Indie pop band The Orange Peels have a double album, Celebrate the Moments of Your Life, coming out in the fall, their first new material in two years. “Thank You”is the first single, and they also rereleasing the Square debut on vinyl. We spoke to them about all that and more…
L.A. WEEKLY: It’s been a while, but you’re releasing a double album — is that because you’ve spent the last few years writing?
ALLEN CLAPP: In the early days of 2020, we were just about to hand in our eighth album. Most of the songs were finished, and we had scheduled one last “clean-up” session for March to tie up loose ends. So things were proceeding fairly normally, and then everything changed. Everything started closing in. We had flown Gabriel out from Philly, and suddenly the whole country was closing down. So what started as a consolidation ended up being a major expansion. We wrote an entire album of new songs that week, and it’s not anything anybody expected.
Is there a concept to the album? What’s it about?
GABRIEL COAN: I’m not sure about a concept, but there are certainly themes that span across the music, the lyrics, and even our approach to making the record. However, none of it was premeditated. The sonic and lyrical themes evolved very organically. It’s very much a reflection of a specific time. To start, we were now a three piece. That was really inspiring and liberating. We said, “Let’s start fresh.” It meant anything goes, nothing’s off limits, nothing’s sacred. And I think that spirit is felt on the songs. We also were — and still are — going through a lot of pain, both individually and as friends and creative partners. At the end of last year, Allen was battling some serious health issues, while both his parents were fighting their own — ultimately culminating in his dad’s death. The world is at a heightened level of pain and anxiety, with political and humanitarian and environmental disasters erupting every day. And then COVID hits right as we are in the throes of making this thing. So yeah, it gets a little dark at times. And a little weird. But like I said, it’s a product of its time. I’ll leave it to the listener to pick out themes that resonate for them. I think people will relate to it. It’s already the most honest thing we’ve ever done. So it’s probably also the best thing we’ve ever done.
You’re also rereleasing the debut…?
CLAPP: Our first album, Square, came out in 1997 — which may have been a statistical low-point for vinyl as a music medium. But we had grown up listening to records in the ’70s and ’80s, so we always envisioned this pop song cycle as an album with a Side A and a Side B. Of course it never came out on vinyl, like many things in the ’90s. So we thought, let’s see if there’s any interest out there. If not, fine. But if people want this like we do, maybe it has a chance? So we launched a Kickstarter campaign in early 2019 and as it turns out, people agreed with us. So when we started collecting the original master tapes (which was time consuming, but ultimately successful) we discovered a whole different version of the album that we had been ready to release in 1996, but which never saw the light of day. And I have always thought the 4-track demos for this album were something special, so we decided to hunt down and remaster everything. We ended up with 40 tracks, split into three parts: A remastered version of the original album (on 180g vinyl); a California album of mostly unreleased mixes, and a whole album of demos. We started joking that it was Square³ because it was three times more stuff than anybody ever asked for. But we also felt lucky, because so many artists have lost their original masters—or they’ve been burned up in warehouse fires—so we thought, what the heck: we’re gonna do it.
How are you coping with lockdown? How do you keep busy and sane?
JILL PRIES: I won’t lie. I’m a homebody. As the director of a Montessori school, my work is intensely social and I have to be “on” for a lot of people all the time. Because we can’t meet in person right now, my teachers and I have turned our lives into a series of Mister Rogers Neighborhood-style episodes on our YouTube channel. Allen and I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and my school is in the heart of Silicon Valley, so I’m loving the lack of a commute right now. Additionally, I’m digging hanging out with my dog, seven cats, and two turtles. We recorded a big chunk of this album just hours before Shelter In Place began, and it was surreal, but it put us in a frame of mind where everything else sort of fell away, and allowed us to concentrate on what was important. It also allowed us to record a song that we weren’t even sure about, and it’s become a cornerstone of the new album, (“Thank You,” released May 8) even though it was the very last thing we recorded.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when it’s lifted?
CLAPP: Well, we haven’t played live for a while now, and it would be great to get back on the road and play some new and old songs for people. But, I don’t want to forget some of the amazing things that have happened because of this. There’s been a sense of connection and community in the last three months that kind of almost surpasses what we knew before. That’s significant, and maybe the most uniting event that we’ve collectively experienced since WWII. If things ever return to a semblance of “normal,” we’d love to celebrate by sharing our music live in front of people again. When it’s supposed to happen, we’ll do it.
“Thank You” is out now. The Square reissue is out on June 26. Celebrate the Moments of Your Life is out in the fall.