Photo by Anthony Bibian

Peach Kelli Pop: A DIY Hero With a Cult Following


Peach Kelli Pop’s music is the soundtrack to wistful moments.

When you’re speckly and 16, and the girl you like—the one with the freckles and the guitar blisters—is finally sitting next to you on the harbour bus stop, so you have to tell her how you feel, and you push hot air out of your gross, teenage lungs to form the words (but there’s so much anxiety-blood in your ears that you can’t hear yourself mumble), ‘I like like you’, and that slow-motion moment of terror melts to relief when you see her mouth the words ‘me too.’ PKP makes you feel those lovely, gooey, dumb things, even if you’d never felt them before; those moments so adored, as you discover that there’s nothing to be afraid of. Blistered fingers touch yours and you now know for sure, the music like likes you back.

Peach Kelli Pop is your favourite band’s favourite band; your DIY hero and your celebrity crush. Prickly guitar tones contrasted by bittersweet lullaby vocals, shiny and knowing, glow warmer with each strummed chord and licked word, like a smile growing slowly on the face, or a warm breeze in the summer. Her simple, electric-edged charm lends the music an impeccable, effortless sincerity which has brought PKP critical acclaim and a devoted cult following, developed over their 10-plus-change years in the business.

It’s a rare, treasured thing, finding a band with an energy and inclusiveness that anyone can feel cute and comfy moshing to. Even as treasured: finding a band which one can slow dance to, while remaining punk rock. Given our love of cult leaders (not that kind), we were compelled to ask the woman herself, Allie Hanlon, how she did it, where she did it, and what she’s doing.

You’re semi-secretly Canadian, aye? How long have you been living in California?

I’ve been here maybe since 2013? I moved because I was dating someone here and it was a long-distance thing for a couple of years. When you’re in separate countries, there comes a point where you have to decide if you are going to break up or if one of you is going to move. So I moved here and we aren’t together anymore, but I’m still here because I love it. I mean, I think I would have moved anyway. I grew up in a small-ish city called Ottawa, which was really nice and a good place to grow up, but I was at a point in my life where I was wanting to try something else. Especially for someone who enjoys playing music, California is definitely the place to be.

It’s funny because your music makes me feel so Californian.

You’re not the first person to say that and I’m not sure if that has to do with me being here or if it’s something about who I am that is making me sound like that.

This might be sort of an annoying abstract question, but is that intentional? Is there a lot of intention behind how you’re making your listeners feel?

I wish I could say that I was that skilled at making music, but I think that when I write songs, whatever comes out is what it is and I can’t really control it. I think that there isn’t an intentional plan on how I’m going to make my listeners feel or what emotions I’m going to want them to experience.

You’ve put out such a volume of work, so much music…

… Yeah, maybe too much music.

You think so? Can there ever be too much? 

When I started writing for Peach Kelli Pop, I didn’t know that I’d be doing it for so long after, and I didn’t know that I’d be touring and that people would be listening to it so much. I wasn’t really a perfectionist when I started, I was just having a good time, and I didn’t really know or care what I was doing. Now that I’m more skilled and more experienced and am able to make it sound better, I’m interested in being a little more intentional. Quality over quantity. I’m proud of all of the things that I’ve put out, but I’m now more interested in taking my time more, and delegating certain things.

Delegating? 

Yeah, totally. The first two albums, I played every instrument on them; I mean, I can play bass but now I have a bass player, Allison, who is an awesome player! And those parts sound way more professional. It’s just my journey, I guess, to figure things out in the order that I have to get to where I want to be.

I love those two albums!

Yeah, thanks! It’s always different when it’s your own art or your own creation. You’re always more critical. I think that when you’ve been doing it as long as I have, your priorities change.

Photo by Thomas Henry Green

 

What has your experience been as an independent artist over all that time?

Super interesting, actually! When I first started, there wasn’t really streaming. Myspace was still the thing. That was maybe 2009? Soon after, Bandcamp became the thing and it was great because people would buy your entire album for like $10, and for a couple of years, that was how I paid my rent! I also have memories of touring with burned CDs of my music, which is something that would never happen now. It’s been a different experience as the years pass. Now with streaming, PKP doesn’t do amazing with streaming, but it does enough, and I don’t have band members to share whatever money I get from that. It’s just like, it seems like the way people make money in music now is really different. It’s more difficult now, I think.

What do you mean?

I mean, I have friends whose songs blew up on TikTok so they get royalties from that, but maybe the turnout at their actual shows aren’t really great. There are a lot of ways that individual bands can do well, you kind of have to find your space and your niche. PKP has a pretty good turn out and we sell a lot of merch, but we don’t do great on the platforms. Find your thing.

Tik Tok is the fucking worst. The death of culture. I’m old and angry about it. 

I mean, I’m not on it. The way that viral media is happening, I can’t even keep up with it. I’m kind of out of the loop. I will say that when I see a song blow up on social media, I get concerned for the artist, because what’s going to happen to them now? If it’s just that song, it’ll maybe be over in a couple days or a week and then there will be a big drop off.

I see what you’re saying. They’ll have put out this song and be pigeonholed by it, or not be known beyond that. Like, this is their ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’

Totally! I think the ideal trajectory for a band is to accumulate fans that actually have a meaningful connection with your music, because they stay with you over time. It doesn’t make money as quickly as the viral song, but for a long term career, that’s the way to go. That being said, I wouldn’t be mad if one of my songs went viral. I’m always worried for new bands in this day and age. Maybe I sound like an old man yelling at the kids, but I always am like, ‘What’s going to happen to you? What are you even able to do right now? What is success today?’ I’m not really sure. I think that the most hyped bands are the ones with the really good Twitter presence. I’m too old to have social media be that tied in with my music, but that seems like the thing. There are also exceptions! I always think of the band Big Thief, and how they’re really popular because their music is amazing and people genuinely enjoy it.

How do you feel about your prolific status? Not to ask you to pull out your ego, but have you ever really thought about it?

No, not really. A lot of the people I hang around… musicians tend to hang out with other musicians, so a lot of the people that I interact with are a lot more successful than me, so it’s hard for me to relate to what they’re doing and at that scale. I do consider myself successful, but I don’t feel like a prolific artist. I can say that I have put out a lot of releases and done a lot of tours, and had a really good experience, but I’m always—even though I don’t mean to or want to—comparing myself to people who are more successful than me. I don’t see myself like that at all.

Why’s that?

I mean, I don’t know. Part of it probably has to do with my family being really supportive of me playing in this band, and they always have been, but they’ve also always been a little worried about me not having financial stability as an artist. I’ve always experienced this gentle, but ever-present pressure from them when they’re like, ‘Is this going to pan out?’ So I don’t feel like a failure, but unless I’m able to support myself and feel comfortable in the long term, I feel pressured like it isn’t a good use of my time. And that makes me worried that my parents will worry. Not even that they’ll be disappointed, but that they’ll worry.

Photo by Anthony Bibian

I hear you’ve also started teaching?

Yeah! That’s partly why I gravitated toward teaching. That’s happened mostly over the pandemic and has been a really good opportunity to put in the time it takes to start a new career. That’s really taken over and has been good, it’s taken care of me financially pretty well in a time when things are slow and I can’t tour. Hopefully I can still tour and get back to all of that later on.

Do your students know who you are?

No, so far, no. I did tell some of them that I’m in a band and as soon as I did it I was like, ‘I shouldn’t have told them that.’ My music is pretty non-offensive, but who knows? Some of it could be to someone. Or maybe I said something not appropriate for a teacher on Twitter years ago. Social media is scary!

How old are they?

I teach middle school, so 11 to 14. Old enough to know. However, they do not think that the type of music that I play is cool, at all. They’re into things like The Deftones, now. Things that are back in style. It makes me feel old.

What were you like at that age? 

When I was in middle school there weren’t really jocks and punks, everyone was friends. We all feel uncomfortable when we turn 14, and I was really uncomfortable. Actually, I have a twin sister who got into this private school, and I was going to public school. She hated it, so she and I switched places and in retrospect, it was great because I didn’t thrive in school. It was good to have smaller classes and teachers that ensured that I was actually learning what was being taught. Anyway, around high school is when I started to go to shows and embrace subcultures. Ottawa is a smaller city that a lot of bands skip on tour, so I would go to whatever. Metal, hardcore, indie… I didn’t understand the difference. Not until years later did I start to pay attention to what I like in music, versus liking them because they came to Ottawa.

When did you start playing? 

Me and my sister and our friend started a band. Thank god we didn’t record anything, we were really bad. My sister played bass and our friend Emma played the guitar, so I played the drums. I got drum lessons—thanks to my parents, that was super cool of them—and when they saw that I stuck with it for a few months, they bought me a set. That’s still the set I use today, it’s in my garage right now. I can still play but I’m not great. The first band I was in that actually toured and put out records was called The White Wires, started in maybe 2007? We stopped when I moved, but we’d still play shows if I flew back to Ottawa or something. That definitely allowed me to learn about touring and putting out records before I started PKP.

Photo by Thomas Henry Green

How do you feel about the career you’ve had so far? Is there any wisdom that you might pass down to the next generation? 

Oh man, it’s so hard. That’s a good question. I don’t know if I’m the best person to give positive messages because it is so difficult right now. The best thing you can do is to have fun. Try and think about all of the great things that you get from music. Time with your friends, collaboration, getting to write a song that you’d listen to and like and are proud of. Even if you can’t tour or play shows or make a lot of money right now, just the love of music and songwriting and friendship is still there.

Anything on its way out from you?

We just booked our first headlining show in LA since 2018. It’s in May, hopefully it happens. Cross your fingers. I did record three covers just for fun and we are putting that out pretty soon. The covers were totally just for fun, but I also feel like they are the best sounding recordings I’ve ever done? Which is great! Just funny. Everything I put out should be better sounding than the last, ideally. I went from like, DIY, to slightly less DIY, up and up and up. I think those come out late April along with some merch, and then we play the show, and then hopefully a full-length album down the line. I’ve been writing for it, so we’ll see!

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