The cover artwork of “sunshine punk” band Peach Kelli Pop’s new album Gentle Leader is the perfect representation of their music: It depicts a bedroom where rainbows, hearts, and butterflies coexist alongside more sinister images, like someone wearing a creepy Easter Bunny suit and disembodied reptilian claws holding a pink sword.
When we speak, frontwoman Allie Hanlon is touring through the Southwest with her bandmates, sisters Gina and Sophie Negrini (bass and guitar, respectively) and Shelly Schimek (drums). It’s only June, but they’ve already put out two releases this year: First the stripped-down EP Which Witch, followed by Gentle Leader, Peach Kelli Pop’s fourth LP.
After Gentle Leader was completed, Hanlon says her new label Mint Records told her there was still time before its rollout to write, record, and release a collection of one-minute songs that could fit on a seven-inch. The resulting Which Witch EP—which is probably Peach Kelli Pop’s best and rawest music to date—captures Hanlon’s melancholy headspace after moving from her hometown of Ottawa to LA, which is epitomized by the final line of “Los Angeles”: “The whole world awaits you/But maybe you should just go home.”
“That EP I wrote when I was having a hard time, and I was feeling really discouraged about what I was doing and what my future might be,” she explains. “I was dealing with all the usual side effects of working in music.”
Which Witch ends with standout track “Drug Store’s Symbol of Happiness,” where Hanlon sings about meeting someone who helped pull her out of her doldrums: “My spirit was free, my mind was clear/I could finally see myself in the mirror.” In the music video, she walks down a hill strumming her guitar in slo-mo, before the camera slowly pans to reveal the LA skyline at sunset (with a cameo from the Goodyear blimp).
Gentle Leader continues to draw from two of Hanlon’s longtime inspirations: punk bands like Redd Kross and the Ramones and the pop culture of Japan, where Peach Kelli Pop has a large fanbase (they’ve toured there annually for the past four years).
“I guess even as a child I was really drawn to the pop culture, so I loved Sanrio and Sailor Moon and anime in general,” Hanlon says. “Even as an adult woman I still love it. But I also enjoy day-to-day life there.”
In the past, this collision of influences has resulted in explosively sweet tracks with power-pop hooks, doo-wop choruses, and video game sounds. The new releases shift toward full-throttle punk, which Hanlon says was due to her desire to make songs that would translate better to live shows. On Gentle Leader, highlights include a cover of “Honey” by the Marine Girls, the snarling “Don’t Push Me,” and “King Size,” an ode to a foster pit bull named Bubba.
“I wrote it because people were really afraid of him, and they would cross the street or move away quickly when we would come close,” she explains. “I would feel bad because he wouldn’t even get a chance, but he’s kind of like a perfect dog.”
The title Gentle Leader was also inspired by Hanlon’s work with pit bulls: “To be able to handle some of them on a leash I use this harness that’s called a Gentle Leader harness, which basically helps them not pull on the leash so you can control a really strong dog,” she says. “But I did really like the way it sounded, and it makes me think of a lot of different things. I’d say the most significant thing to me is letting life happen and not overthinking it, and accepting what happens. It doesn’t refer to a higher being, it just makes me think of letting things fall where they’re gonna fall—accept it and do your best.”