You seemed to have a cheerful crowd of supporters!
Thanks very much! That was a lovely little evening. It was my first show in a while and I had a few friends come down who hadn’t seen me before so I was a bit nervous actually. It was also my first go at looping vocals live, so yeah, I definitely had a little tummy rumble before I went on, but I think I managed to pull it together! It was great to be able to play with Jade and Charlie who I thought were both top.
How do you find the music scene in Manchester?
There is plenty to discover and love here! When I first moved there seemed to be so much new music coming out of the city and although a lot of bands have come and gone, the quality is still really high! There are so many committed artists that work hard to not just exist in Manchester but to create a buzz everywhere! Bands like False Advertising, The Hyena Kill and Claw The Thin Ice are all fine examples of dedicated musicians who keep pushing themselves in terms of what they play and where they play it! It’s really inspiring to be part of scene that is so passionate and that takes so much care in what they do and has pushed me to act in the same way.
Tell us all about your new EP Happy Medium, how was the creative process here? Do you have a favourite track from it?
I’d say that it continues the lyrical themes and musical ideas of my previous EP ‘Hollowhead’ but simply expands them further. Lyrically I wanted to hit harder and musically I wanted to be bigger and catchier. I wrote most of the record in the summer of last year but I was rewriting and changing parts right up until recording, I think it’s the most care I’ve taken over writing a set of songs. I recorded with my good friend Tom Peters who also plays guitar in Alpha Male Tea Party who I think are one of the best instrumental rock bands in the UK right now! Tom got straight away what I wanted to do with the record and we had such a lovely weekend hanging out in the country side, just trying to make these songs as dramatic and expansive as we could!
It’s quite hard to pick a favorite track as I feel so close them equally but I was really pleased with how ‘Calmer’ came out. I wanted it to have a good groove and I also wanted its pop core to really come out which I think it does. Me and Tom both enjoy a good pop tune so we had a some fun arranging the percussive bits and adding loads of little guitar lines. It was just one of those tracks that came together so naturally in the studio and it feels good to have made a pretty unashamed pop tune out of it.
You seem to be rather busy playing a lot, do any of your recent gigs stand out? Got any upcoming ones you’re excited about?
I’ve been lucky enough to play in some really cool places recently. I did my first in-store at Left For Dead records in Shrewsbury the other week which was ace! It’s definitely my favorite record shop so to get to play in it and to have my friends and family from back home come along was properly sweet! I also went to Bristol for the first time as Peaks which was so much fun! I played in the basement of Mothers Ruin which is a cracking little bar and it was a Saturday night so there was a nice party vibe about for sure! I’ve got a few gigs coming up here and there in the next few months. I don’t think they’ve been all announced yet but I’m going to some cities I’ve yet to play in, also get to play some little festivals as well as playing some venues Manchester I’ve not done yet so it’s all exciting stuff! If anyone is interested, keep an eye on the ole social media and I shall keep you in the loop!
What have been your favourite places to play in Manchester so far? It’s packed with so many great venues!
Totally! Manchester has a lot of offer venue wise with loads of rad new places popping new around the city. Although, it’s not technically in Manchester, The Eagle Inn is my favorite venue to play full stop. I love the live room, I love the pub, I just love the whole vibe of the place. Venturing into town though, I think Gullivers is a cool little venue and I’ve had some fun times there but also the Deaf Institute is really killer; it’s one of the few venues that sounds as good as it looks.
Where do you draw your influences from?
I pride myself on having a very varied music taste so the sound of Peaks comes from a number of different places. Ultimately it comes from my love of alternative rock so there’s lots of emo and post rock vibes in there but also hints of math-rock, Americana and indie too. Some people have said that they can hear some Bloc Party and Everything Everything moments in here, which I would say is true.
The first Bloc Party album in particular was a big inspiration to me growing up. I also love pop music and really wanted that to come through on ‘Happy Medium’. I thought that last Paramore album was really amazing, musically its so shiny and upbeat but lyrically it’s so personal and considered. That approach became very much a catalyst for me in shaping this EP and I listened to it the whole week leading up to recording, getting ready to make my own emo-pop record!
Keep up with Peaks on Bandcamp.
Catch Peaks at his upcoming shows:
24/4 – 57 Thomas Street (Marble Beers) – Manchester
27/5 – Yr Welcome Fest – Birmingham