Interview: Cats, Cults, and Self-Care with Peach Luffe
SXSW is all about expecting the unexpected, and this time around, that meant striking up a new friendship with long-time friend and featured artist on the site, Jong Lee, otherwise known as Toronto-based dream-pop multi-instrumentalist Peach Luffe.
Most people, when meeting for the first time, would start their conversations with something simple, like an ordinary greeting followed by pleasantries like, “How has your week been” or “Rough weather we’ve been having.” Not Peach Luffe, though: within a minute of meeting, he immediately offered us a brand new package of Hi-Chews as hors d’ouevres for our forthcoming interview. It immediately set the mood; the same mood that one feels when listening to any of his dreamy, ocean-washed albums: that everything will be just fine.
Following the release of his first full-length album, Everything is Peachy in late 2022, we sat down with him (very informally) to discuss cats, cults, self-care, and how Austin could learn a thing or two from Toronto.
Note: this interview was conducted in-person at SXSW on March 13th, 2023.
How has your SX been so far? What was your trip like?
It’s been great. Hectic as hell, but I’m still just happy to be here. We were actually just in LA to do a show, but then had to reschedule and then flew here only a couple of days ago. And LA is cold right now, so it’s nice to be outside with a t-shirt and pants. It feels like summer! And since I’m from Toronto, summer usually doesn’t start until, like, June, so it’s nice. I get an early summer.
What’s Austin like compared to your home town of Toronto?
It’s just hot as hell here. But I like it. The buildings here are pretty similar to Toronto, and the layout is the same, like it’s more spread out. It’s a little bit more chill than New York, where it’s just spamming buildings everywhere, but not as spread out as LA. So I like it.
By the way, thank you for the Hi-Chew; what flavor is it?
That’s mango. I picked it because my cat’s name is Mango.
Is mango your favorite flavor?
No, but since my cat’s name is Mango, every time I see something that’s mango, I have to get it.
Tell me about your cat, Mango.
My Mango is my favorite little boy. I’ve had him for a year and a half already. I got him with my ex, actually, but we split… but I kept the cat. I won custody. But yeah, he’s my baby, and I actually do miss him every day, so I have a pet cam with me. Let’s see if he’s here. *PL brings out his phone to show me the cat cam stream* I bought a $20 pet cam… He’s not here. Mango, where are you? Mango, come on. *beckoning for Mango for at least a few minutes*
Would you agree orange tabbies are the dumb cat?
They get the stereotype of being a dumb ass cat, which I think is true, but I think they’re more motivated by food, so they end up doing more dumb stuff because of that. Cats are my personality, so just letting you know.
Are cats your favorite animal?
What’s your favorite animal?
I think some marine creatures. I don’t know. I just like marine animals. But cats are my favorite that I have right now. I used to be obsessed with sharks; when I was younger, before music stuff, I would read animal books in the library. Like, all those huge picture books. I read all that.
Let’s talk about your first full-length album, Everything Is Peachy. How do you feel now that it’s been out in the world for a few months?
It’s really awesome, actually. There’s a couple of songs on there that I really, really like. The reason I wrote it was because I was kind of stuck musically. I didn’t know what to write about; I didn’t know what to do. So I was like, you know, I’m just going to lock myself in a room for a month in June and just write music. And that’s what I did. Just like one month of just banging it out.
Wow, that’s crazy. That’s so fast.
It’s really fast. And I think because of that, I’m able to write more music now. I think I got all of it out of my system, and it helped kick start a new creative cycle.
There’s a kind of theme throughout the album where there are these little interludes, and it’s kind of like a sunrise to sunset theme. Was that intentional?
Yes. It was like splitting it up. I thought, yeah, interludes are fun. It’s not that common to hear interludes these days.
So you’re pro interlude?
I’m definitely pro interlude, yeah. Sometimes I just want things without me singing in it. I don’t have to sing on every single song.
Did you do all the instruments, mixing, producing, mastering?
I had a couple friends, my friend Michael, who’s playing with me at SX and also my friend Henry that I collaborate with a lot. He’s from California. Three people worked on it, but it was all internal and produced and mixed with my friend, and Michael mastered it. So it’s just like me and a few people, all in-house.
You’ve been putting out stuff for years though, right?
I’ve put out music for about three and a half years… maybe-ish at this point. Something like that.
How do you feel like this album is different from your past work?
I feel more mature now. I don’t know how to explain it. I know what sounds I want, I know what sounds I gravitate towards, and I know what my taste is more clearly these days.
What would you say that taste and sound is?
I just like pretty music more than I thought. I grew up with the violin, and because of that, it’s a lot of pretty instruments and beautiful arrangements.
So all that violin on the album was you? I thought it was some kind of nostalgic Nintendo sound font.
Yeah, with like a filter. But it makes it all better. I love orchestral and symphonic sounds. It’s something that I gravitate towards because that’s my favorite type of music, like the Romantic Period from the 1800s.
What’s your favorite Romantic song from that period?
There’s a guy named Tchaikovsky that I really like. He’s a Russian composer. Really tragic, all these composers have such tragic lives. They all die early or they’ve just been through shit.
How do you think this album will influence the music that you make in the future?
This was the first time where I really felt confident after the album. I felt confident in my singing for the first time ever, really. So whatever I’m putting out now and in the future, I feel confident with my vocal ability to portray the emotion that I want to. Before, I was more fixated on, like, oh, is this in tune? Should I be more rigid when I’m recording? But now I feel more confident with singing in general.
What can people expect from your live shows that they might not get from a streaming experience?
Oh, I’m definitely a bit more chaotic on stage than how my Internet personality or music is. I think it’s more fun. I’ve only been doing live shows for a little bit, but so far, I got good responses. People said it was really fun and really enjoyable and feel-good. I’m more fun on stage.
What instruments do you play when you’re performing on stage?
I played violin before, but I can’t here. My setup here is so minimal because SX has very quick set up and stuff. Other than that I’ll play guitar and also a little keyboard sometimes.
And you play a lot of instruments, is that right?
A couple. Guitar, violin, piano, bass, ukulele, maybe. That’s it.
Are those all on your album?
Minus ukulele, yeah. And slide guitar. That’s another one. I bought one recently. That’s like… you ever watch SpongeBob?
Yeah, that’s the SpongeBob one, right?
It sounds like SpongeBob, yeah! I love it.
How is learning that going?
It’s so fun. And I recorded a lot of it on the album. It’s there for texture.
Okay, a few deeper questions. Do you have a favorite musical moment, or a special synth or sound from your album that you want to brag about?
My violins. I love making my violins sound like it’s an orchestra. I record literally 70 violins, harmonies and stuff, and it just sounds like I hired an orchestra to play it. I’m very happy with that.
What’s the process like, to just go from one recording to 70? What does it feel like?
I’m in the zone for like, two hours. My phone’s off. I’m focusing, so I can’t be bothered by anything. I was banging it out for two hours and boom, it sounds like I got an orchestra. So much money to hire an orchestra to play stuff, but I do it for free.
Has TikTok or short-format social media influenced how you make or market your music?
That’s a great question. No, not at all. I’m on there, but I’m not making my music or changing my music for TikTok. My songs are going to be as is, and whatever I put out, I’ll cut a snippet of my song and put it on there. But I won’t make music for TikTok, if that makes sense.
Do you feel like there is pressure in the music industry to make music for TikTok?
Absolutely. There’s so many people I think of where sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I just want to make music that I would listen to more than, like, a quick hit or something. There’s nothing wrong with that either. Though a nice fat bag would be nice. One of the songs on the album is called “Fallen,” and it’s doing well on TikTok now, so I’ve gotten a lot of streams from it. TikTok does work a lot, but I know a lot of artists hate it. Because then you have to game the system. And it also just takes time.
Where do you find inspiration for making music? I noticed one of the songs on your album is called “Yoshi’s Island”. Is there a Nintendo influence?
Yeah. I love that game. It reminds me of my childhood. But that song is about cults, actually.
Really? I didn’t catch that.
It’s cool. I think it’s amazing how people have different interpretations, and that makes music so much more interesting for me. My interpretation of my own music is valid, and so is yours. You’ve lived a different life than I have, and because of that, you end up with a different conclusion. That’s the magic of music. That’s so cool. Whenever people think they know what it is, it’s different, but they’re very valid as well. It makes me happy.
See, I never knew that “Yoshi’s Island” was about cults.
It’s about joining cults, because when you’re vulnerable, when you’re really vulnerable from things, that’s when they get you, and you wouldn’t even know it. I find cults very interesting.
Do you watch a lot of documentaries?
No, but I watched a few and I’m like, “How do people get sucked into this?” But it’s not as simple as it seems. It’s almost always, like, vulnerable people. When you’re vulnerable, when you’re going through a breakup or grief or something happens, that’s when they get you. Like, “Hey, here’s how you find salvation. Yeah, we can help you. We’ll help you.” Scary.
Okay, just one more question that I have here: what do you do for self care?
That’s a great question. I’ve never been asked this… I hang out with my cat. You know, I just bother him, annoy him a little bit, pick him up, pet him. One of my favorite things is I have an annual aquarium pass to this place called Ripley’s in Toronto.
Ripley’s? What is it?
It’s like the “Believe It Or Not” people, but they have a big ass aquarium in Toronto. It’s one of the tourist spots. That’s one of the places I have an annual pass. Like, old people get it, and now I have it too. So I go there and just walk around. Sometimes I bring friends. Sometimes I’ll just listen to music and go walk around.
Just by yourself?
Yeah. Self care, honestly. We need more self-dates. We need to normalize that. Actually, one of my friends inspired me to go to restaurants alone, so I’ve done that a bunch of times, too.
Yeah, I’ve tried seeing movies alone, too.
Ohhhh, that’s the best. Yeah, I like that, actually. It’s like no pressure, because if someone is there, then it’s, like, you kind of want to say stuff? But it’s just you. You can do whatever you want. No social pressure at all. And that’s what self care is about. Yeah. Woah, dude.
Any future plans that you want to share?
Yes. I’m coming out with a new song this week. I haven’t even announced it because it’s been so hectic this week. It’s called “Notice Me”. It’s one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written. Future, past, present tense. I really like it. It makes me feel romantic. et at the same time, it’s my first slightly toxic song. Slightly, slightly, slightly, toxic. It’s just me simping over someone that likes someone else, someone who’s, like, 40 years old, but she’s, like, 22.
Are you going to reschedule your Echoplex show as well?
I will. Yeah. There’s just a venue problem that we had and we’re going to reschedule it. But I’ll be back in LA. At an undetermined time, but I’ll be back.
This interview was conducted by Jacob Ugalde in person on March 13th, 2023 as coverage for SXSW 2023.
Peach Luffe’s latest release, Fish Bowl EP, is out now.
Jacob Ugalde is a writer, musician, and pasta enthusiast based in Los Angeles, California. A jack-of-all-trades kind of type, Jacob works in many different fields, from computer programming, to visual design, to film production, to music making, to whatever else he can get his hands on. His favorite musicians are Phoebe Bridgers, Carly Rae Jepsen, Vulfpeck, Luna Li, and Louie Zong, and his favorite video game is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. He thanks you for reading this all the way to the end!