Three years ago in a crumbling barn behind North Campus’ Crown and Anchor Pub, psychedelic rock band Cactus Peach jammed together for the first time. After countless sweaty house party gigs and moving their practice space from a barn to a walk-in closet, and eventually to the living room of a house some of the members share, the band released their debut album April 13.
Cactus Peach consists of radio-television-film senior Zane Ruttenberg, RTF alumnus Ryan Neal, RTF junior Dylan Neal, philosophy senior Michael Bain, music recording senior Michael Frels and advertising alumnus Garrett Bircher.
With more than half of the band’s background in RTF, much of their debut album, Eat, is a reflection of what they learned in their classes. Every song on Eat is a narrative with a beginning, middle and end that is strung together to tell another story. The first track, “Eat,” is about eating a cactus peach, a psychedelic fruit that leads listeners into a mind-bending journey where they experience love, downfall, then redemption; just as a hero would in an epic.
“It’s a blend of classical narratives like ‘The Odyssey,’” Ruttenberg said.
Following the formula they learned in RTF classes where two opposing colors create a striking contrast, the band’s name is a symbolic juxtaposition of their sound: experimental and poppy, Ruttenberg described.
“We knew we wanted it to be something peach,” Ruttenberg said. One night while having a “band retreat” at Bain’s family ranch, he said the group could not stop eating peaches that had just sprouted from the branches.
The band members play multiple instruments and switch instruments with each other. For Eat, Ruttenberg alone sang and played the ukulele, drums, bass, keys and guitar. The Michael’s swap between drums and keys. To organize for the recording process, the band made a grid on a white board that listed the songs going down the left and names of instruments going across the top. Once an instrument was recorded, the box would be checked off.
“God, to just look at that little grid once all the X’s were filled off was the nicest feeling in the world,” Z said. “There were 120 X’s or something around there.”
Fitting the album’s theme of consumption, Eat includes a sheet of song recipes, detailing each member’s contribution in every track. “Down Down Down” is comprised by three tablespoons of plasma, three pounds of human bones, one cup of ivory shavings and three shots of absinthe — or Bircher’s guitar, Bain’s drumming, Frek’s keys and Ruttenberg’s guitar.
After a full day of classes, work and screen-printing more labels for their CD covers, the band held an album release party last Wednesday night at Lucky Lounge.
“The other day was great. I was setting up, tuning guitars, setting up the drums, and Michael taps me and he goes ‘Dude, we’re still doing it,’ and I go ‘What do you mean?’ ‘Dude, we’re still doing it, we’ve been doing this since we were little kids,’” Ruttenberg said.
“That’s probably the closest we’ve ever had to a reminiscence, a moment,” Bain added.
The two childhood friends have been playing music together since the fourth grade when they covered Lenny Kravitz’s “Fly Away” for a talent show in their music class. Bain said he didn’t know how to play the chords and Ruttenberg said he could barely play the guitar at all.
“I had the best show after that [moment] because I just could not believe we’re still doing this,” Ruttenberg said.