peach kelli pop makes feminist punk you can dance to
i-D premiers the band's latest single, 'Black Cat 13,' and talks to lead songwriter Allie Hanlon about fostering dogs.
Photography Gina Negrini
Sometimes you just want to play a record for the sake of rocking out. You don’t need it to be all emotional or tell the story of a complicated break-up. Peach Kelli Pop’s Allie Hanlon embraces that philosophy. “I try not to write literal, autobiographical songs that are really obviously about something I’m going through,” she says from her home in Los Angeles. Hanlon is about to release Gentle Leader, her California punk band’s fourth full-length album, and the first she has made with a full band. But while the making of it was a more serious affair, the music is still as fun, fast and spiky as ever.
Hanlon has just arrived home from her morning walk with Linus, a foster dog, when we connect via phone. “He hasn’t learned anything in life yet, so I’m trying to get him used to being around people and other dogs,” she says, with all the affection and care of a proud mother. “He’s doing really well, so I think he’s almost ready to be adopted… This guy’s a good-looking dog, so I think he’ll be fine.”
Aside from music, fostering dogs is Hanlon’s other true passion. Many of them are only in her care for a few days and she says she tries not to get too attached, but one of the few times Hanlon does get literal on Gentle Leader is on a song called “King Size”, which is about a dog named Bubba, whom she did, kind of, get attached to. “Sometimes I’m a little embarrassed to get really deep and emotional about the dogs that I look after,” she admits, “but ‘King Size’ is about him. I was really kinda sad, because he was such a nice dog, but people were scared of him and they would cross the street when we were walking around.”
“Black Cat 13”, premiering today on i-D, is not about anything quite as serious. It’s certainly not about falling in love with a tiny black kitten. It was written to dance to and at just under two minutes, it’s a punk song that perfectly represents Peach Kelli Pop’s mantra. Hanlon says, “When I wrote it, I wanted to have a song that would inspire a lot of energy and excitement in the crowd.” The lead vocal – “Black cat 13, biggest eyes you’ve ever seen” – does just that, and when mixed with a piping hot bass line and a swirling melody of guitars and synths, it has the type of frenetic energy that defines Peach Kelli Pop.
Originally from Ottawa, Hanlon grew up playing drums in other people’s punk bands. She started Peach Kelli Pop in 2009 to teach herself how to write and record music using her second weapon of choice, the guitar. She recorded the first two Peach Kelli Pop albums in her bedroom in Ottawa, before moving to California in 2012 and recording one more. Now that she’s firmly settled in Los Angeles she has expanded Peach Kelli Pop into a traditional four-piece punk band. Gina, the bassist, and Sophie Negrini, the band’s guitar player, are sisters. Shelly Schimek, the drummer, is their best friend and Hanlon jokes, “I feel like I kind of joined their band.”
Making the transition from Ottawa to Los Angeles was a fun experience, but Hanlon admits that finding a whole new group of friends, especially those who wanted to jam and be in a band, was tough. “When I moved to LA I definitely had a few friends, but I didn’t have the type of lifelong friends that you might call upon to be in a band with you.” After working with an assortment of people, none of whom knew each other, Hanlon met Gina on the recommendation of a friend. “I was blown away by her talent,” she says, before adding, “having siblings in your band, especially siblings who are friends, is fantastic.”
Hanlon says her new bandmates feel more like family. And while she’s close with her own family and friends back in Canada, making new ones without having a shared history together was complicated. Her bandmates all grew up in Los Angeles, and Hanlon says, “sometimes I don’t think they understand the difficulties of how it is to live somewhere that is really far away, [where] you don’t have the support system and lifelong friends that you grew up with.” For that reason, she is delighted to have landed where she has. “Having a group of people who I feel like is on my team, it really fills up that void,” she says.
With its surfy sound and big, bright melodies, Peach Kelli Pop certainly sounds like a California punk band. The album cover for Gentle Leader also has a California connection, despite being designed by an artist based in Brooklyn. Hanlon says she first saw illustrator Miza Coplin’s work in a gallery called Sunday, which used to be located in DTLA. Having seen Coplin’s work in person, Hanlon then kept seeing it online, so she decided to reach out to the artist about doing a collab.
Coplin is a member of the online art collective, Art Baby – a digitally focussed, feminist artspace, and Hanlon says, “I was really drawn to her work because of some parallels between Peach Kelli Pop and what I saw in her artwork. It has a level of abstractness and femininity, and I felt really emotionally connected to it”. It turned out that Coplin was already a fan of Peach Kelli Pop, so through the collaboration their mutual appreciation for one another was cemented. Coplin’s cover has two central characters – a girl wearing knee-high socks and a gold dress, and a large human-like rabbit. It also has other intricate details like stacks of money, a heart-shaped perfume dispenser and a lot of tiny butterflies that reference various themes on Gentle Leader. Hanlon says she was very specific when describing her vision to Coplin, as she wanted it to display a certain level of femininity without the girl being the central character. “I’m very sensitive about how our femininity is displayed and talked about, because I feel like we’re often written off as a girl band… when I was describing how I wanted the girl to look I feel like I was a little crazy,” she admits, before declaring, “Miza really understood where I was coming from and she experiences the same thing with her artwork, so I think she did a really great job to have different vibes encompassed in it.”
To write Peach Kelli Pop off as “just another girl band” is not just disrespectful, it’s a giant mistake. Hanlon knows how to handle a melody and her knowledge of punk rock runs deep. There’s a special cover of Marine Girls’ “Honey” on Gentle Leader that will take you down a rabbit hole where you’ll find some of Allie, Gina, Sophie and Shelly’s favorite 80s post-punk records. Look up Marine Girls and press play. You might just discover your new favorite band.
"Gentle Leader," complete with Miza Coplin’s artwork, is out May 25 on Mint Records (US/Canada) and Bachelor Records (Europe). Japanese fans can catch Peach Kelli Pop in Tokyo between April 27 – May 5 . The band will tour North America in June.