PEPTALK Suck: “There Aren’t Enough Polynesian Emos”

PEPTALK interview

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Listening to PEPTALK feels like sitting in on a conversation with three best friends. The Eora pop trio’s music does exactly what their name says: like a rev-up from a close mate, the stories they tell are reminders that none of us are alone. Accomplished songwriters individually, keyboardist Jay-Lee Kwan, bassist Lara Frew and lead singer Phoebe Sinclair have combined their powers to prove that, sometimes, three heads are better than one — especially if they’re all on the same page musically.

On their debut EP, Dumb Teen Heartache, they combine massive hooks and heartfelt, relatable lyricism, like on ‘Close Friend’ where they admit, “I’d kill to be closer than a close friend”. It’s the type of thing you can imagine a friend saying when they’re really going through the ringer while chasing love. To mark the release of Dumb Teen Heartache, Junkee caught up with PEPTALK to chat about struggling with idioms, getting mean feedback from university tutors and hate-watching Riverdale. I’m still not quite sure what happened in Riverdale — at some point, I had to tap out as it was getting too ridiculous — so if anyone’s got any cliff notes on the ending, that’d be great.

Junkee: A mistake that turned into an opportunity?

Jay: I feel like us becoming a band was a mistake.

Lara: Best mistake ever!

Phoebe: We’re all so passionate about songwriting and production, I kinda feel like we started the band to get some writing and production cuts under our belt.

Lara: The only reason we started the band!

Phoebe: What a great mistake!

Cringe quote you used to live by?

Lara: Jay once said “You’re only as weak as your weakest weak” and that’s something I used to live by.

Jay: That’s a good quote.

Phoebe: Bless, you get so many wrong!

Jay: But you get the gist though.

Lara: Last month, Jay told Phoebs that she always gets her “EDMs” wrong. You meant idioms.

Jay: Again, you knew what I was saying. You got the gist.

Worst advice you got and blindly followed?

Phoebe: I studied music at uni, for my like, final year production assignment I got a single line of feedback that just said, all lowercase, “you’re not a producer phoebs.”

Lara: Rude.

Jay: Oof.

Lara: Oof.

Phoebe: I don’t know what upset me more, like, all lowercase on my very expensive degree or the fact he called me “Phoebs”?

Lara: Like you’re tight.

Phoebe: I’m honestly more upset than all of that, that I believed it for as long as I did.

The worst failure you’re up for sharing, and what you learned from it?

Lara: I cut myself a fringe, a few days before my sisters wedding. It was during my Paramore phase.

Phoebe: You wanted to be an emo girl!

Lara: I tried to be an emo girl, that’s why I had a fringe. The lesson I learnt is that there aren’t enough Polynesian emos, and Jay-Lee and I are willing to pave the way to this very specific subculture.

Jay: “Jay-Lee and I”? Do not speak for me.

Anything you used to be wrong about?

Jay: I didn’t give country music a chance.

Lara: I kept telling you.

Jay: Mostly because Lara told me to, which… that kind of triggers something. When she tells me, or gives me something to do…

Lara: I was just like, ‘You’ll like it. You’ll like it.’ But you never listen. I made you a playlist that sat there for two years.

Jay: When I finally decided to listen to country music, it turns out I absolutely love it. Yeah, so I am a country music lover. Who knew?

Embarrassing internet habit?

Lara: Phoebe has an Animal Crossing Pinterest board called “inspo”.

Phoebe: I am not… I am not embarrassed by that. My villagers love Phiji. 

Ideal morning routine versus actual morning routine?

Phoebe: My ideal morning routine would be… it’d be to have one.

Lara: That’s good.

Phoebe: Honestly.

Lara: Yep.

Something very off-brand for you?

Lara: Recently we started hate-watching Riverdale. But I fear it’s slowly morphing into I love Riverdale.

Bad health decision?

Phoebe: A bad health decision in general? Or one we make?

Lara: Um, in general, drugs?

Jay: Oh, definitely drugs. Yep.

Phoebe: Yeah, lock in drugs.

Lara: Lock in drugs. Don’t do it.

Jay: Don’t do it.

What do you waste money on?

Lara: Can’t waste money if you’re wasting your life.

Jay: Life hacks. Facts to live by.

Worst procrastination habit?

Jay: I think calling you two.

Lara: Yeah, or any band meeting.

Jay: Any band meeting where we have to discuss something.

Phoebe: Yeah, any band activity at all.

Lara: This interview has taken like an hour and a half.

Jay: But we get it done. That’s the main thing. We get it done.

PEPTALK’s new EP Dumb Teen Heartache is out now.

Like our Sucks column? Check out our full catalogue of chats here.

Illustration credit: Matt Lauricella, @pigeonboyart