By Arielle Lessard
CALGARY — The dreamy power pop ladies from Peach Kelli Pop (PKP) are getting ready to join Femme Wave for their first time in Calgary. At the core of PKP is Allie Hanlon, who delved into Ottawa’s DIY scene with her twin sister and learned drums at age 15, recently relocated to L.A. where she’s signed to Burger Records. While Ottawa “helped [her] gain the confidence and experience” she needed to start playing in bands, she’s happy to be using her fresh start to explore some creative freedom and make new relationships – like those with bandmates Gina and Sophie Negrini and Mindee Jorgensen.
For those that are unfamiliar with Peach Kelli Pop’s magic, PKP loves Japan and Japan loves them. PKP puts out albums proficiently while keeping within a central visual theme of bright colors, pins, illustration, romantic neon, and smiles all around – things that might be considered Kawaii, or “cute” for English speakers. Though the definition can be expanded with a quick Wikipedia search, with original meanings that include “one’s face is aglow,” “dazzling” or even “able to be loved” and “lovable.”
Hanlon addresses issues of dismissing “cute” too quickly, saying “people will [sometimes] listen to your music for five seconds and decide lots of different things about you and your music, which is frustrating. We have high pitched vocals and it sounds really feminine, but [at the same time] I’m 29, I’ve been touring and playing in bands for over a decade, I’m proud of our live show and how technically proficient we are at playing. I think when people see us live, they think this is a group of people that have paid their dues. Hopefully by seeing us [and] really listening to the music, people can see that there’s more than what they perceive to be cute.”
The real misgiving may be categorizing cute, poppy energy as easy to pull off or somehow dismissible, when in fact being “lovable,” engaged, fueled-up and rosy can be infinitely hard to sustain. Peach Kelli Pop is the perfect embodiment of those fiercer qualities, and demonstrates vividly that cool, imaginative, thoughtful women often travel in groups and support one another creatively. In this way, and in direct alignment with Femme Wave’s mission, there is a rich collective togetherness that can grow out of these platforms. Hanlon notes that the best parts about being in a creative field are “getting to work with other people, playing live and going on tour with your friends and [ultimately] seeing people appreciate the work that you’ve shared.”
When asked about her current projects, Hanlon dives in with excitement, and notes that she’s taking her time to work on the fourth Peach Kelli Pop album, having released three since 2010, they’ve been on a feel-good roll. Freshly back from a trip to Tokyo, Hanlon played six shows and stayed for 12 days, “so it was kind of like a vacation tour” where the girls “played shows and explored and hung out, so it was really magical.” They’ll also be going to Hawaii for the first time in February to play for a group of kids that fundraised through Failed Orbit Records to fly bands over, with Hanlon fully appreciating how “cool [it is for] people that really love music to [find ways to] have different bands that they normally wouldn’t get to see.”
She also found time to do some work for the Cartoon Network with Victor Courtright, who approached her to do thematic music for Get ‘Em Tommy. Courtright himself is a high-octane illustrator and animator whose previous work has crafted a cartoon character called, quite literally, Officer Baby Teeth. “I was really excited about it and he showed me the different clips, the tone of his show, and I worked on it with a friend and fellow artist Natalie James.”
Hanlon makes time for PKP by working a day job in the art world at a small business alongside illustrator Tuesday Bassen, who comes from a “similar background of punk music and an alternative scene.” Hanlon, who’s “open to so many different things,” raves about the girls she works with and the positive work atmosphere, “it’s really meaningful work with fun people! Things are constantly growing and changing, and [my] day to day is very fluid.”
Peach Kelli Pop delves happily into issues like power, money, self-empowerment, beauty standards, broken hearts, and princess castles without ever losing an eternal sense of fun and their power pop roots. Hanlon says, “I always write from my heart and what I’m experiencing so there’s definitely a variety of topics that come out. So I think that if I’m feeling frustrated about something, it will come out and it may end up being something other girls can relate to.” Boy, can we ever. Lyrics like “she’s held together with glue, she’ll never disagree with you” from Plastic Love make for danceable feel-good songs with a soul.
PKP’s latest collaboration with SHEVIL, a collective of female filmmakers in L.A., to produce a music video for their most recent Halloween Mask LP messes with beauty standards, and highlights the dazzling, bright monsters that make up PKP. Using smoky, kaleidoscope composite footage of all the band members’ faces, as well as monster masks and projected cartoon faces. Hanlon notes that they chose to work together after “the girls that run [SHEVIL] stood out… because they had a clear idea of the music video they wanted to produce and they even had a budget written out… I was really impressed by how organized they were and especially how great their ideas were.” In a similar vein as Femme Wave, “they also run a monthly night for female-centric music, female performers, stand-up comics and bands… that’s something that I always try and kick my friends to, because it’s so fun.”
For other artists, and budding musicians, Hanlon recommends “focus[ing] on having fun, because it’s harder to create when you’re focused on things that can stress you out, whether you’re getting certain opportunities that you’re hoping for, or what other bands are doing. So just focus about what makes you happy about making music, and enjoy the entire process.” Fans worldwide are evidently pleased that Hanlon is happy with the entire process and always manages to produce marvellously art that’s as cute as it is potent. On a wishful note, Hanlon’s dream collaborators include, without missing a beat:
One would hope that Peach Kelli Pop won’t do away with any of their charm or cuteness anytime soon.
Peach Kelli Pop perform at Dickens as part of Femme Wave on Friday, November 18th.AB, Alberta, Dickens, Femme Wave, Femme Wave 2016, Peach Kelli Pop