By Carson Mlnarik
Lay down vocals, film a music video, design new merch, play a couple of video games; nevermind the coronavirus pandemic, it’s business as usual for Los Angeles five-piece Peach Tree Rascals. From under the same roof, the up-and-coming collective has stayed hard at work on their breezy pop-R&B bops, sunny visuals, and rigorously chill Instagram aesthetic — making an appearance on the On My Block Season 3 soundtrack, creating a line of hoodies, and dropping two new singles and videos, all while social distancing at their communal home. But living as roommates isn’t just a means of boosting productivity in an industry that has been all but upended; this has always been their way of doing things. “Quarantine lifestyle is similar to the way we were living before it happened,” vocalist Tarrek Abdel-Khaliq tells MTV News. “Staying in the house and using our time just to play video games, create, and make music and videos.”
Their vibe might sound laid-back, but their grind is anything but. After first hearing producer Dominic Pizano craft what would become the Peach Tree Rascals sound, they have pursued their DIY brand feverishly since high school, dropping 11 singles and videos since 2018, scoring a label deal with 10K Projects, and building a community of like-minded Rascals, as they lovingly call their fans, with more than 1.2 million monthly Spotify listeners.
The moniker Peach Tree Rascals came intuitively, either “pulled out of thin air” or “given to us by the stars,” depending on which member you ask, and the group consists of producer and mixer Pizano, Abdel-Khaliq, fellow rappers and singers Issac Pech and Joseph Barros, and creative director Jorge Olazaba. Their sound bounces between funk, rap, and dream pop on tracks like “Mango” and “Violet,” maintaining a cohesiveness through cascading vocals, mellow beats, and with recurring lyrical themes of love, disappointment, and hope. There’s little ego in the group thanks to the organic way their collective came together — they met while attending high school in San Jose. (In fact, their first studio was a shed that Pizano built in his family’s backyard.) Many of their local haunts have doubled as sets for videos, including their parking lot “smoke spot,” which appeared in the visuals for “Summa.”
But it was through a handful of productive trips to Yosemite that they found their flow. After seeing the collaboration and output achieved while hunkered down in the serene setting, they knew they needed to find a place together: Soon, they relocated to a house in L.A. It’s not a far cry from the model that TikTok collectives like Hype House have employed, moving into cinematic Hollywood mansions to collaborate on content together. While Peach Tree Rascals maintain a decidedly down-to-earth approach to self-promotion, they also understand the power of a good TikTok. “We have a little basketball court downstairs and have been improvising some crazy shots,” Abdel-Khaliq says.
Basketball stunts aside, the Peach Tree Rascals have been guided by their brimming optimism for the future and growth with each new release. Their knack for unbridled positivity is on full display in tracks like “Things Won’t Go Way,” and the triumphant “Mariposa,” which landed them on Spotify’s Viral 50 chart, measuring a song’s virality by how often its shared, a big feat for the then-indie group. Their latest single “Not OK” takes a notably darker turn, with a title that unintentionally speaks to the present. Abdel-Khaliq describes the track as “the downside of depression” where you need a barrier between everything. “With the times going on right now, it just kind of fits in everywhere,” he says.
The video for “Not OK,” premiering exclusively on MTV News, captures the glitchy and dim feelings of rock bottom. Making creative use of blurred shots and lighting, Abdel-Khaliq wanders dejectedly through the night with a safety cone on his head, drifting through parking lots, cityscapes, and the middle of the street. “Don’t try that at home,” he notes. Because they didn’t have access to an additional team for the video, due to social distancing guidelines, they hopped in the car and went with the flow. “It’s how we shoot a lot of our stuff,” Pizano says. “There’s no real destination, we just drive wherever we are in the moment.”
They apply the same laissez-faire attitude in the studio as well, letting their California sensibilities guide them in creating music that they hope evokes a sense of home for fans. But their sonic dissonance is less of a statement about genre and more of a reflection on their different tastes and backgrounds. “Some days Dom wants to make something funky, some days I want to make something acoustic,” Barros says. Abdel-Khaliq adds, “Then some days, Issac just wants to rap. That’s how sometimes all the genres fit into one song, because all our influences start to show.”
As much of the group are second-generation Americans with immigrant parents, it’s been important to each member that they stay true to their roots, and continue doing things their way, whether it’s home-crafted merchandise, or shooting a video at Jorge’s brother’s house. “We always try to show we’re proud of where we come from and want other kids to feel like they can be successful with the resources they have,” Pech says.
While their first-ever tour was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, there’s still palpable excitement among the group, as well as their growing fanbase, with the number of “I’m here before they blow up” comments continuing to stack up. With everything they do, they pay attention to the smallest details — from their paint-splattered outfits to the teasers at the end of each video hinting at new music to come. “We want to make a whole world that revolves around us, like our own shows, movies,” Olazaba says. Their plan for this year is to continue dropping new music as they prepare to eventually hit the road and play their songs live for the first time. “We’re trying not to slow down and keep content going during quarantine,” Barros says. “And whenever the time is right, showtime.”