What is Your Name and Role Within Peak Park?
Hey my name is Mitch Summers, I’m the lead vocalist and rhythm guitar player for Peak Park. Additionally, as is the case with all our band members, I have played an active role in our songwriting process, predominantly contributing to melody, lyrics, soundscape and structure for our most recent releases.
Where are you currently based?
We are currently based in the South-East suburbs of Melbourne (technically on the Mornington Peninsula). We spend most of our time at Cal’s house in his super-groovy bungalow out back.
How did you first start playing music?
I first started playing music in grade 2 when I was about 10 by learning the guitar. When me and my sisters were little my Dad would serenade us with some of his favourite songs on guitar, introducing me to classic tracks like Space Oddity (David Bowie) and Leaving on a Jet Plane (John Denver). At the time he had me utterly convinced that he himself wrote the songs, so much so that when I heard them on the radio, I was annoyed that they’d ripped off my Dad’s music. I mainly learned the guitar through the chords Dad taught me and then through YouTube, but it was always with the intention of singing along to my own playing, and so naturally singing progressed along with my guitar playing and was never something I really had to teach myself, purely because when I played I sung.
Your new single ‘Please Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself’ is out now, what influenced the sound and songwriting?
Because we’d been working on this song for around six months, the influence pool was quite large for this track and was constantly evolving as time went on, depending on how the vibe of the song was feeling over time. Some definite influences during this time were artists like Mansionair and Rufus, along with Radiohead and Billie Eillish. In terms of songwriting, Tom came up with this incredible marimba loop in the very early stages, and that pulsing, thumping kick is what has driven the song through the whole writing process. We wanted a song that felt like it was pushing and moving with force and purpose, while overlaying it with vocals that were scattered, spaced out and dissolving into themselves.
Lyrically, the song deals with struggling with mental health, and notes experiences of anxious thought spirals that cause anxiety and a feeling of hopelessness. It also deals with the internal stigma that opening up to someone is something to feel shameful about, and that to do so is to burden them with your feelings. The lyrics are largely based on personal experience, and try to depict how it feels to be overwhelmed by the number, and severity of ones own thoughts and emotions.
How did you go about writing this track?
This track has been in the works for a long time, longer than we’ve ever spent on any song before. Initially it started with a few chords that I thought sounded interesting that I played to the guys, and the next week Tom had configured this really cool marimba loop based on the chords, and the song grew from there. The main focus was always the pulse of the bass and kick, along with the boppiness of the marimba loop. The goal had always been to eventually lead to a more atmospheric explosion of sound, which it does, however quite late into the process we thought a section following the ‘climax’ would be really interesting and complicate the feeling of the song even more.
The main line and eventual title of the song ‘Please Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself’ actually came from one of our jam sessions in which we were trying to come up with vocal ideas by literally just looping the song and forcing ourselves to sing something, until Tom came up with the line Please Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself. A call and response happening between Tom and Cal (singing please don’t be so hard on yourself) and me making up a line that would later become the lyric ‘Don’t Give Me Up’ that you can hear in the back of the mix. I wrote the rest of the melody and vocals a couple of weeks later, centered around these kinds of ideas, and reflecting on particular thoughts I was having around this time.
Please tell us about the bands DIY approach to recording and production:
It’s interesting thinking about this, because we’ve only ever recorded and produced our own stuff, so it seems perfectly standard to me on the inside, but isn’t this case for a lot of artists. There’s obviously pros and cons to doing this for us; we get to have full creative control of the sound, we can give ideas plenty of time to develop and grow without the pressure of deadlines and time constraints weighing on us. At the same time, it means that we have had to put in a lot of work behind the scenes than we otherwise might have had to, particularly in relation to mixing, which Tom has done for every song for us.
It also means we’ve had to put ourselves through a lot of trial and error along the way having no real experience in the field, to try to get a sound that sounded both professional, and how we wanted it to. Sometimes a professional sound is hard to achieve if the equipment and set-up itself doesn’t feel professional, and this has been a definite challenge for us along the way, but one we feel we have been able to overcome through a fair bit of experimentation. We’re still learning HEAPS about the process with every new release, but this one feels like a massive step for us on both a professional and creative level.
Where and When did you record?
Most of the vocals and bass were recorded at Cal’s house, and the guitars, along with the mixing was done at Tom’s house. Because we’re self-recorded and produced, we have the benefit of being able to record really whenever we want. Weirdly enough we often record, mix, and write a song all at the same time as one big process, this song being no exception. So we would often draft an idea for the song, Tom would incorporate it into the mix, we’d record it properly if it needed it, and then move on to other ideas. So our process of writing and recording a song kind of happens all at once. We had essentially finished all of our recordings just before the start of the COVID crisis, so fortunately it didn’t affect the work on this release as much as it could have.
What programs/ instruments did you use?
This song has a fair bit going on in terms of instrumentation; guitars, vocals, bass, synths, sequencers, modulated and acoustic drums, a subtle brass section towards the end of the song and some resampled vocal work to top it off. What is probably most notable to me however is the amount of layers that we managed to put in the song with the final the Logic file nearing 200 total tracks. What’s interesting is that a lot of the effects and sounds, including all of the drums, were done entirely on Logic, as we weren’t able to record them in real life. I think it’s a testament to Tom’s mixing ability as to how convincing each part sounds in the end.
How did you approach the recording process?
As I touched on a bit before, we recorded, wrote, and mixed this song all as one big process, so a lot of the recording was done on the go when we decided to throw something into the mix. The vocals were probably the major ‘recording session’ focus we had, in which we did actually spend a solid couple of days trying to fully flesh everything out. We knew we wanted the song to have a lot of vocal lines and layers, and so this was probably the most time consuming recording that we did for any one instrument. We also dedicated a session to getting Cal to record the bass for the finished product. Other than that, most of the recording (including the guitars) was done either by Tom at home, or by drafting ideas together in a jam and then refining them and recording them as we went.
Where can we listen?
Our new single, along with all of our other music, is available on all streaming platforms. This includes Spotify, Apple Music, Triple J Unearthed, Soundcloud, Bandcamp, and YouTube (Links down below!)
What do you like to do away from music?
If I’m not playing music I usually like to be active and do some form of exercise every day, and then usually spend time hanging with friends or playing videogames (League of Legends a big one there). I also have a habit of watching a lot of YouTube.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
Currently still listening to Stella Donnelly’s debut album which is an absolute treat please check it out if you haven’t, as well a fair bit of Joji, Billie Eillish, and Two People. And then as always my standard daily dose of Radiohead for good measure.
What’s planned for 2020?
With everything changing as it is at the minute it’s hard for us to have a fully locked in plan, but at the minute we plan on running out this release and uploading a stack of supporting content that we’ve been working on behind the scenes, and then probably start looking towards finishing writing, recording and releasing a couple of new tracks we’ve got in the works later in the year. On the gigging front, we’re super hopeful that the Aus live music scene will be back on its feet as soon as it can be so that we will be able to give these new singles proper launch releases. Obviously it’s super important for this crisis to be dealt with properly however, so in the meantime we’ll just be keeping insanely active on all our socials to keep providing content to people and doing what we love as best as we can.
Favourite food and place to hangout?
Tough one. On the savoury side I’m a bit of a sucker for a bit of Guzman and Gomez, can’t really go past a spicy burrito with guac. On the sweet side, I usually can’t say no to a cheeky Krispy Kreme donut. I don’t really have a favourite one place to hang out, I’m usually just down to hang out with friends, wherever that is. If there’s food, I’ll be there.
Triple J Unearthed: https://www.triplejunearthed.