The Orange Peels
Gig Seeker Pro

The Orange Peels

Sunnyvale, California, United States | INDIE

Sunnyvale, California, United States | INDIE
Band Rock Pop




"Everything's 2020"

2020, the fourth release by Northern California’s the Orange Peels, has a lot going for it. It’s a swift 36 minutes long, eight of the ten songs are power-pop sound blasts, and it’s just as perfect a soundtrack to washing your car in the afternoon sun as it is to taking an off-season stroll along the beach. The album’s greatest quality of all, however, is that sonically it’s in a close enough vein that describing it as a sunnier, less ingratiating version of Girls’ 2009 release Album isn’t far off. Both bands have rooted through the same pop used parts bin, but the Orange Peels left the shoegaze tones behind. What results is a snappier album that evokes both summer and autumn, but not in the Indian summer sense.

“We’re Gonna Make It”, the opening track, sends the listener scrambling for spring break gear before the first chorus even unfolds. This is in spite of a few lyrics about the fall, and a few contradictory lines, such as “We argued endlessly, we were the best of friends”. The constant contradictions, whether they be the summery vibes of the melodies clashing with the lyrics about red and golden leaves or the “we’re a couple now we aren’t” conflicts, are no more apparent than on 2020‘s title track. “And in my rearview crystal ball / Everything’s 2020”, sings vocalist and multi-tasking instrumentalist Allen Clapp, in an insinuation that he—or whomever the song’s protagonist may be—is looking to the future and the past at the same time. Maybe Clapp is just explaining how he crafts his melodies: by lifting musical cues from the past and flinging them out into tomorrow as bursts of indie pop that come and go just like the seasons.

The most successful concoctions here appear to be the aforementioned opener and title track, as well as “Seaside Holiday”, whose boppy piano line compels the listener to break out in the giddiest manner of ants-in-pants-style indie dancing. Whether the song is announcing itself on the beach or in a club where everyone is yearning for the warm weather so they can hit the beach, it’s never awkward. In 2020‘s second half, “Jane Lane” stands out thanks to a shimmery ‘60’s pop intro and a blissful power pop chorus. By the album’s final song, the melancholy “Broken Wing”, lyrics and melodies are finally in concordance. It ends with the lines “I don’t know how this happened / Just really can’t see tomorrow”, an ironic closing to an album whose title refers to perfect vision.

For all its charms, however, 2020 offers more than a few hints of confusion. The constant references to the sea, stars, the moon, and butterflies seem to suggest a connecting thread among the songs. Is the album chronicling a failed romance through the seasons, using nature references as a clue to what month we’re in? If so, the allusions needed to be stronger. If not, then what do all these references mean, exactly?

Despite these questions, 2020 has enough jaunty beats to keep fussing to a minimum. Even if jaunty beats prove powerless, at least this album’s brevity won’t leave a curious listener cursing over wasted time (unlike that dreadful Girls album).
- PopMatters

"Pulp Friction"

Most bands have high expectations after they finish an album, and the Orange Peels were no different when they completed their first record, Square, in the winter of 1996. The quartet figured it might get a review in Rolling Stone, a few plum tour support slots, and some serious college radio play. After all, the record was being released by Minty Fresh, the Chicago label that had launched the careers of the Cardigans and Veruca Salt. And the band thought its debut was radio friendly, with a familiar-but-you-can't-quite-place-it West Coast sound.

Upon Square's release, critics from music magazines such as Option, Magnet, and Puncture weighed in with glowing reviews (Rolling Stoneremained mute). The band received two Bammies nominations -- for Outstanding Independent Album and Outstanding Debut Album -- a remarkable fact considering that its competitors were major label monsters like Third Eye Blind, Smash Mouth, and Meredith Brooks.

Alas, the Orange Peels didn't win (Mr. T Experience and Third Eye Blind did). Then, when college radio play proved minimal and the band's members balked at the idea of quitting their day jobs for a poorly arranged tour, Minty Fresh's management threw up its hands, and the record died. Disheartened, the band returned to its Redwood City base and began demoing songs for its next album. When the Peels sent them in, Minty Fresh's brass weren't impressed.

"They'd say, "This is not going to further your career,'" head Peel Allen Clapp recalls. "Or, "The first album was nice but on this one we don't hear a single.'"

Disillusionment set in. Eventually, drummer Bob Vickers quit the group, and guitarist Larry Winther followed soon after. The band was disintegrating.

Yet here it is, February 2001, and the Orange Peels have just released their second full-length, So Far, a record that may be even better than their first. What happened?

The Orange Peels' story begins in Redwood City, where Clapp, 33, and Winther, 34, grew up. "It's a nice place until you're 12," Clapp says. "When you're a teenager, there's nothing to do." Bored with petty thievery, the duo started the Batmen, a garage band that played covers of the Amboy Dukes and the Dukes of Stratosphere ("Anything with "duke' in it," Winther says). In 1989, the group split, with two members forming a hippie jam band that later included future Counting Crow Adam Duritz and two others starting the Mummies, a high-concept combo that enjoyed some popularity during the late-'80s garage rock revival. Meanwhile, Clapp started a folk duo, the Goodfellows. "I spent two years trying to look like Art Garfunkel," Clapp says.

"What's amazing is he got his hair to recede like Garfunkel," Winther adds.

By 1992 the Goodfellows had imploded. Inspired by English wispy-pop label Sarah Records, Clapp began writing lighter songs. Maz Kattuah, drummer for the Batmen and the Mummies, put out Clapp's first single on his label, Four Letter Words. Upon hearing it and some other demos, the head of the Bus Stop label, Brian Kirk, asked to release a whole album. Clapp figured Kirk wanted him to rerecord the demos in a real studio, but Kirk wanted the homemade feel of the originals.

"I said, "You're insane. Some guy sitting around recording with a four-track and you want to put it out?'" Clapp remembers. "Some of the drums were recorded in a bus, some in a church -- basically, wherever I could go."

The subsequent album, One Hundred Percent Chance of Rain, was credited rather facetiously to Allen Clapp and His Orchestra. While many reviewers placed the album alongside lo-fi efforts from Guided by Voices, Lou Barlow, and Smog, the record was different: It transcended its recording limitations instead of embracing them. On songs like "Why Sting Is Such an Idiot" and "Something Strange Happens," Clapp captured the heady rush of viciously strummed guitar and scattershot drum rolls using a $20 Radio Shack microphone and a cheap Space Echo machine. An Australian reviewer called the record "the soundtrack to cocktail parties so cool that nobody is capable of hosting them."

"I hadn't seen Allen for years and got a copy of One Hundred Percentand I was floored," Winther says. "They were totally different songs than Allen used to write back in high school. Back then he had conceptual pop stuff but he hadn't figured out how to sing."

Winther was tired of the Mummies shtick and was hiding out in Concord, installing ovens for a living. After moving back down the Peninsula, he reconnected with Clapp and bassist Jill Pries, 33. With the addition of Kattuah on drums, the quartet played for a year as Allen Clapp and His Orchestra, eventually changing its name so that people wouldn't think it was a swing band.

For the Orange Peels' debut, the players decamped to Jeff Saltzman's Campbell trailer studio to record. Saltzman, who recently engineered ex-Pavement leader Steve Malkmus' solo debut, was recommended as a producer who could capture the band's desired '60s sound. Unfortunately, when it came time to record, Saltzman wasn't impressed with Pries' or Winther's playing, and even told Clapp he couldn't sing. Saltzman then hired Bob Vickers, 37, to complete the sessions as drummer (Kattuah had by this time quit). The only bright side of the experience was that Vickers got along with the Peels so well that he ended up an official member.

While Clapp's One Hundred Percent was bursting with fresh ideas, the Orange Peels' Square squeezed those ideas into tight song structures, inventive arrangements, and punchy playing. Winther's guitar leads moved effortlessly from surf rumble to country twang, adding depth and breadth to the songs, while Pries' bass playing and Vickers' drumming fleshed out the material further. Clapp's songwriting sounded more confident and his singing felt sugary in all the right places. In another time or place, songs like "Love Coming Down" would've been Top 40 hits.

Unfortunately, the band claims that the label had a laissez-faire attitude toward promotion. "Minty Fresh's philosophy was just "Put it out there and see what happens,'" Winther says.

"You guys will be just like the Cardigans,'" Clapp mimics.

Instead, the record spent a couple of weeks on the college radio charts and then dropped off. After hearing what the label thought of its new demos, the band requested it be let out of its contract in 1998, then sent the tracks to other labels. "SpinArt was the most compatible," Clapp states. "We said, "We want to record in our garage and own the record and just license it to you,' and they were OK with that."

The group rerecorded its demos minus Vickers, who had left to care for his newly born daughter. The band tried out a few drummers before settling on John Moreman, 31, whose similarly minded band had previously shared bills with the Orange Peels. "We liked his chops and his hair," Clapp jokes.

"John was seriously the savior of the band," Pries emphasizes. "After the Minty Fresh experience, it helped to have John around. We were all a bit down."

Winther was so depressed by the state of the band that he quit, despite Moreman's presence. "We weren't getting paid anything, nothing was happening. We were just playing these little shows," Winther says. "But then the record was about to come out and I thought, "I've got to be an idiot to quit the band right now.'"

"If it's any consolation, we still think you're an idiot," says Vickers, who also returned to the fold, making the band a quintet, with Moreman on drums, Vickers on organ, and Winther on guitar.

The band is comfortable laughing at its past revolving door policy. Now it can be. The completed album So Far -- which was recorded in Clapp and Pries' Sunnyvale garage -- sounds better than the Peels' last, studio-produced effort.

With the band's makeup in flux throughout the recording process, Clapp returned to his solo record's multitracking style, playing acoustic and electric guitars, Hammond organ, and even drums himself. Unlike One Hundred Percent's ramshackle feel, however, the new record is lushly orchestrated and vividly performed. "Girl for All Seasons" has the loping bass line and ringing guitars of work from '60s pop producer Joe Meek, while "Mazatlan/Shining Bright" moves from AM radio folk strums to '70s soul riffage. "Every Single Thing" glides on a disco beat, jangling guitars, and warm electric organ; "The West Coast Rain" applies a squirming guitar lead to a propulsive Chuck Berry rhythm.

The album's biggest surprise isn't the high fidelity, though. Whereas the first two albums were full of wistful longing and quiet spirituality, So Far is ripe with acrimony and simmering rage. "Redwood City" is a condemnation of a lousy landlord at the Peels' last practice space. "Every Little Thing" mourns the bad state of modern Top 40 radio as well as the band's poor treatment by Minty Fresh. On "The West Coast Rain," Clapp tosses dirty looks in the direction of fair weather fans and industry goons.

"A lot of these songs came from the bitterness of the last record," Clapp says of his lyrics. "We were thinking we're really valuable and worth something, and the label was always telling us we weren't."

Fortunately, the band's rich sound and Clapp's sweet singing make sure the songs don't descend into pitiful whining. And there are signs that the new record will outsell the last one: Already it's climbing the college charts in Japan, and "Mazatlan/Shining Bright" received commercial airplay there. As for further expectations, the quintet is playing it close to the vest.

"I have no expectations now; whatever happens, happens," Winther says.

"We don't want to go broke driving around doing our own headline tour," Clapp says.

"And John's pregnant, but keep that under your hat," Pries adds.

"Maybe we're a little different than a lot of bands. We actually like to be around each other," Winther says.

"That's kind of important, because when you're on the older side of the standard rock age, all the other stuff becomes a lot less important and just getting along becomes really important," Moreman offers.

"And when Larry's ego isn't getting in the way, it's great," Pries says. - SF Weekly

"Five Stars"

The Orange Peels are one of the Bay Area's best secrets — they know power pop (or indie pop, not always interchangeable) inside and out and deserve to be in the pantheon of peers George Usher, the Apples in Stereo, and Camera Obscura. Like them, the Peels freely draw upon heart-on-sleeve 1960s melodiousness (Kinks, Hollies, Beach Boys) and similarly inspired Eighties UK punk-poppers (the Flatmates, Pastels, Heavenly), but the results never sound as if they belong to another era. (Well, ever-so-faintly.)

Most of the songs on 2020 — the Peels' fourth album (and also the title of a 1969 Beach Boys album) — crackle and surge with palpable urgency, belying the often wistful, melancholic content of the lyrics. The melodic hooks are bright and clever but terse and heartfelt — at times evoking the Apples without the unctuous, smart-ass tone that blights some of their stuff. If you're a fan of this style, you'll find it impossible not to smile during "Shining Like Stars," with its lean, fuzzed-out guitar motif (echoing the Guess Who's "No Time") and Sweet-like stomping beat and handclaps. I wish present-day Cheap Trick could come up with a psychedelic-tinged cruncher such as "Birds of a Feather." The gorgeously plush co-ed harmonies of "Broken Wing" might recall many great vocal harmony groups but they don't emulate any of them — they're unique to the Orange Peels. Those shiny shards of shimmering guitar weaving through them don't hurt either.

The Orange Peels are going to have a hard time topping this one — heck, anybody would. If this 'zine gave stars, I'd give 2020 five of 'em. (Minty Fresh) - East Bay Express

"The Future and past of Indie-Pop"

In the 1990s, a war between indie and rawk raged, when music pitted six-string strummers against screaming axe-splitters, splitting rock music fans into skinny jeans-wearing and Mohawk-sporting factions and determining which would influence the decades beyond.

Well, it’s 2009, and Limp Bizkit and the other Fugazi-inspired yowlers are nowhere to be found (unless you count that Fred Durst sex tape).
And “2020,” the four-years-coming release from Northern California indie front-runners the Orange Peels, proves exactly why: Once the noise subsides, bands like the Peels had that good old-fashioned talent that Durst and company really, really lacked.

Unlike 2005’s “Circling the Sun,” which sometimes strayed too far out of this atmosphere and ended up burning a bit because of it, “2020” is a flashback to when groups like The Orange Peels ruled the roost, rather than stood by and watched the spring chickens write songs about Blackberries.

Coming of musical age in an era when Mark Zuckerburg was more concerned with Sesame Street than Facebook, it would’ve been easy for the Peels to sound, well, a bit aged. But modern takes on classic themes and the group’s signature harmony-and-pretty-guitar songs are as fresh as ever.

Since 1997, The Orange Peels have spent their career perfecting indie-pop, remixing and remastering and replacing band members but never losing their quintessentially California sound.

It’s amazing, too, considering the ever-changing lineup, but core members Allen Clapp and Jill Pries (joined on “2020” by multi-instrumentalist Oed Ronne and a bevy of session drummers) manage to stay true to chronicling life in NoCal, which songs like “Seaside Holiday” and “The Great Outdoors” do sublimely, hand-claps and all.

Nature-inspired lyrics and floaty, flirty harmonies – especially the perfect ones on “Emily Told Me Why” – combine to form the sort of songs perfect for a drive to Malibu down the highway, or just for dreaming about it while wasting time at work.

At over five minutes, “Emily” is longer than its counterparts, but it’s perfect and perfectly scatterbrained, bringing those harmonies into play with guitar-driven bits and Clapp’s Ben Gibbard-on-helium vocals, bringing to one song the sounds of, seemingly, four or five.
Though The Orange Peels extol the virtues of taking wine, women, and song in moderation, they don’t forget their sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll roots, bringing in stronger vocals and strong-enough guitar on “Shining Like Stars” and never forgetting, especially during superb first single “Birds of a Feather,” that being musical is beautiful, but being successful is much better.

Not a fan of listen-to-while-picking-sunflowers pop? Try title track “2020,” where Clapp takes a stab at predicting the future (no evergreens in sight) and does so in an atmospheric manner not used on other songs.

Simply put, “2020” is the future and past of indie-pop, a mix of flashback and idealism and modern ideas that will never again be surpassed by backwards hat-wearing dudes with songs called “Nookie.”

And thank God for that. - Chicks with Guns

"Betting on a Miracle"

Allen Clapp believes in the curative powers of pop music the way someone going to Lourdes is betting on a miracle; his faith in the stuff is so strong and compelling pretty much anyone willing to give him a listen is likely to become a convert. 2020, Clapp's fourth album with his group the Orange Peels, is a beautifully documented catalog of his objects of worship, which go beyond the usual power pop variants common among present-day popmeisters -- '70s soft rock ("Birds of a Feather"), glitter rock ("Shining Like Stars"), emphatic '80s pop ("The Great Outdoors"), polished U.K. psychedelia ("Emily Has Told Me Why"), the hooky end of '70s hard rock ("We're Gonna Make It" and "2020"), and even pastoral prog rock ("Emily Has Told Me Why"). Clapp produced these sessions and wrote all the songs except for one ("Charmed Life," contributed by guitarist Bob Vickers), and 2020 is a testament to his attention to detail -- the performances are spot-on throughout, the melodies and lyrics are expert homages to their particular styles and eras, and the sound of this album reflects his obvious influences but generates enough life and fresh spirit of its own to avoid sounding like an exercise in obsessive nostalgia. For anyone who loves intelligent, melodic pop music with an appreciation for the music's golden era, 2020 should strike a chord, though lyrically Clapp speaks most clearly when he's discussing music (either as fact or metaphor), sometimes undercutting the power of the melodies just a bit. But the beauty and sheer joy of the music, and the gifts Clapp and his collaborators reveal are more than enough to overpower any resistance to this album's minor flaws, and 2020 is a glorious surprise for anyone who thrives on a good hook and a powerful guitar line. - All Music

"Best albums of 2010"

The Orange Peels remain the Bay Area’s finest purveyors of sunshine pop, oddly enough, with a back catalog that often references foul weather (“I Don’t Mind The Rain,” “Something Strange Happens”). But Peels chief Allen Clapp, ably abetted by new guitarist John Moremen, has shuffled the deck on 2020 by adding a few angular Talking Heads/Cars moments. “In my rearview crystal ball, everything’s 20/20,” trills Clapp on the title song. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take the world another 10 years to discover this prodigious songwriting talent. - Magnet Magazine


Aether Tide (Single; Minty Fresh 2011)
The Real You (Single; Minty Fresh 2010)
2020 (Minty Fresh, 2009)
Circling the Sun (Parasol, 2005)
So Far (SpinArt, 2001)
Square (Minty Fresh, 1997)

Listen here:


Birds of a Feather

Shining like Stars

TV/DVD/Commercial licensing:

The Real You
(Samsung, Galaxy S Smartphones; 2011)

Hello Goodbye
(Target Stores "Hello Goodbuy" campaign, 2008)

The Pattern on the Wall
(Felicity, Buena Vista Television, DVD release, 2003)



Glitter Rock. Opulent '80s Pop. Glammy Prog. Bearded, backwoods Elk Rock. Who gives a rat's ass if there's no melody at the heart of it; no soul.

Not that The Orange Peels don't dabble in these styles. They just don't have the time to waste on cute, genre-based music that cuddles up to a pre-existing audience. Defiant, dramatic and probably a little bit of a showboat, bandleader Allen Clapp tells it like it is on "Shining Like Stars," a glammed-up rocker from the band's forthcoming album, 2020: "If making melodies is a crime, I'm guilty as charged."

As the title suggests, 2020 deals with perceptions. Being released on the precipice of a new decade, the album is as much about looking back on 10 years gone awry as it is about looking forward to the promises of the future. Sometimes life comes at us in crystal clear geometry and hard numbers, and sometimes details reveal themselves only in the soft-focus of memory.

Moving in and out of focus through these 10 songs, the band has achieved its own vision on its own terms. Recording the album at its modernistic Eichler headquarters in Sunnyvale, California, the band took its time to decorate each track (or in some cases, de-decorate) for maximum emotional impact.

"It's not our job to just record a performance and dump it on the unsuspecting public," Clapp says. "It's incumbent upon us to drill down into the soul of what makes each song tick and bring that up to the surface. It's like raw, emotional source code."

Featuring Clapp on vocals, piano guitar and drums, Oed Ronne (The Ocean Blue) on lead guitars, electric sitar and vibes, Jill Pries on bass guitars, Bob Vickers (The Incredible Vickers Bros.) on drums and guitars, John Moremen (Jad Fair, the Roy Loney Band) on guitars, all the current and itinerant members of the band are represented. Even original Orange Peels lead guitarist Larry Winther took off his reunion-era Mummies bandages for a few minutes to grace the album's lead track with a chickeny guitar solo.

The album will be released digitally through Chicago's Minty Fresh, and on CD and a limited-pressing of heavy-duty, 180-gram vinyl by the band on its own Mystery Lawn Music record label. The deal represents a near perfect balance of label expertise and DIY marketing. The band's fanbase actually funded the vinyl pressing through pre-orders on the Orange Peels' online shop. The gravity of that fact is not wasted on the band. "It really makes you feel accountable to your fans. They're putting down their money before even hearing the recordings—their faith in us really made us take this to the next level," Clapp says.

For Clapp, the subtitle of the album may as well be "What I did on My Recession." Out of work for 10 months in the worst economy of his lifetime, Clapp poured his anxiety, neuroses and plethora of available time into pushing the album to completion. Hibernating in the studio with the heartbreak and uncertainty of the times, the band crafted words and melodies to make sense of it all. 2020 is their answer.