Interview: How rising musicians Peach Luffe and Eunice Keitan are helping each other conquer the Toronto indie scene
After sitting down with Peach Luffe (Jong Lee) and Eunice Keitan at a coffee shop, I realized how much their personalities complement each other–just like their musical styles and skills do. Eunice speaks softly and radiates warmth and positivity, while Jong is energetic–hardly able to contain his excitement whenever topics like anime or music theory are brought up. They’re quite the interesting pair. Jong produced Eunice’s newest songs and even lent her some guitar-work on her latest release, while Eunice lent her soothing vocals onto Jong’s own compositions. It’s a symbiotic musical relationship that has produced some great music. What’s even more notable is that their musical collaboration sprouted from their genuine friendship, not the other way around.
But even though the two are such close friends, their musical journeys and styles couldn’t be any more different. Jong, for example, is a Korean singer whose music lies in the realm of bedroom pop. He holds a bachelor’s degree in classical music, studying it from an early age. At first, he recorded his music under his name Jong SL. Recently, he’s rebranded himself to Peach Luffe.
Eunice, on the other hand, has a more international sound from growing up and traveling the world. Her electric influences range from R&B, jazz, to Latin-inspired music. Often moving from place-to-place as a child, Eunice drew inspiration from the people and sounds she met along the way–seeing pinpointing common struggles across locations and culture. Her previous project, Where the Road Begins EP, paid tribute to those influences, and was consequently was nominated for a Toronto Independent Music Award. Lately, she’s been using music as a tool to bring communities together and explore topics that might otherwise be difficult to put into words, such as mental illness on “Hope is a Bird.”
Eunice and Jong are now both based in Toronto. I had the chance to sit down with them and talk to them about how their unique journeys, how they came to collaborate, and how they work together as musicians from different genres.
PART 1 – Peach Luffe
How did you first get started in music and then later music production?
I probably started with the violin just like any Korean kid. I started around the 4th grade and stuck with it for a while, and I actually ended up majoring in it in college because I didn’t know what else I was good at. But I was playing bands as a guitarist the whole time. The production [part of it] started when the bands I were in wanted more control of their sound and not have to depend on other producers or mixing engineers. So I started learning Logic Pro, and I think I got pretty good at after eight years of it now.
The mixing is relatively new in the last three years cause I was confident in mixing other people’s stuff but not confident in mixing my own. Because after you make a song, record it, write it, practice it, you don’t hear it properly anymore. But now I have other friends that help me for reference. I started singing about four years ago because I was going to make songs for other people, but I don’t want to write lyrics and then have someone else sing my songs!
Do you play all the instruments in your songs?
Yeah, so all of them except the drums! The drums are just computer-generated but they sound pretty good at this point. I think I’ve got to a point where I can kind of fake it and you can’t really tell–at least to the average listener.
You rebranded recently from Jong SL to Peach Luffe. What’s the story behind the name and why the rebrand?
So have you heard the anime called One Piece? My name is based off the main character, “Luffy.” I can’t copy his name completely or I’m gonna get sued or destroyed, so I just tweaked it a bit. I always wanted an artist’s name–an alias to go by–but I couldn’t think of anything while I was releasing stuff so I just released it under my name. But I liked the word “peach;” I like the character Luffy–he’s really dumb and clumsy like me, but he’s also very good at certain things and very determined… which I want to be. I can be a little air-headed sometimes though. The rebrand will happen more as time goes on, I don’t want to force something that I don’t feel is me.
Who are your musical influences and role models?
I really like artists like Coldplay, Mac Demarco, and John Mayer, as well as the new indie DIY scene that’s happening. I just like music with interesting chords and textures to it. I’m not a rhythmic person as much. I like the textures of songs as opposed to the rhythms.
You said you hoped to gain citizenship through you career as an artist. What is that process like and how is that going?
Yeah so its pretty different! There’s no one I know who has actually done it which is kind of frightening, but I’m on three-year work permit so I just have to make enough money as a musician to survive and claim it under my own business. Then I can get my permanent residence which can lead to citizenship! It’s a little bit of pressure but, you know, the pressure can be good motivation.
Do you have any advice for people who want to do the same?
Marry a Canadian!
PART 2 – Eunice Keitan
How did you first get started in music?
So like Jong, I started when I was really young. I started playing piano around four; as a teenager I got expelled from music school because I always wanted to do things my own way. The classical music they taught was more structured but I always wanted to create my own chords and experiment. They would give me homework to write a song according to their structure and afterwards I would always come back with something different than what they wanted. The school had a reputation as a classical school so I guess they wanted everyone to conform to their standards, but the creative part of me was not able to stay in that box.
Although I started music when I was really young, I would move around a lot with my family so I would start and stop a lot as we moved. But there was a chunk of time when I was a teenager where I was able to take classes for a longer period of time in a more structured environment… but apparently I don’t do well with structure.
I started a punk band band in high school; we went into the studio and the sound engineer there told me I had potential and could do something with it. That is what first inspired me to actually do something with my music! From then on I started to explore my sound a lot more.
You’ve traveled a lot throughout your life. How have your experiences shaped your music?
I like being able to connect with people through music, so wherever I travel I try to learn a little bit more about their culture through their music. A lot of the times I can’t speak the language so the best way to really connect is through music. I think I also gravitate towards sounds that are more unique, so I try to use whatever I’ve learned or heard to make my own music.
You’ve probably heard some of my songs have a Spanish influence–that’s because I’m married to a Colombian. We’ve traveled to Colombia and his family are all musicians, so a lot of the influences I’ve had lately are from Latin America. I’ve found that they have a very strong music culture and also a great appreciation for the arts. My influences are also from Southeast Asia, since I grew up in Malaysia and Singapore. I use these sounds to push my music in different directions and to explore other ways of writing music.
Who is a musical role model of yours?
The one person I look up to a lot is Jeff Buckley, mainly because of his voice and the type of energy that he puts into his songs. My music is very chill, but there are bits of it that are also very raw and soulful. That stuff I learned from listening to Jeff: how to use your voice to convey the message that you really want.
What was the motivation and inspiration behind your new song “Hope is a Bird”?
This song is essentially about struggling with depression but finding hope again within community. I think that apart from the general misconceptions and stigmas attached to depression and mental illness, there is an additional pressure as an Asian. I feel like we are worried about “saving face” a lot of the time–concerned with how things reflect on our family, culture, and community. I’ve found that in general, the Asian community is not too open with emotions and feelings are thought of as not being “efficient,” so to say. This can make the healing journey even more challenging. This song tries to cover all of those feelings and helped me process a lot that I was thinking of, while at the same time expressing gratitude for the people I met along the way who reached out to me when I was in my darkest moments.
My journey with mental health started when I was four. All through the years I’ve seen the process and how society and my community deals with every stage. Even up to now, I think in the Asian community whenever I talk or others talk about mental health, it’s still under hushed tones and I hear a lot of phrases such as “that person was too sensitive.” I think there’s a lot of conversation that still needs to be had, the more we don’t talk about it the more people are going to suffer and die.
What was the idea behind the video for the song?
The idea behind the video is that mental illness and depression are universal experiences–something that anybody could experience at some point in their lives. I wanted to showcase a community of all different types of people to sing one line each in the song to convey that it can be a shared experience. Mental illness and depression are things that everyone can relate to, but they can also relate to hope–specifically finding hope in community.
PART 3 – Peach Luffe (PL) & Eunice Keitan (EK)
How did you two first meet and start collaborating?
Peach Luffe: We’ve known each other for about a year and a half at this point as friends, but I don’t remember how we first came to work on music together.
Eunice Keitan: I think we met through a mutual friend and became friends! It was through our friendship at some point that we decided to work on music together. I guess it was so natural; I had a song and I knew Jong was doing production at that time so I asked him to help me out. I actually just said, “Can you put some guitar lines on this?” and he came back with a full arrangement and I was blown away!
PL: I’m honored that you would trust me and risk that! The song was really good to begin with so it was not hard to add layers to the song since the foundation was already solid.
EK: I actually do not know most of the time what I am playing, I know in general the type of sound that I want and I experiment until I find something that works. When it comes to making chord charts and telling people what I’ve played, it becomes hard. So it helps to have someone like Jong with a strong technical musical knowledge who can analyze and explain the music better.
What do you admire about each other?
PL to EK: I like how relaxed you are. You seem like a perfectionist but at the same time you’re very relaxed about it. It’s a good balance. We did a show together and I played guitar, but it was the sound guy’s first time and the sound at this venue was bad. Eunice was so chill about it! If it was my show I’d be angry, but I like how calm she was.
PL: Another thing is that Eunice is always in tune. Out of everybody I’ve worked with she is the most in tune. She did her vocals and guitar at her house and sent me the raw files and it was perfect! I don’t know how many times those took but I didn’t have to do anything!
Can we expect more collaborations in the future?
EK: I hope so!
PL: For sure! It’s for sure gonna happen. For sure.
This interview was conducted by Derrek Chow in Toronto, Canada at Page One Coffee + Bar on September 8, 2019. Header photo by Derrek Chow.
This article was originally published in October of 2019 and re-uploaded in 2021.