Initially, ill peach’s music can feel bizarre and overwhelming. Whirring noise cuts to a rickety groove on “BLOOM,” the opener from their debut studio album, THIS IS NOT AN EXIT. Elsewhere, a 33-second interlude, “TORNADO WEATHER,” sounds like a helicopter that’s about to enter a warped dimension, whereas “HUSH” juxtaposes fragile verses with blown-out distortion that could send you into a rage. Once you accept their way of thinking, however, you delve deeper and realize that their songs are absurdly fun.
Over Zoom, the duo of Jess Corazza and Pat Morrissey are far less chaotic, sitting next to each other in a room that resembles a tricked-out spaceship. They’re back in LA, adjusting to the city’s eternal noon after a short trip to Italy, and are relaxing on the set of a music video for one of Morrissey’s other projects, MILKBLOOD. For now, though, they’re ready to dig into the weird world of ill peach.
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“It’s a collage of sound,” Morrissey explains. “We’re not intentionally going after that [genreless sound] with our music, but it ends up being that because it’s me being so excited about, ‘What if we combine [emo] guitar and then put drum-and-bass on top of it?’ We’re taking ingredients that we know from other spaces and trying to combine them.”
Still, their influences are hard to place. Morrissey cites Sum 41 as his first show, whereas Corazza fell in love with music through Garbage, the Postal Service, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. There are strains of electronic, punk, and alternative, among others, overtop a wonky pop sensibility that refracts a messy emotionality trying to rise to the surface. THIS IS NOT AN EXIT, out now via Hardly Art/Pop Can, brings that full-throttled approach to life in vivid color.
“I think we’re very polar opposites — our tastes and everything,” Corazza reflects. “It creates this harmonious friction where we drive each other crazy, but it yields the best result. When I make music for myself, it is completely different. Pat likes to shake it up. He’s always throwing shit at the wall.”
“I’m the Tasmanian devil in the room where I’m making a mess everywhere,” he adds.
The chemistry is palpable, as their friendship goes all the way back to high school. In those days, they ran in similar crowds. Morrissey had musical theater ambitions, while Corazza was involved in concert choir. They remained close through college, and on a school break, their musical partnership began to take shape. It would lead them to different recording spaces across the country, including a hip-hop studio in Hartford, Connecticut, where they worked for a year. Corazza would pen the top line, and Morrissey produced. “We were definitely the outliers of that studio,” he laughs. Since then, the duo have gone on to work with SZA, Pharrell Williams, Weezer, and tons more, but they’re at their best when they get to throw all of the strange impulses that weren’t a fit for standard pop songs, like hitting a water jug on an iPhone, into their own music.
Chalk it up to the pair being entirely self-taught. With every session, they watched their peers toil in the studio and took it from there, experimenting on their own time and creating dizzying worlds within their laptops. “Our processes are probably whack as fuck, but they work for us,” Corrazza says with a smile. Indeed, they help them distill panic and hope, empathy and resilience, within a swell of oddball noise that can thrive because of their long, compassionate friendship. Their partnership and respect for each other shine throughout the call. They give each other space to talk and reflect, often finishing the other’s thought or complementing how they explained a certain idea or sound. Vanity doesn’t exist in their space.
However, chaos reigns. Across the album, the songs dart from one sound to the next and can feel like they’re on the verge of short-circuiting (ill peach often rely on granular synthesis, a technique that uses a sampler to shatter the audio into grains, thus sounding glitchy as hell). For a handful of tracks, they even took Corazza’s voice and ran it through a guitar amp. Then they’d record the amp and replace her original vocal take. “Just things like that to recontextualize the voice or something that feels familiar, like a guitar, that we’ve heard for years on almost every song there is, but hearing it in a way that is completely original,” Morrissey says.
That vision is felt deeply throughout the record, as the opening chords to “COLLIDING” sound chopped from an American Football cut. “That’s some Midwestern Minnesota emo, indie shit that we grew up on,” Morrissey says. The song, however, soon morphs into different colors and shapes, and by the end, it lands in a completely different place from how it began. He even calls it his favorite. “Full disclosure, that’s not my favorite song,” Corazza retorts with a laugh.
She prefers tracks like “HUSH” — which people think is a Rage Against the Machine cover when they play it live — or “HEAD FULL OF HOLES,” where their usual havoc is replaced with a driving calm. “For me, it was a song I wrote about being OK to let go of the past,” Corazza says of the latter. “It still resonates in a really hard way.”
Live, their shows take cues from punk. When they opened for Hayley Kiyoko this past spring, their songs induced moshing and angst. Corrazza, who adopts quiet and introversion in her day-to-day life, became brand new onstage, her energy bubbling and, rightfully, receiving riot grrrl comparisons as she corralled the crowd to let loose. “It’s like there’s this rambunctious teenage girl that’s trying to crawl out of you when you’re performing,” Morrissey observes. Their fanbase, as of now dubbed the rotten peaches, is also growing but mighty. Some have even gotten tattoos of their cartoonish logo, while others send the band daily messages.
It’s probably because they feel it, too. There’s an irrevocable quality about how music connects people, and ill peach offer a release — of expression, subverting expectations, and freeing their minds to follow their wildest impulses. Whether they’re meditating on anger or grief — “HUSH” was written when the war in Ukraine began; “SIGH” reflects Corrazza finding out that her dad had a terminal illness — there is an abundance of feeling fueling the chaos, and they’re using it to heal themselves while simultaneously moving against the grain, synchronized in each step. Their pop songs remain progressive and confounding, to the point where most people don’t know how to classify them. “Genres almost don’t exist. People have called us things that don’t even make sense,” Corrazza says. No matter what you call them, though, their self-reflection is an exercise that pays off — you can hear it for yourself across their 13 songs, as each takes on a pulse and a meaning.
“I talked about the collage of sounds, and it’s a collage of feelings, too,” Morrissey shares. “Each song is in response to a moment in time. This album was about these two people, and they poured their guts out, and that’s what you’re hearing and listening to and watching.”