Growing up in gray Birmingham, England, Harry Koisser dreamed of becoming a professional photographer. But surveying his early snapshots, he had to face the truth: “I just wasn’t particularly good at it,” he admits. “So I had no real career prospects. I had pretty much no options at all, I guess.”
Out of sheer frustration, and with his bassist brother Sam Koisser in tow, the vocalist formed the neo-psychedelic outfit Peace, whose debut, “In Love,” is currently topping overseas charts.
Koisser remembers his most depressed period, when he took a dead-end job holding a huge sign for a local house and techno nightclub, from 1 p.m. to 7 in the evening, when the venue opened.
“It was humiliating,” says the 22-year-old, who brings Peace to The City this week. “People were rude to me, and there was one day at Christmastime when it was excruciatingly cold, and I didn’t have any warm clothing. And I thought ‘What’s happening here? Why am I doing this?’”
But sign-twirling proved serendipitous. Post-shift, the club owners gave him complimentary drinks and admittance. That’s when he began studying the music that was being played, like the thumping track “Drumster” by Wippenberg, which contained a rhythmic, robotic clicking amid its white-noise mix.
“I wasn’t very gifted with electronic music, so I spent a lot of time just trying to think of ways to make that sound with guitar,” he says.
It was a Herculean task, trying to convert digital instrumentation to analog. But it became Peace’s raison d’etre, and the band jumped headlong into sonic experiments that would wind up on “In Love” (soon to be reissued in the U.S.), like the ethereal “Sugarstone,” percussive “Delicious” and the flower-power-chiming “Higher Than the Sun.”
Koisser was heavily influenced by one group he had seen in concert, Explosions in the Sky.
“They had really long instrumental songs that were really dynamic, and they’d go from really low to really high in an instant,” he says.
The guitarist became a mad studio scientist. He used delay pedals to create arpeggio-fretted notes, then filtered them through the warmth of vintage tube amps. To simulate an E-bow’s perpetual sustain, he employed a reverb pedal with an “infinity” button, then developed his own aggressive string-palming technique.
“So the dynamics of how I play sort of echo the way techno rises and drops,” he says.
In the process, Koisser developed a foppish fashion sense. But he’s not clothes-obsessed. “So far, I’ve only spent my money on equipment,” he says. “I haven’t even got anywhere to live, literally — I’m just living on the road. But I’ve just bought some cool new guitars!”