Shannen Petersen and Tharushi Bowatte are Year 12 students at Palmerston North Girls' High School, located in the the mid-sized city of Palmerston North on New Zealand's North Island. Together they're Fruit Juice Parade, an indie pop duo who create rousing melodic rock. We've also heard that they are fans of steamed buns and dogs.
They've just released "Whaling", a new single on Papaiti Records. It's got all the flavour of the modern pop punk resurgence: drops of hope, realism, and angst where appropriate.
Listen to the track below and read a brief chat we had with Shannen and Tharushi.
Noisey: Where did you guys meet?
Shannen: School choir at intermediate school. In Year 8 there was a literature quiz in the library and we got put in the same group. Every time we didn't know the answer we put "Julia Gillard," and that's a real classic FJP memory.
What's it like being in a band and still being in school?
Tharushi: Perks include having a lot of support from the school's music department and getting opportunities that we wouldn't otherwise find for ourselves through school. They're always happy to put up our show posters or advertise our gigs in the school notices and always have advice or time when we need it. We get tons of free practice time too which is sick. A disadvantage definitely is trying to balance school work, extracurriculars, and band time.
Do people underestimate you because of your age?
Shannen: We're not the only "high school band" in town. The people who underestimate us are around our age. Maybe that's because of that weird New Zealand tall poppy thing, or maybe they just want to be able to write scathing reviews of us on Yelp or whatever.
Tharushi: I'd rather people underestimated us and labeled us as "just a high school band" because it's not really far off the mark; that's really what we are at the core of FJP. We're still pretty new to what we're doing and experimenting with what we can do. I think being a high school band doesn't mean your band isn't genuine. We've written all the music we've played and just do it because we like it. It's pretty raw and I think it comes across to anyone who's seen us live. We aren't pretending to be something we're not; we're just two girls who do most of our practice at school.
What's at the core of Fruit Juice Parade songs?
Tharushi: It's hard to say if there's a "core". Our method is pretty intuitive, the music probably ends up reflecting our moods somehow but it's never intentional. Some songs have lyrics and others don't, it just depends on if we're satisfied with how we've expressed the "vibe". We mostly just do what we feel like doing.
Shannen: Probably "teen angst". We write things that we like and think about the audience later… it's a bit narcissistic really. We write to have a fun time by ourselves, so it's cool that the audience enjoys our music and can have a fun time too. Also, a shared love of dogs.
Why do you think it's important that young people are involved in music and that the music scene supports young people?
Shannen: I think it's important for young people to be involved in music because it's such a good way to meet new and interesting people. There's so much you can learn from the people you talk to or see at gigs, because everyone is so different and yet we all share this one common interest. It's so important that music scenes include and support young people, because music is something everyone should be able to enjoy and if you cut the youth out of that then that seems pretty stink.
Tharushi: It's always cool talking to the high school bands that play. There's a nice sense of friendship and seeing each other around at gigs you'll always have someone you feel comfortable talking to. But it sucks for young people when you're restricted from freely enjoying what you like. Being involved early means you have more time to gain experience and develop your skills, it's just an advantage to be playing when you're young. Young people deserve the chance to get to know themselves through music.
Does Palmerston North do a good job of supporting young people in the music scene?Shannen: Definitely! We have this excellent AA gig venue/recording studio/practice space called The Stomach, which has been so supportive of us. The majority of the gigs around town are AA, and they're always inclusive and safe environments for us to be in. I think we're pretty lucky to have such an inclusive music scene in Palmerston North, because not everyone gets to be part of one.
Tharushi: Palmerston North does a mint job of helping out young people. The music scene is so supportive and comfortable. In Palmy if you have a set you can play a show. I love that, because playing live shows is the best kind of experience and the more we've played, the more comfortable we've been trying new things and expanding our skill set. Everyone's just so nice and open. They take care of you and make sure you feel safe. It's not very pretentious over here, so everyone's trying to help each other make good music.
Catch Fruit Juice Parade Feb 3 at The Stomach at Palmerston North.