Tony Peachka is what happens when teenage angst hits drinking age. The group — singer/guitarist Melissa Jones, guitarist Stephanie Jo Murck, bassist Danielle Cusack, and drummer Hayley Briasco — stand on the stoop of their northeast Minneapolis practice space, roaring and laughing well above the music permeating the building. They burst into the echoey room and collapse onto secondhand sofas, immediately spilling into self-deprecation and innuendo.
Tony Peachka have endeared themselves to the local scene with their giddy ennui. Though they bill themselves as a band that makes “angry pop songs,” Peachka balance all that post-grad indignation with a sneering, instantly recognizable sense of humor. They’re a pogo-dancing portrait of just how clumsy and hilarious your early 20s can be. “It’s about being upset with your situation, but not that upset,” Jones says. As she’s the band’s lyricist, it’s usually her awkwardness on display. Their debut album, October’s Dirty Knees, is honest to the point of mortification. “Don’t wanna go out to bars in the evening / Gonna stay inside and eat all my feelings,” she squeals on “Idle Hands.”
“I’m never that embarrassed about the songs, because I know everyone feels that way,” Jones adds. “If you’re judging me for that, then you’re the one with the problem.” The original incarnation of Tony Peachka was twee and cutesy. Their 2015 demo, Hello Tony, had that unabashed honesty, but it didn’t fit the band’s vision. “Our first EP was super light and soft,” Briasco reluctantly admits. “There’s tambourine.” It didn’t feel right for a band whose music was designed as a literal confrontation with adulthood, so they trashed the tambourine, trading in the coos and melodies for Murck’s tight licks and Briasco’s viking drums. In 2016, they added Cusack, the ass-kicking Cherry Cola/Bruise Violet drummer, on bass and notched up the rock ’n’ roll adrenaline.
The first song they wrote as a unit was “Dirt,” their album’s howling final track. It’s about asserting a sense of self in a time when people gradually lose their individuality, and it’s the truest expression of an aesthetic the musicians have anthropomorphized as “Tony.” After solidifying their sound, Peachka bleached Hello Tony from the internet. They’re not making apologies for the missteps they’ve made — that’d be antithetical to the mission — but they’re not letting them define the group, either. Instead of collapsing into the messiness of trial and error, Tony Peachka brandish immaturity as a shield and keep it from being too much of a bummer. “We all make mistakes, and we have experiences with people that we realize afterwards was a mistake, but that’s all part of it,” Jones says with a self-conscious laugh. “You can’t always do it perfectly.”
[Jerard Fagerberg, City Pages: Picked to Click 2016 - #2]