Since the release of her debut album in 2000, Peaches has spread her seed on the pop culture landscape, harnessing a worldwide audience and, along with the countless followers she’s inspired, has shaped the mainstream into a more inclusive and sexually progressive surrounding. Over the years, she’s built a reputation on her suggestive and intelligent lyrics, her amalgamation of rock and electro sounds and her balls-out performances, continuing to outdo herself with each brash step.
“Fuck the Pain Away”, the lead song from The Teaches of Peaches, was her first breakthrough statement amidst a multifaceted career: Never officially released as a single (and before the era of blogs) it still sucked in listeners from the indie, fashion and queer circles, and even managed to worm its way into the ears of frat boys and soccer moms (thanks to its subsequent inclusion in a number of films and television shows). Some fans are surprised to learn the track was recorded live on stage the first time she ever performed the song in her hometown of Toronto, before she made Berlin her home, back when the minimalism of her stage setup (a mic and a beatbox) was cutting edge, and it remains a testament to her DIY ethos.
After XL Recordings gave Teaches an international re-release, those privy (and pervy) were anxiously awaiting her second LP Fatherfucker. The title and the artwork (on which Peaches boasts a thick beard) would hint at the gender politics inside as Peaches alchemized cock-rock clichés into riot grrrl machisma (with a guest spot from godfather of punk Iggy Pop along the way). If the first album was like masturbation – the sound of Peaches finding herself – then the second was an exploration in role-play. Fittingly, her live show experimented with burlesque, video projection and various pranks, such as actors who would lip-synch to Peaches’ offstage delivery. Aside from performing, Peaches took on the role of director for three of her own music videos, accepted Pink’s invitation to co-write a song, remixed Daft Punk, appeared in The L-Word., and mentored a pre-debutant M.I.A. on the drum machine.
By 2006, Peaches was in full thrust, and Impeach my Bush further infused the sexual and political into pop territory. This record, with our protagonist donning a sequined burqa, incited a full-on revolutionary orgy, highlighted by the anthem “Boys Wanna Be Her” as well as guest spots from Gossip’s Beth Ditto, former roommate Feist, and her teen idol Joan Jett. And for this incarnation of Peaches’ live concerts, she got to fulfill a longtime fantasy by forming the Herms, her own version of the Runaways. This all-girl supergroup of sorts, consisting of J.D. Samson (Le Tigre), Samantha Maloney (Hole) and Radio Sloan (The Need), toured the U.S. with Bauhaus and Nine Inch Nails and played a number of international festivals. Parallel to this, Peaches the solo entity forged new paths, exhibiting visual work for the Canadian Biennial and gaining strength as a DJ in club settings.
Peaches’ fourth album, I Feel Cream, cemented her longevity with her biggest evolutionary leap to date. Here she tested the extremes of her vocal chords, ranging from sweet falsetto to heavy-flow rapping, and this time around, she invited some of the friends she’d made on tour to co-produce several tracks: Soulwax highlighted Peaches’ heated soulful belting in “Talk to Me”, while Simian Mobile Disco helped craft the icy disco beats of “Lose You”. Following the thematic progression of her records, this chapter represented a romantic candlelight dinner ending with a tabletop fuck, wax and champagne spilled in every crevasse.
In 2010, Peaches celebrated a decade of existence with several projects that challenged not just the public’s expectations, but also her own personal stamina: First up, she debuted her one-woman rendition of the classic Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Rechristened Peaches Christ Superstar, Peaches sang every note and played every role herself, accompanied on piano by longtime friend and collaborator Chilly Gonzalez. Peaches Christ Superstar received overwhelming critical acclaim with ARTFORUM stating in their review, “Not only did Peaches set it off, she managed to surprise us all by showing off an expansive vocal range, a musicians’ natural sensitivity to the dynamics of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score, and an emotive prowess that is rarely if ever displayed in her own, less holy, music.” The Boston Globe also stated “Her vocal gifts, in particular, were a revelation as Peaches wailed, intoned, and even crooned as if Broadway beckoned.”
On the other end of the spectrum, she conceived Peaches Does Herself, a quasi-autobiographical, career-chronicling theatrical production that pastiched over 20 of her songs into an abstract narrative. The retrospective extravaganza employed a cast and crew of over 40, including her backing band Sweet Machine, full-frontal nudity courtesy of trans porn actress Danni Daniels, oversize upholstered vaginae, and elements from the Peaches Laser Show she had brought to several European capitals earlier in the year. Peaches Does Herself represented her body of work dealing with such themes as gender, beauty and age.
Aside from her featured appearances on the latest albums from R.E.M., Christina Aguilera and the Flaming Lips, Peaches has been a keynote speaker and guest lecturer at institutions like NYU and the University of Toronto. Her plans for 2012 involve producing the next album from Taiwanese band Go Chic and taking the stage as the titular character in a production of L’Orfio, Monteverdi’s 1607 opera, standing out as the only classically untrained cast member.
Peaches is also in the early phases of her fifth full-length (technically her sixth, if you count the one released under her birth name Merrill Nisker in 1995, before she plucked her stage name from Nina Simone’s feminist anthem “Four Women”). Meanwhile, Peaches’ lyrical, musical and stylistic influences continue to be seen and heard in artists around the world, from mainstream to underground. But making direct comparisons would never do justice to her uniqueness. Apples to oranges. She’s just Peaches!