'No matter how exhausted I am, I can appear really energetic. People have no idea how tired I am. It’s a skill,' jokes Canadian musician Peaches..
(photo credit: DARIA MARCHIK)
Canadian singer, electromagnetic superhero, performance artist, queer icon, mover of the people, flipper of the script, pulverizer of the patriarchy, fearless female powerhouse Merrill Beth Nisker, better known by her stage name Peaches, crashed onto the music scene in 1995 with her debut album, Fancypants Hoodlum.
Then she detonated with 2000’s The Teaches of Peaches and hasn’t spent a second looking back since. Many of her song names and even some album titles are unquotable in this publication. Peaches pulls no punches. Nearly 20 years into her career and six albums later, Peaches will finally grace the stage here in Israel tonight (8:30 p.m.) at Tel Aviv’s Barby Club. Peaches sat down with The Jerusalem Post to discuss her early years in Jewish day school, her penchant for collaborating with comedians, and her secret superpower.
I was always struck by this paradox that exists in your music, where you maintain this careless, cool attitude, while tackling subjects that you actually really care about. Is that a conscious choice?
Yeah it’s a total conscious choice. I didn’t want to be preachy. I wanted people to dance and enjoy first and then go, wait a minute what am I actually listening to? It’s sort of a response to the way I grew up. I’d be singing along to these heteronormative, sexist songs, and realize what I was listening to. So I wanted to switch it around.
Speaking of how you grew up, I was surprised to learn that you’re Jewish and went to a religious school?
Yeah I did, begrudgingly. We had the worst Hebrew teachers, they were not education- minded and I was completely disinterested. But I can still remember all the Torah songs because music was what I was interested in. It was a conservative school. But I tuned out for a lot of it.How did that influence you on your journey?
We had music programs, but they were really strict and there was no room for any experimentation whatsoever. I remember one year I was given the biggest part in the play and then the next day I had the smallest part, with no explanation. I don’t think it’s particularly a Jewish thing, but it’s just certain educational institutions not giving children the development that they need.
I was also surprised to learn that you were in a folk band?
Yeah, I taught myself music later in life.
I didn’t grow up with musicians around me. So I learned acoustic guitar and I had a girlfriend who played guitar also. We both wrote songs and we played together one night, and ended up getting a weekly gig where we played for a year and a half. We had quite a little Jewish following. It was during a time where I was trying to break away from all that, but they showed up. We would have young girls sneak in and cry to our songs. I was developing in my music and it got to a point where I didn’t want to play folk anymore. It was also tumultuous because it was with my girlfriend and then ex-girlfriend, and we would sing songs about each other.It’s better to keep the band like the Indigo Girls and never date.
It was right at that time too: Tracy Chapman, the Indigo Girls, Melissa Etheridge. They were all gay! What do you think feminism needs today?
It’s a complicated question. It needs to be more inclusive. Feminism is seen as mostly white women. We need to find a new word. Intersectional feminism needs a lot more discussion and openness. In the words of Jill Soloway, we want to topple the patriarchy.
We want to change the system because it isn’t working. There are a lot of people in power who aren’t moving and not allowing the change because it would change their power level.You did a video with comedian Margaret Cho for your most recent album. What was that like?
Well I’ve had a lot of dildos thrown at me, and bachelorette party items, but the actual call for guys to put their d*cks in the air hasn’t really happened yet. It needs to catch on. Working with Margaret Cho was amazing. We’re big fans of each other. When I finished the album, I sent it to her and asked her which song she wanted to do.
She immediately chose that one. Things just started to come together. Somebody had these ridiculous sweater outfits and we walked around LA. It was a no-brainer.I read that you also recently collaborated with photographer Holger Talinsky on a book called, ‘What Else Is In The Teaches of Peaches,’ featuring Yoko Ono and Ellen Page?
The photographer followed me around for seven years. He’s a really gentle, cool human with a good eye. He didn’t want them to be staged photos. We went through a lot of photos and edited them. It was a big project.
Is there anyone you really want to collaborate with in the future?
Yeah, Tina Fey! Mostly comedians. They really tell it like it is, but in a way that’s uplifting, which is good. They’re smart and quick and they get politically active.Sounds like you as well. Where does your creativity come from?
I don’t know. I guess just questioning things that are going on in the world and seeing how they fit with me. Why is that popular? Why is it that way? How could I change it or help change it? How could I do it creatively? Are you working on anything new now?
Not really, I’m still touring this album. It’s coming up to two years. In November, when it’s done, I’ll regroup.
Is this the first time you’ve played in Israel?
It’s the first time I’ve played an official show. I DJ’d in Tel Aviv about five years ago.
Will you get to use your Hebrew skills while you’re here?
They’re limited, but I’ll definitely use them!
What is your superpower?
No matter how exhausted I am, I can appear really energetic. People have no idea how tired I am. It’s a skill.If you had to summarize, what are the teaches of Peaches?
Just listen to all my lyrics and you’ll get the answers! For tickets to Peaches concert at Barby Tel Aviv visit www.barby.co.il. For more info on Peaches: www.facebook.com/officialpeaches.