Three-piece rock band The Orange Peels doesn’t just roll with the punches一 they take some shots at adversity themselves.
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Comprised of Allen Clapp (vocals, keyboards, guitars), Jill Pries (bass), and Gabriel Coan (drums, synthesizers), the trio was hit with waves of hardship over the last year. On top of the collective struggle with COVID-19, Clapp lost both of his parents and Pries lost her sister in a devastating car crash. As if that wasn’t enough, the band was evacuated from their Santa Cruz Mountains studio for a few months due to one of the worst wildfires in California’s recorded history. Any one of these events would justify a pause in creativity.
But how The Orange Peels responded was overwhelmingly remarkable. They produced a double album titled Celebrate the Moments of Your Life. American Songwriter recently sat down with the band to dig into the album, exclusively premiering below.
“By the end of the year, there was really nothing we could take for granted anymore: life, stuff, an address,” Clapp begins. With this reality, the band had enough and decided to do something about their situation. “[Creating this album] was a way to just say: ‘Ok, Life. You’re throwing all is at me? Fine. I’m gonna make a double album.’ It’s a way of fighting back,” Clapp says.
Celebrate the Moments of Your Life is a collection of 17 songs that push and pull on the boundaries of a pop song. The band toys with electronic music while strumming up soundscapes based on progressive rock, orchestral pop, and melodic rock.
“Making stuff with Allen and Jill has always been really easy,” Coan states. “I think all three of us are equally comfortable leading and following, so we each just slide into whatever role seems right for the moment. We also don’t walk in with any rules or expectations. Even if you’re coming in with a formed idea, you still just let the others bring what they hear to it instinctively. Whatever their first reaction is going to be, is going to be the best stuff. And then your idea just got way better. It’s the perfect kind of creative partnership for me. It’s the most rewarding—and they make my shit sound good.”
“We just bash away at it until it’s right. And we’ll use whatever sound, instrument or production technique that will get us there,” Clapp chimes in.
The result of The Orange Peel’s specific approach to music, and more broadly in life, resulted in songs that sound just as unique as the band members themselves. Ahead of the release of Celebrate the Moments of Your Life, the band dropped several singles, including the most recent “Whenever.” The track sonically high steps through chords and resembles the work of famed rock band R.E.M.
Other tracks like “2×2” and “Birds Are Louder” also stand out to the band.
“I really love the opening track, ‘2×2,’” Clapp says. “It’s basically a power trio play. It’s heavy in this really weird way. Almost like a brutalist pop song. Jill loves it so much that it kind of had to be song No. 1 on this monster album. Gabriel has one of the most brutal, Cro‒Magnon drum fills I’ve ever heard. Jill is holding it all together with this super insistent bassline. I get to play some freakishly punk‒prog lead guitar. It’s the sound of 3 people making music together with no expectations, no agenda. I freaking love that.”
Coan adds, “When I was listening to the masters and then the test pressings, I kept picking a new favorite every time. But I agree that there is something special about ‘2×2.’ When Jill said it had to be the opener, it was like, ‘Well of course it does.’ I also love that the opening lines of the album correspond with the cover art totally by happenstance. Yeah…it’s special.”
Pries then pivots to explain, “My favorite moment was the rest of the band being willing to support the bass player with an interesting idea. When I got inspiration while half asleep, everyone jumped in and backed me up. That idea became the foundation for ‘Birds are Louder.’”
All together, these songs build and support each other to share a series of beautiful and painful experiences. The Orange Peels essentially peeled back their individual perspectives to communicate a broader sense of what it means to be all shades of human.
“I think sides A and B are maybe a little bit more immediate in their reaction to the circumstances of the past year. Sides C and D are a little more introspective and poetic,” Clapp says. “We’ve never put out a double album before, so sequencing it was challenging. Getting the feel right was crucial because we wanted it to hang together as a whole. It also had to tell a story of transformation. It had to say: ‘Here’s the way things used to be, and here’s the way things are now, and here’s all the other stuff that we’re still not sure about.’”
Overall, Celebrate the Moments of Your Life is intense and The Orange Peels succeed in their outpouring of honest emotion. Clapp explains that the band joked about including a cigarette and match with the vinyl version of the album as a nod to their intensity.
“But I actually think it would be difficult to have made a record over the past year and have it not be intense. Unless you were just doing the escapist thing. I mean, I’m over that,” Clapp continues. “I think at this point, we should be fining artists for ignoring what’s going on in the world around them. Kind of like a carbon tax for escapism. Especially some of the world’s most popular ones. If I had the ear of millions of listeners, I probably wouldn’t choose to put out album after album about my love life. Just think what we’d be missing out on if John Lennon or Marvin Gaye did that? We should expect more from art. We’re just trying to deliver.”
To wrap up our conversation, the band expresses hope for live shows soon and Coan left listeners with a neat bow of an album explanation. “Well, let’s it put this way: What began as a silly goof transformed into a totally sincere, devastatingly earnest sentiment through the course of making this record. So yeah. Metaphor. Somewhere. There. (And don’t sue us, you know who.)”
Listen to the exclusive premiere of Celebrate the Moments of Your Life below, until the album is officially released Friday, July 16th.