Neil Smith stands on the sidewalk in front of my house, staring at his phone. I open the front door and call out to him before he has the chance to send an I-think-I’m-here text.
He starts climbing my front steps, but instead of a regular warm greeting he retracts his last step and stops at an awkward distance. Greetings, after all, are different in the midst of a pandemic with social distancing being paramount to softening the curve of the COVID-19 virus.
“Should I come inside?” he asks politely.
I promise him coffee and direct him to the back porch where we continue to converse through the window. “Cute house!” he says as he peers inside; an unusual hosting experience. I finally step outside with two coffees in hand. He pulls out a tiny bottle of sanitizer and offers me some—a new normal.
“I’m really quite enjoying the namaste greeting. It’s a little bit more sincere than a handshake,” Smith says. “Do you ever find yourself in situations, if you’re a hugger, you go in for a hug and you’re like, ‘Aw, man! This person didn’t want to hug me at all!’?”
The soft humour is a welcome reprieve from our surroundings. We jump into our convo about Smith’s band,Peach Pit, their new album You and Your Friends (out April 3 on Columbia Records), and the uncertainty of their upcoming tour featuring sold-out shows across the globe amid the harsh reality of the #StayHomeCanada initiative.
Two years in the making, You And Your Friends is a crisp collection of songs that show Peach Pit ripe and ready to take on the world with their smooth indie jams. Smith’s warm vocals wrap around the band’s smart and sensitive compositions while he croons philosophically about everyday life.
Though sarcastic in tone, each song holds a sentimental truth about himself and his friends. “I always want to be as honest as possible. But how do I say this without upsetting somebody?” he questions, “I just don’t think with any type of art, it’s a very good idea to hold back.”
In congruence, a Peach Pit show is often known for hyping a room into a party frenzy, with their devil-may-care vibe, coordinated thrift store outfits and high energy performance.
In view of their relatively short climb to stardom, I ask if Smith finds it easy to maintain his mental health in light of Peach Pit fanfare. He bashfully veers away from fame acknowledgment and points out that they are known “mostly on Instagram, which is chill,” not to mention, they have the “nicest fans ever.”
“Sometimes it gets to your head a little bit,” Smith admits about his anxiety surrounding the band’s social media presence. “You know when you have people sending you DMs and commenting on your pictures all the time, it kind of feels like everyone has their eye on you.”
I agree and tell him I’ve always been one to push back against social media, but due to this nasty more-than-just-a-flu impacting the globe right now, social media is one of the most useful tools we have to connect with our self-quarantined friends.
Ironically enough, as the Peach Pit story goes, if a YouTube influencer didn’t catch and share their first eponymous single, “Peach Pit,” back in 2016 (now it has well over 33,000,000 streams on Spotify), this indie pop band from North Vancouver may have stayed indie for a lot longer.
“I definitely didn’t expect it to happen,” Smith confesses. “But when we first started the band, we made a really concerted effort to practice for a year and get really, really good. I guess that did pay off, but we also got super lucky.”
Smith, (vocals, guitar) along with the rest of the guys — Chris Vanderkooy (guitar), Peter Wilton (bass) and Mikey Paskuzzi (drums) — don’t know if the band will embark on the world tour they currently have planned, but they’re staying optimistic.
“It’s a whole month away and the tides turned very quickly in a negative direction, maybe they’re going to turn very quickly in a positive direction,” Smith says. “Probably not. But like, you know. Maybe.”
As the tides continue to turn with uncertainty, Smith is taking each day as it comes and focusing on the things he can control.
“It’s like we’re experiencing the first big event of our lifetime,” he says taking a sip of his coffee. “Everything else is meaningless, the only thing that matters is family and friends right now.”
Jenny Banai is a singer-songwriter living in Vancouver. Her new album, couchwalker, will be released later this year. For more information about her plans to take over the world with her infectious tunes, check out www.jennybanai.com