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Tony Peachka turn millennial malaise into 'angry pop songs that smell weird'

Tony Peachka

Tony Peachka Tessa Loeffler

These days, young adults are broke, pissed, and (arguably) having less sex than ever before.

Unsurprisingly, many twentysomethings are seeking cathartic release from the modern stresses of day-to-day existence. Meet Minneapolis band Tony Peachka: Melissa Jones (vocals, rhythm guitar), Hayley Briasco (drums), Stephanie Murck (guitar), and Danielle Cusack (bass). The self-described sisterhood makes wonderfully weird, undeniably relatable tunes about growing up, anxiety, relationships gone awry, and shitty neighbors.

The group's influences range from unapologetic guitar rockers like Sleater-Kinney or Speedy Ortiz, to the winding lyricism of Liz Phair. Their peculiar name doesn’t so much signify a character as it provides an outlet to articulate experiences, a melding of its members’ judgement-free personalities. 

As far as the name’s origins, and its unintentional life as a unifying band persona, Jones puts it bluntly. “It started out because Tony seems to be a name that comes up a lot, and Peachka is a vulgar word ... basically it’s a rude word for vagina in a different language,” she jokes.

The songs on dirty knees -- Tony Peachka's debut album to be released Saturday with a show at Triple Rock -- began with Jones bringing raw material to the group to flesh it out. In the process, the quartet arrived at the undeniable “Tony” sound -- sincere, whimsical lyrics sung to irresistibly catchy pop hooks, paired with sweet melodies and plucky garage rock. If Tony Peachka were a candy they’d be like Sour Patch Kids, equal parts sweet, sour, and mischievous.

The band is connected to a plethora of other Twin Cities acts. Cusack and Murck were both members of 2015 Picked to Click finalists Cherry Cola; the former currently drums in Bruise Violet, the latter splits time between Sass and Tights, while Jones plays in Wetter. They agree that the tight-knit, genre-crossing, and supportive nature of the Minneapolis music scene was crucial to their early success.

“We sort of recognized that we liked playing faster, louder music live,” Jones says of the band’s aggressive shift in sound from last year's debut EP, hello tony. “I think we all have a good time with that kind of stuff. It was almost out of enjoyment.”

Jones’ vocals are much more unhinged on dirty knees, jumping frenetically between hypnotic coos and angry shrills, oftentimes over the course of one song. For instance, the soothing, almost-lullaby “Fall Asleep To” off hello tony sharpens its teeth on the new updated version, now energized with an anthemic flare.

“We like to bounce around,” Murck adds. “We like, jump off stage. I’ve made out with people while playing [live].”

Hello tony was recorded in true DIY fashion, with a single makeshift mic stand (formerly a boot) recording sounds in the middle of a bedroom. For dirty knees the group worked with Jordan Bleau of No Problem Records, whose amped-up production (more microphones, still in a bedroom) allowed the band to explore more adventurous sounds while maintaining their live rambunctiousness.

“I think he got the vision across really well,” Cusack says of Bleau, who was also the driving force behind recently split local faves Frankie Teardrop. 

Young adult malaise and disillusionment are central to the Tony Peachka formula. Take jangly opener “Sour Grapes,” which boasts one of the album’s many epiphanies: “I’m always searching for something inside of you / Well I’ll never find it, there’s nothing inside of you,” Jones deadpans.

“I think we are all very strong-willed people,” Jones says. “I guess [“Knees”] was one of the first songs that I felt was way Tony Peachka. It’s simply just about not pining for a boyfriend, just being like, ‘Whatever, I’m doing my own thing.’ It’s such a simple idea but everyone struggles with it. I think that Tony Peachka, in a lot of ways, is sort of the embodiment of a bunch of gals having a good time.”

Lyrically, the band has already forged a distinct point of view. Think the loose songwriting of Chastity Belt meets the whimsy of Frankie Cosmos. Or, as the group likes to describe it, “angry pop songs that smell weird.”

“The lyrics attracted me most to the band when I joined,” Cusack says. “When I listen I feel like I’m talking to myself a lot.”

Tony Peachka lyrics often unfurl into painfully true vignettes of growing up. Each song works out a different anxiety, from simple things like wasting dishes to the complexities of entering adulthood. On closer “dirt,” Jones encapsulates the pressures of post-graduate life amid a steady backing beat: “I go to school / I get my degree / I should be happy / What else can I blame you for that I haven’t already?”

“We’re definitely getting weirder,” Briasco says. “We’re getting more intricate. A lot of the parts are unexpected, but they still all fit together in this ‘Tony’ way. I don’t really know how to describe it any other way”

“[Playing live] I just think we’re really in tune with each other,” Cusack says. “I think it even shows on stage. We’re all just like ...”

“Slowly merging together,” Jones smiles.

Tony Peachka
With: Daisey Chains, the Florists, Half Tramp
When: 9 p.m. Sat., Oct. 1
Where: Triple Rock Social Club
Tickets: $7; more info here