Going to a Peachcake show was sort of like attending a child's birthday party.
You'd find grown men in animal costumes, stuffed animals, balloons, and even the occasional game of Duck, Duck, Goose.
You never really knew who or what to expect to see on stage. Given the band's rotating lineup, the only constants were the bright colors, outrageous outfits, and enough silliness to create a hive mind that made overcomplicated, busy music easily forgivable.
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Peachcake is scheduled to perform Thursday, May 12, at The Rhythm Room and Friday, May 13, at Bar Smith. You can hear the band's new track, "You Matter," at www.PHXmusic.com.
But that was then. After a yearlong hiatus, things will be different for Peachcake.
As the band prepares to release its second full-length album, Unbelievable Souls, it seems the members have grown up. Instead of focusing on creating a live show unforgettable not because of the music but because of the on-stage antics, Peachcake has made an album full of what it considers to be timeless pop hits. Warner Music Group and Alternative Distribution Alliance have taken notice — they're releasing the band's upcoming EP, This Wasn't Our Plan, on Tuesday, May 3.
"It's evolved exponentially on the emotional side in the past couple years," says bassist/percussionist/vocalist Archie Children, 24. "The material stands on its own, to where you don't have to see it live to have the experience we're trying to convey."
Judging by the five-song EP, which contains three tracks off Unbelievable Souls, the band hasn't lost its sense of fun — the music is just more focused and less cluttered than what fans may be used to. The lyrics are still focused on making a positive difference in the world, but instead of busy instrumentation that often distracted listeners from the deep meanings, the group scaled back the production values.
"In terms of songwriting, we wanted to cut out all the crap," says Peachcake founder/singer/songwriter Stefan Pruett, 26. "Our last album was really frilly and had tons of layers that didn't quite make sense. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it was abrasive and too hard to follow."
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Pruett says his songwriting process with programmer and collaborator David Jackman, 27, and guitarist/synthesizer player Mike McHale, 25, was natural and easygoing. Sometimes the guys would complete songs within a day, and they were impressed with the flow they experienced as they wrote and the new influences that shone through.
"What came out, I think, is something really unique and hard to classify," Jackman says. "It has elements of '80s pop, disco funk, indie rock, everything molded together. That's why the album is so magical — it has that in-the-moment style we put into it."
To make sure they got the perfect product for the new album, the band enlisted mixer Alex Aldi, who has worked with artists such as Passion Pit and Tokyo Police Club, to mix their album. New York-based Aldi e-mailed tracks back and forth with the band to get the right sound.
"At times, we'd give very vague descriptions, like, 'I want this to sound like I'm in a dream, and I'm on a beach with a bunch of friends running on this beach, and we're all on acid, and there are all these colors, and it's completely absurd, and you're about to fall off a cliff, and then you wake up and it was all a dream,'" Pruett says. "He would take that and turn it into something."
Peachcake took a year off from performing to work on the album and revitalize and refocus itself as a band. As fans wondered whether the group had split up, the band enjoyed what it says was a much-needed break to establish the new sound before introducing it in a live setting.
"We went through this metamorphosis, this transition, so we thought, 'Let's go away for a while and let people miss us and remember what it was like when Peachcake existed and what it's like to be Peachcake now,'" Pruett says. "So many local bands are obsessed with getting famous here. They have this idea of what it's like to be a rock star, and to them, it means always playing shows and over-saturating. They're out every weekend — same places, all the time — and their following dies out because people get sick of them, and it's not special."
Just because Peachcake's music has moved in a slightly different direction doesn't mean the band will be too serious. The members still own racks full of costumes and boxes full of props, and they still make their way into the crowd during their set. But this time around, there might also be more poignant moments.
"I wanted to take the theatrics to a level of more subtlety, where it wasn't like, 'Yeah, they're just exploding in my face with this or that emotion or idea or paradigm,'" Pruett says. "At moments, you're going to have that crazy, in-your-face, intensely active Peachcake, and then you're going to step back and have these mellow moments where it's like, 'This is nice. I can just stand here and cross my arms but still be really interested.'"
Besides solidifying their sound and live show, Peachcake also believes it has its final lineup. Pruett and co-founder John O'Keefe parted ways a couple of years ago because of creative differences. The current lineup, which also includes programmer Harry Farrar, 38, and percussionist Michael Kraft, 22, seems more serious than ever.
"There's this rapport that exists that wasn't so much the case before," Pruett says. "It's like, if you're playing this huge festival and you're freaked out, and there are 20,000 people, you just look around you, and you're like, 'Dude, I'm with some of the closest people in my life, and I care about them and want them to thrive along with me.'"
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Besides the brotherhood the members feel on stage, Peachcake is busy with multiple side projects, DJing shows, and creating remixes for other artists. Pruett and Jackman recently worked on a remix for George Clinton and for the Pilot song "Magic," and the publishing company that set them up with the remixing gigs has sent them 15 other songs to work with.
As for when Peachcake will officially release its second album, which is finished and ready to go, the band isn't sure. The band is weighing label options while also considering a self-release, and they're hoping the EP will get people buzzing about what's next.
What you can expect in the near future are music videos by the band, including one for the EP's single, "You Matter." Peachcake also has a June residency at Scottsdale's Rogue Bar planned.
"We're artists," Children says. "We're not out there to just party and give you some eye candy and have you say, 'Look, it's so colorful.' This music is important to us."