“I totally didn’t think the band would get this far, and now I have to explain it and I feel kind of silly explaining it,” says ‘Pie’ Kanyapak Wuttara, vocalist in dreampop trio My Life As Ali Thomas. She’s referring to the name of the band; to create the powerful storytelling they do both sonically and lyrically, Pie needed a level of separation from her musical persona, and landed on “Ali Thomas” as a play on the word “alias.”
Based in Thailand, the band formed serendipitously in 2014 following an impromptu jam session between Pie and guitarist ‘Rack’ Wipata Lertpanya which led to their first gig together as well as meeting drummer ‘Taw’ Wannaphong Jangbumrung. “It’s kind of lucky. My friend called me saying ‘I have a guitarist who would really suit your music’ around the time I was kind of giving up on music,” Pie recalls. “After we jammed, the owner of the shop we were jamming in was like, ‘I’m just going to book you for a gig.’ It tumbled down from there and now we’re on our second album.”
Released via Warner Music Thailand, Peppermint Town serves as the sequel to Paper, the band’s 2016 debut. Opting to experiment this time around, they visit indie folk, post-rock, pop rock, and more, the album’s themes encompassing self-confidence, loss and love led by Pie’s ethereal vocals and visual storytelling. “The first album was kind of like meeting Ali Thomas, but the second is Ali Thomas taking everyone back to her house,” she says. “It was a lot of fun making it but it was challenging too. Sometimes you can make really abstract music and it’s how to make that abstract style work in a song formula as well as stretching the boundaries between a cinematic soundscape or a movie soundtrack and a song.”
Opening with transcendent, sunset-tinted “One Way Ticket,” the band play with the theme of fantasy, the disconnect between the reality of life around them and the limitless potential of the worlds we create for ourselves in our imagination. “My Red Golden Sun” shows off Pie’s narrative style as she picks apart the breakdown of communication between herself and a former partner. Handclaps and softly strummed guitar lend a sense of nostalgia and distance, heightened by Pie’s breathy vocal tone as she sings, “Why did you run away?/Left me faraway/Lost in foreign ways/My love, you were mine.”
“I wrote it after I’d just gotten out of a relationship,” Pie explains. “I was at a really low point in my life. Sometimes when you find love it can be bad but it shouldn’t stop you from looking for a new horizon. Music wise, I thought of going to a better place which was going back to the mountains, for me, so we pushed the drums way back sonically to see how it echoed.”
The trio demonstrate their fearlessness in the sound they create and throw themselves headfirst in experimenting with multiple genres and pushing sonic boundaries. This trait is My Life as Ali Thomas’ signature move, a trump card that they’re always ready, and more than willing, to play. Nowhere is this more evident than with “Rinn,” a heavy rock anthem for the socially anxious. “‘Rinn’ is about exploring your inner villainy. You can be yourself, but at what cost? We’re always conscious of other people’s feelings… but ‘Rinn’ is you being yourself without the cost,” Pie explains. “The lyrics aren’t that dark, but it’s got that energy of never caring.”
“Ocean” takes this experimentation to another level. The longest and most cinematic track on the album, “Ocean” incorporates orchestral instrumentation and melds it with Rack and Taw’s energy-packed performance. “It’s a whole world! The song feels like a spell to me – it doesn’t really feel like I’m singing. I feel as though I’m chanting almost,” Pie says. “It took forever [to make]; it started off with four chords and my voice and then I was just thinking back to being on a boat ride and seeing the ocean. I’m fascinated with that element. Water can be so loving but it literally can kill you. I wanted to capture that – how powerful it can be – and my perspective.”
Elsewhere on the album, “Baby, I Love You” explores themes of trust and connection to a poppy, romantic beat. “Luna Blue” soars with sonic explosions of strings that whisk away the listener to a feeling of emotional freedom. Acoustic guitar creates a softer foundation for “Pitch Black” as Pie communicates a need for sanctuary. “Dream Lover” picks at the concept of the intensity of romantic love and wanting to preserve the good, whereas “Dear All The Universe” sees the band utilise their indie rock roots to create an uplifting bop perfect for the summer. “Tears of a Clown” explores ‘50s sonic elements, incorporating more background vocals and brass instruments.
Each track on Peppermint Town is filled with a multitude of elements that on paper might look disparate. But My Life As Ali Thomas weave their influences seamlessly, while twisting them slightly to reveal a never-before-seen underbelly. Rife with sonic experimentation, raw lyricism, and cinematic beauty, it’s impossible to not love this album – Peppermint Town contains some of the band’s most evocative music to date.