The Story of Peachface: A Journey in Sound
Peachface is a musician born and raised in Mukilteo, Washington, USA. He currently studies Mathematics at the University of Washington and recently got engaged to his fiancée, "Lemon". He dedicates this article to her.
Introduction: how to build a dollhouse boy
I never thought that I would have been as lonely as I was during my Peachface days. I was 19 years old and I had graduated high school just the year before. That year, my grandparents were diagnosed with cancer within just months of each other. Shortcake - that's my grandmother - was diagnosed with breast cancer and Berry - grandpa - had lung cancer. I had been living with them since my senior year and was planning on leaving for college soon. Things changed. My world sort of paused. It was 2013 and I hardly spoke at all.
I lived in a storage room that was connected to my grandparent's garage. It was sort of a bleak arrangement, but I learned to love it. The lighting situation consisted of one window that was about the size of a piece of paper. A toilet was installed directly next to my bed and there was a sink on the other side of the room, so I guess it was used as an alternative bathroom at one point. I had my bed, a child-sized desk, a fluffy red rug, a couple of bags that I kept my clothes in, and the laptop my mother bought me as a graduation present. It wasn't a bad situation, but I knew it looked strange to visitors; well, the hypothetical visitors.
Before graduation, during the early part of my senior year, my mother and I had a falling out. I moved out the day before my eighteenth birthday and brought along my aforementioned bags to Shortcake and Berry's house - these were my father's parents. On that day, I concluded that I would never speak to my mother again, and for a while, that remained true. I went as far as shutting out the entirety of mother's family, and considering that my father's side was already distant (and sparse), my only blood-connection became my grandparents.
But there were my friends, of course. I had a few, particularly during my school days, but after graduation, people moved off and a distance was made. This was the adult life that I feared as a teenager; the world would start spinning out of control and I would never be able to catch up. And instead of doing something about it, I suppose I just watched it happen. I graduated, worked at a fast food joint to save up for school, and just as things were lining up for my take-off, Shortcake and Berry got the bad news. And I couldn't just leave them. That's how the stories go, right? They needed me and I needed them. My life was not so sacred, anyways. For the first time in a long time, I was needed, and that gave me a purpose.
We lived within miles of the Pacific Ocean. I often walked from the house to the water and meandered there for hours. This was my sole hobby. I was not a particularly artistic person, though I wrote a bit during high school. I was truly a common white guy of the suburbs; there was nothing definitively special or interesting about my character. I had no clear aspirations or ambitions or dreams, or at least, not since my teenage years. I became some cookie-cutter version of an early 20th-century American male protagonist; you know the one: he has nothing going for him, yet, due to some combination of luck and privilege, he finds himself in love or power or wealth or success or what-have-you. I found nothing. Except, maybe, some pieces of myself.
The Dollhouse is what I call my grandparents' house. It was an endearing little cottage on the corner of two streets tucked away behind a sprawl of trees. It had a blue picket fence that surrounded Shortcake's backyard garden, and there was a creaky weathervane that was propped on the gablet roof right above my room. From the outside, it looked immaculate. Sometimes, you could find my grandfather rearranging the angel statues in the front lawn, or my grandmother checking the bird feed, or the grandson mowing the front lawn, grabbing the newspaper, driving to the grocery store and pulling back into the driveway, looking over his shoulder as he shut the door behind him, locked it, and did not exit for days, sometimes weeks. And what was wrong with that boy? His life was not all that bad. Sure, his grandparents had been hit with a horrible sickness, but does that call for isolation?
What calls down the illness of isolation? Is it an illness? Is it a lack of effort? Is it a side-effect of depression? Is it pride? Sometimes, you could find the Dollhouse boy ambling down the road, going to the Pacific and returning with not a drop of water on him. Sometimes, he'd look out the window and observe the lawn; if it did not need to be mowed, he'd shut the curtains and return hours later, as if the lawn would have grown proportionately since. Do some people desire absolute loneliness? Is it healthy? Is it a cry out for attention?
At the end of 2013, Berry and Shortcake's cancer-situation was looking better. The first part of the year had flown by, and it's difficult to remember any of it. I remember one day, I was washing dishes and watching the cats in the backyard chase a squirrel around a tree. I remembered when my grandfather and I began to grow jasmine on the blue picket fence almost a year ago; it was crawling up the posts, reaching over, trying to reach the other side. The vegetables and flowers in the garden were growing, some of them ripe, some of them new, but all of them were growing taller. My grandmother nurtured life from the earth as she was battling for her own. My grandfather fought for purpose, in the painting of a wall or the pulling of weeds, despite the purpose being drawn from him. I noticed, for perhaps the first time, how small I was. I noticed how unattached I was from the world. When I went out to the corner store, I could have just floated away. I wondered: what grounded me? Does gravity contain enough energy for all of us? If I jumped, what would occur? Would I continue rising, like the jasmine, like the plants? When I touched the ground, would it make a sound? Would someone be there to catch me?
Peachface: a journey back to earth
I've had these songs, aside from the last track, tucked away on a flash drive for years. I never intended to distribute them in any form or capacity. I was convinced otherwise by my fiancée, Lemon. Throughout the duration of 2013, I hardly spoke to anyone outside of the Dollhouse. Sometimes, there were brief conversations with cashiers at the corner store, or maybe a joke or two with my co-workers at the fast food joint, but that was seldom. I had perfected the craft of silence. I believe that Peachface was my way of talking to someone, even if it was myself.
Peachface was a character that I created. It began like this: I downloaded a music-making application on the laptop that my mother had bought me for graduation. My mother's gift was ignored for a long time, as I was busy living up to my convictions against my family. I gave in eventually. I never used the computer for social media purposes; instead, I read articles, I listened to music, I watched movies and television shows and music videos and I began to fall in love with it all. I learned that there were people all over the world that felt like I did. They were projecting themselves into their work.
I had a lot of time on my hands. I started to teach myself some music theory by watching videos and playing on the virtual keyboard. It wasn't that I thought that I was any good, but the idea that I could press my fingers onto my laptop and create something - it rattled me. I felt special after all. I wanted to do something with those feelings. I wanted to tell a story. And so I made Peachface, and Peachface was me, or, Peachface was who I wanted to become.
"And I Know It To Be True" was the first complete song that I finished. I wanted to try and create a soundscape that felt like my life on the Pacific coast and within the Dollhouse; it was about this feeling that I had, that I was floating, disconnected and distant. I wanted to have a haunting, circus-type sound to it. The Dollhouse appeared to be a perfect and precious arrangement, but there was something dark going on within it; that would be the Dollhouse Boy. He was trapped within this place, but not by anyone or anything except himself. I figured that I was romanticizing the situation that was my life, but that was how I dealt with things.
Then, there was "Pressed Back". I'm going to say "sort of" a lot, because this is really all about emotions and feelings at the time, and I'll never be entirely accurate about the specific intentions. This song was meant to illustrate my feeling of being separated, like there was a bubble around me and I couldn't get too close to anyone. I'd be at the grocery store, scanning the aisles, waiting for some person to look over and acknowledge that I was there. I would say things in my head like: "if this person looks at me, it means that I'll get a phone call tomorrow," or, "if that guy says 'hello' back to me, then that means I have made progress." Every iota of communication became a sort of game, the attempt to raise my score so I could finally exit the tutorial level and play with other characters. And I should note: I played a lot of video games at the time. A lot of the soundscape is likely inspired by the sounds of the games that I played at the time. I wanted this sound to be hollow, almost emptied out, but still carried forth with the percussion. Despite how bleak the days were, time - or some other invisible force - pressed me onward. Always.
Once I had acknowledged just how separated I was, and that it wasn't an issue of the world or anyone else but myself, I started to dream up these scenarios that I could just pack my bags and leave at any time. I could go anywhere in the world and start new, and if I was good and tried hard enough, I would make friends and find a lover and I would be able to contribute back to the world. I could make people happy and it wouldn't be a calculated choice to try and improve my situation; it would be because I was drawn to do that. I wanted to become a better human being, and I figured that my current situation was due to the fact that I was no good. This was God's way, or nature's way, of telling me: "you are not ready to go out there, not yet. You must encounter this trial before you proceed. You are not equipped to live like them. Not yet." I gave this track a funky sound, perhaps inspired by Sister Sledge (of whom I was obsessed with at the time). I wanted "You Grabbed Your Bag" to be happier, because I began to notice that most of my projects were turning out dark, but now that I listen to it again, I'm noticing a sort of screaming sound in the background. Toward the end of the song, there are these bells that chime in; I like to call these the "Dollhouse bells". I think I put them there to try and make up for how gloomy the rest of the song turned out.
Around the time that I made "The Room Snapped," I began to realize how important the process of making music was to me. This was also around the time that I started to dream up the character that was "Peachface". Peachface was a savior; he was the character that I was meant to be. Peachface was an enthusiastic and ecstatic individual. He cared for the community and his family and friends, and he harbored no darkness within him. He knew how to talk. For this song, I wanted a "mad scientist" vibe. Like, the Dollhouse Boy was hunched over his child-sized desk, his hands in a flurry and his feet stomping wildly as he constructed a new body to inhabit. The strings of Peachface come in, welcoming him into the world. The bells are for the Dollhouse, and the strings (and horns, and choir, but that's later) are for Peachface.
This was the rise of Peachface. I began to fall in love with this project, and I wanted to depart from the dark and slow sound that I had been making. Enter the horns. I wanted to actually make a sort of "battle song" between the Dollhouse (not the Boy) and Peachface. I guess the game-playing got to me. But this song incorporates these bell-sounds, as if Dollhouse Boy is fighting to evolve. The sound reminds me of a fast-paced "platformer" (think "Mario Bros."). "Familiar Long Hours" was meant to mark the turning point of my isolation issues, though I had yet to actually do anything about it. I sat at my laptop, day and night, building sounds and piecing together little songs. I was escaping, not confronting.
Some time after writing "Familiar Long Hours," my grandfather became even more ill. He was diagnosed with Hep C alongside his cancer and was often required to be brought to the emergency room. "Hard Pull" was meant to illustrate this tug back to reality, that all of these absurd notions that I had needed to halt. The Dollhouse Boy was needed, not Peachface, and thus, Peachface had to wait. The "Dollhouse" bells open this song. I'm not sure what I wanted with this sound, but it certainly is a return to the darker themes of the earlier work. I do remember placing in that faint choir-sound in the middle for Peachface's sake. I think I knew that Peachface would come back. I just needed to wait. Now I wonder how many motifs I had planned at the time, and how many I am forgetting and missing.
Here is when I began to try and start reconnecting with my friends. I created a Facebook, started sending out the friend requests, even gathered a few numbers and texted a short while, but it all felt fictional. "Strange as a Shark" is entitled like so because I felt that I was lying to these people. I thought that I was using these old friends to fix myself, to realign myself as a normal, functional human being. But I put on the Peachface. I was pleasant, and I was conversational. I was interested, and I was excited, and I was enthusiastic. I did feel like a sort of shark. I wanted this sound to be eerie, like there was something waiting for me (the only listener at the time). The whistling sound, I'm not sure. Is that Peachface?
"And Realizing You Were Still" is the supposed "rise of the Peachface". I had made plans to meet with friends, to catch up and actually look at someone one-on-one and connect. And, of course, it felt like a victory, not a simple get-together. I was overcome with fear and joy. The bells of the "Dollhouse" trail throughout this song, but so do the "Peachface" sounds. They chase each other in this one, instead of "battling" like in "Familiar Long Hours". In the end of the song, Peachface wins, with the final horn and string sounds. I believe I was trying to tell myself: the Dollhouse Boy is dead now.
I soaked myself into the world of Peachface. I started to go to little get-togethers more often, even traveling on road trips with my friends to the mountains. "You Knew It To Be Eternal" is a return to the funky sound of "You Grabbed Your Bag," in reference to this idea that I could just run away and start anew. I felt like that was what was happening, in some way. I had reunited with three of my close friends from high school, Lemon, Orange, and Apple. Apple and I started to have drinks over at his house on the weekends, and Orange and I went swimming in the ocean and thrift shopping. Lemon told me that she played video games, and wanted to know if I would play with her sometime.
This is perhaps my favorite song from the collection. "Found You" was made during the week after Lemon came over to the Dollhouse for a visit. It was the first time anyone had come to visit the Dollhouse, as I was too embarrassed to show people my room. Lemon didn't mind. She noted the jasmine on the fence in the backyard. I guess I really did become that cookie-cutter version of an early 20th-century American male protagonist, or at least, in a way. Lemon saved me. This was the first time I started to really use guitar-oriented string-sounds, and I think that is the "Lemon" sound. The "Dollhouse" sound still haunts this one, though. I'm not sure what I meant. I think that Lemon helped make the Dollhouse a place that wasn't the enemy, but rather just a place.
And this one has a swarm of guitar sounds, Lemon sounds. And the bells. "Continued To Intensify" was meant to deliver the union of the Dollhouse Boy and Peachface, that one could exist with the other. There will always be a part of me that wants to run and hide, but also a part that strives to care and love. I've found it is extremely hard to do both. I wanted this sound to represent a struggle, like the music was fighting to organize itself, and even in the end, it will always take work to keep these two characters bound as one. During this time period, Lemon told me that she loves me. She meant it as a friend, and that was all that I needed. Someone outside of the Dollhouse reached into the bubble and held my hand.
"Learned To Fly A Plane" is the last song that I wrote during that year. I had been accepted to the University of Washington and I would be moving to Seattle with Apple and Lemon. I showed Lemon my music and she told me that she found it to be beautiful. I never told her the meanings behind them, or why I made them, or what it meant to me. This article will be the first time that she discovers those things. I wanted this song to be my goodbye to the Dollhouse, and goodbye to the Dollhouse Boy, and goodbye to Peachface. It was time for me to become me. There are the breaths of Peachface, him going to sleep. The low bells of the Dollhouse, fading away. The guitars of Lemon, welcoming me, across the lawn, over the picket fence, down the road and beyond.
I wrote this last song just this year, on my old laptop, the one I made everything else on. It's an ode to the Dollhouse Boy, thanking him for the years that he gave me. He helped me become a better man, taught me how to love and see the world in ways that I never would have otherwise. I am no longer bitter about the year of silence. I am no longer blaming myself nor anyone else. The life I had as a Dollhouse Boy brought me back to Lemon, and to Apple, and to Orange. And although the Peachface is still in me, and sometimes I catch myself becoming him, I know that I am better now. The strings have been unattached from my back, and I won't "Stretch Away".
I can jump - and this time, someone is there to catch me.
This article was written and organized in collaboration with TMR editor JT Lachausse. Some of the details regarding the individual have been altered in order to preserve his privacy, such as names and locations. The subject of this article does not wish to be contacted, nor does he wish for any personal information to be shared. If you would like to offer a comment or question to the individual known as "Peachface", you may forward your words to The Matador Review staff and it will be forwarded to him in a private manner. All songs presented in this article are rightfully owned by the subject of this article. You can find Peachface's album, "Sounds for the Dollhouse Boy," on Spotify. Click the button below to visit his music page. Thank you.