Neil Smith, lead crooner of North Vancouver indie pop outfit Peach Pit, has become acquainted with another kind of pit lately. “My parents recently bought a donut shop-slash-fried chicken restaurant and they’re a little short staffed now,” says Smith. “So I’ve been working in the dish pit everyday.” Going from being elbow-deep in the sudsy, greasy waters of the dish pit to heading an international tour seems like it’ll be easy for Smith – he’s worked as a dishwasher before, and hasn’t exactly missed it. “You smell like shit. When you get home, your knees are tired,” Smith says. “But, it’s been kind of nice. It takes your mind off things, just cleaning plates.”
It makes sense – essentially, Smith and his bandmates’ whole thing is looking like they could be some North Van kitchen crew making the best of their smoke break. Peach Pit has made a career out of “Being so Normal” – the biting critique they received at a battle of the bands which they borrowed for the title of their first album. Coming up at the height of norm-core, the band toured in the same colourblock overall and turtleneck getups for a long time. It was their shtick, but like a full day in the kitchen, it got stinky. After the success of their sophomore album, You and Your Friends, and a bit of getting older, Peach Pit has no need for shticks anymore. Their new album, From 2 to 3, sees the boys settle into the comfortable groove of making “good ol’ Southern Canadian music.”
The essence of Peach Pit’s music is true to its name. It’s sweet, digestible, but with a melancholy undercurrent. After all, it’s not named after the fruit itself, but the part that’s left over after it’s been eaten. A lot of the band’s songs carry a similar feeling – musings on the party after it’s over, lingering on an ex’s shampoo bottle left on the shelf after she’s long gone, hungover regrets. The newest album still has bittersweet notes, but Peach Pit feels more mellow than ever before. Smith says the band has grown up. Bassist Peter Wilton has moved out to a farm with his wife, while Smith has long stopped drinking and has retired from being the life of the party. “I like hanging out at home,” he says. “I’m usually the person who shows up last to the party and leaves first.”
While the song “Black Licorice,” off their sophomore album, was fresh with the regret of getting wasted, on this album Smith’s voice feels older, wiser. On “Give Up Baby Go,” he sings an upbeat, jangly tune about “waking up Monday to realize that your Saturday self ain’t one you like.” Smith writes nearly all of the band’s lyrics, and veers from his favourite subject –– ex-girlfriends –– a little more on this album. The latest single, “Vickie,” is a lovable ode to one of his best buds. Smith calls her a “super talented artist” who gifted him a birthday painting he’s had hanging on his wall since. “She was like, ‘Neil, I don’t want anything for my birthday this year…but I’ve dated musicians, I’ve had friends who were songwriters, and all I’ve wanted was for someone to write a song for me,” Smith laughs. “So I started out trying to write a funny kind of birthday song for her.” Infamously unafraid to namedrop, Smith sings the cheeky refrain, “Yeah Vickie, you always keep me around/but I thank god you don’t live next door to me.”
Smith has loosened his lyrical grip in other ways too. While he was for the most part the band’s sole songwriter until now, the lyrics of “Look Out!” began with an idea from lead guitarist Chris Vanderkooy. “Chris wrote a verse, the melody and the chords and he sent it to me,” says Smith. “I was like, ‘Dude, this is so good.’ That was the first time that had happened.” To keep things loose, the band has also been switching up some other roles. Instead of sticking to his kit, drummer Mikey Pascuzzi dabbled in playing guitar and harmonica on some songs. “I think a lot of songwriters, including myself, tend to be very precious about their music,” says Smith. “I’ve really been trying to get away from that. My bandmates have really valuable things to say about our music, they’re super intuitive, and we’re working more collaboratively to make the music as good as we can.”
Not only has the band recently discovered Vanderkooy’s songwriting talents, but he’s become their TikTok golden boy. In a viral clip lifted from the music video for “Look Out!,” the camera pivots to reveal Vanderkooy chasing after a pickup truck. The caption reads: “When the boys drive by your house and shout, ‘We’re going to Chili’s’.” In another video with over 70,000 likes, Vanderkooy shows off his Canadian heritage fair project from the ninth grade. It’s a CD of himself singing both parts in Nelly Furtado’s “Promiscuous.” The band likes to poke fun at Vanderkooy for his fluency in the video language of Gen Z. Smith calls it a “young man’s game,” saying they’ve dubbed their guitar-wielding pal “TikTok boy.”
Smith says his bandmate (and high school friend) has always been like this. “When he was in junior high, he was always making really weird YouTube videos. I’m pretty sure he’s deleted the YouTube channel so nobody can go find those videos, but they’re so funny… little Chris without a mustache is acting out these weird sketches in his parents’ computer room.” Smith is just as endearing. He has the same shoulder-length, boyish cut as ever. His phone battery runs low during our Zoom call, so he runs down to the basement of his family home to grab a charger. The camera wanders as he jogs downstairs, landing on his grandma. “Say hi to grandma!” he says.
There are some things about Peach Pit that will never change. While From 2 to 3 is notably more mature and varied in its subject matter, they will never stop singing about ex-girlfriends entirely. “I had a girlfriend quite a long time ago that I started writing songs about years ago,” says Smith. “Embarrassingly, I still kind of write songs about her sometimes.” The title of the album, and its final wistful song, is about the ex that sticks around in Smith’s subconscious. He stumbled out of bed at two in the morning from a jarringly vivid dream of her, jotting down the lyrics quickly in the wee hours of the morning before the details faded. “It’s about waking up with somebody’s memory in your head and being so struck by it, but trying to stop yourself from sending them a text message.” Still, if From 2 to 3 were to have a smell? Smith says it would be her laundry detergent.