When Stefan Pruett and John O'Keefe started a band last summer, they weren't serious. Then 18, the two college kids were used to being in punk and hardcore groups with actual guitars and drums, and O'Keefe was only just getting the hang of his new Roland MC-307 Groovebox synthesizer. The notion of forming an electronica band, they say, was a total joke.
Except they didn't expect the real punch line: success. Now only a little over a year later, Peachcake draws hordes of giddy young indie rock hipsters -- guys and girls alike -- who sing along and dance like maniacs during the band's live shows. They've already done Southwest and West Coast tours, and there's serious talk of a record deal with a small but successful record label, the name of which, for now, is under wraps.
"We didn't think we were actually going to stay a band," says O'Keefe. "We just started making some fun songs, and we liked 'em, and then other people started to come out to see us, so it was cool."
"It was like a snowball effect," Pruett says. "People actually seemed to like it. 'Cause we didn't know -- we didn't really expect that people would be liking this thing."
"We were just bored one summer," O'Keefe adds.
A gray striped kitten named Sebastian darts around the living room of Pruett and O'Keefe's Tempe apartment, a modest bachelor pad furnished with obvious second-hand finds. Vinyl records are tacked up as decoration over the archway to the dining room. The two interact like brothers, which makes sense when you learn that they've known each other since sixth grade, growing up in Carefree. Pruett, clad in a T-shirt and rumpled khakis, with his wavy, honey-brown hair tucked behind an ear, sinks back into a plump couch while O'Keefe, in a faded black T-shirt and jeans, leans forward to sip tea from an oversized cup. As Pruett launches into his theories on the different ways of progressing as a band, O'Keefe munches pretzels from a giant plastic barrel and occasionally looks up from under his shaggy, dark bangs to interject, often contradicting Pruett with a shy smile that reveals the dimple on his cheek. Peachcake is only one of many bands the two have been in together. "Around eighth grade, I just picked up a guitar and he learned how to play bass," O'Keefe says.
"And I tried to sing," adds Pruett.
Their first song was called "Lost World." They both chuckle at the memory. These days, Peachcake's titles are a lot more elaborate. Among the simpler ones are "I hope we don't get exploded," and "Beware of switching movie theaters." And here's a mouthful: "I fell in love with you while listening to my favorite Morrissey album."
Pruett laughs. "A lot of times, they're just ways for us to make fun of ourselves. A lot of them are inside jokes, and a lot of them are ways of sort of making fun of everything around us, but very subtly so no one can get offended," he says, adding that the band rarely announces the real song titles at shows.
"We change the song titles live," says Pruett. "A lot of it is just us making fun of emo."
"I don't have anything against emo," O'Keefe says.
"I like emo," Pruett quickly explains. "That's not our gripe. But our premise is that people get the wrong idea about art and music in general. It becomes less about expression, and more of like a fashion or a trend." Bands like Fugazi and At the Drive-In were huge influences that made him conscious of the importance of meaningful lyrics.
"This music is about so much more than studded belts. There's this whole plane of existence beyond just the sound -- what means something to us, and is really something we stand for and believe in, as opposed to, ÔYeah, let's dance.'"
"But some songs are completely a joke," O'Keefe chimes in." Some are about very personal experiences that have meanings. A lot of the songs have double meanings," says Pruett.
With Pruett singing quirky melodies in his warm, nonchalant tenor, and O'Keefe juggling the Groovebox, keyboard, keytar and a laptop to create layers of infectiously bouncy beats and New Wave-y chords, Peachcake's sound has been compared to everything from current indie faves like the Postal Service to synth-heavy '80s bands like Devo and Depeche Mode. But Pruett and O'Keefe swear it's a coincidence.
"I didn't really know about electronic music at all, and then I started making it. Then people are like, 'You remind me of this,'" O'Keefe says. "Personally I don't consider us electronica."
"We come mostly from an indie, punk, hardcore background," adds Pruett, noting that Peachcake's newer work incorporates acoustic instruments. "I know we appeal to the electronica crowd, but we haven't had enough of a chance to play for them. Most of our shows have been emo, indie, punk, hardcore . . ."
O'Keefe seems most delighted about throwing people off. "We'll be at a hardcore show and we'll bring out the keytar, and some piñatas or whatever, and people wonder what's going to happen. It surprises them, I think," he says. "I have a lot of fun watching people's reactions."
Pruett says he loves to get the crowd worked up with Silly String or beach balls. "Sometimes we'll have a theme, like a bachelorette theme, or a Halloween theme," he says. "We want it to be a playground atmosphere."
O'Keefe agrees that he wants Peachcake fans to have fun, but he's not too worried about what people think. "Even if there wasn't a crowd, I'd still be up there going crazy."