Q+A’S: Sydney’s PEPTALK Take Us Through Their Debut Single ‘White Sneakers’ + Diversity In Music

Words by Emily Hollitt {Emily Hollitt Content Writer{Malina Claire}

You know that feeling when you’re really into somebody and they give you the tiniest crumb of attention? And how you ride that ego for the rest of your life? Well, that’s exactly the feeling Sydney newcomers PEPTALK captured with their infectious debut White Sneakers. The wholesome, high energy track is the perfect hype up anthem to boost your mood. The exact kind of bop you want to blast while getting ready for a night out. Or the perfect bop to blast for carpool karaoke for one to pass the time on your daily commute.

Influenced by the likes of Julia Michaels and HAIM, the group which boasts “two thirds queer, two thirds POC and all three thirds female“; PEPTALK was formed in part to fill the gap in representation they wanted to see when growing up. Made up of Jay-Lee Kwan, Lara Frew, and Phoebe Sinclair, the wholesome trio aim to be your new musical besties.

Prior to forming the group, the girls have been writing bangers for artists and producers throughout  USA, Canada, Sweden, South Korea, France, New Zealand, UK and, of course, Australia. Most recently, they ventured in the world of K-Pop through fellow girl group Rumble-G with the track Every Other.

After about the millionth listen to the track, I just had to learn more about the band. Luckily, all three of them found time in their busy schedules to chat about their new single, diversity in music and so much more!

Thanks for chatting! I am OBSESSED with your feel-good debut White Sneakers! Can you take us through how this song came about?

PhoebeWhite Sneakers is about being completely infatuated with someone.

Jay-LeeWhen we were writing the track, Phoebe mentioned a real-life experience where she was complimented on her fresh sneakers and they instantly became her most prized possession. I think we could all relate to that feeling of wanting to impress someone and holding onto compliments a little too hard.

I love all the little elements in the production! From the bassline to the vocal melodies and everything else, I love how all these elements interact to create such a fun, wholesome track. Can you take us through what inspired your approach to producing the song?

LaraWell we’re each songwriters first, so all our production choices are made to enhance our lyrics. Phoebe and I produce under the moniker Middleman and I guess our sound revolves around the instruments we play. Jay-Lee plays keys and synth, I play bass and Phoebs sings lead vocals.

PhoebeYeah, the song is always the focus. White Sneakers is so upbeat and really playful, so the production had to reflect that. In the initial demo I’d made a very basic bass line that just sort of plodded away under the vocals. Then Lara came in and laid down this bouncy, fun as heck bass line and it changed everything! It honestly set the tone and gave us a foundation for the synths and vocals to lock into. We were still missing some top end though, so we asked the most sparkling producer (and beautiful person) Lucalion to lend an ear and a couple arpeggiators!

All 3 of you are all so accomplished in your own right. Can you take us through how you met and how you organised your roles in the band?

LaraWe’ve been friends and collaborators for years now. We’ve performed in other bands together, have written for lots of different projects and been besties every step of the way. Deciding to be our own band was the easiest decision.

Jay-LeeSo we all went for dinner at the Kangaroo Point Cliffs in Brisbane and Lara literally gave a presentation on why the three of us should be a band. She had a Venn diagram and a speech, it really didn’t take much convincing but she gave the presentation anyway.

Phoebe: And as far as roles go, we all had a go-to instrument entering the band. We do all sing and I’m so excited for you to hear more and more of Jay and Lara’s voices on future tracks. I honestly think the fact our friendship was largely built on chatting means we have great communication and just want the best for each other. 

I absolutely LOVE the music video for this track! How did the idea come about?

Jay-LeeAw, thanks! Well, I’d flown down from Brisbane so we could spend a week in the studio together working on music.

Lara: It was a total stitch up!

Jay-LeeTotal stitch up! A couple days in, Lara and Phoebs both tested positive for COVID-19, so we all had to isolate together instead. It was the best!

Lara: We literally just watched trash reality shows, learnt how to play poker, played poker and talked till the early hours. Around day 5 we realised we could make a music video. Basically, our isolation was tween sleepover goals.

Phoebe: We had to work with what we had though, which was basically our lounge room and our matching sunnies. 

As the songs about holding on to compliments a little too hard, can you tell us what you think the nicest thing anyone has ever said to you is?

LaraI think I’m pretty funny so whenever someone feeds that part of my ego. *chefs kiss* Instant trust.

Phoebe: I think the coolest compliment I’ve ever had was that I had a nice speaking voice. It really took me aback, and I literally had no idea what to do with myself after, but it was something I guess I’d never paid much mind to before. That, and the sneakers of course.

Jay-LeeHmm, I really think mine is whenever someone tells me I’m funnier than Lara. 

As this song is so full of love, can you share a bit of that by telling us who 3 of your favourite local Aussie artists right now are?

PhoebeI recently discovered Grent Perez at an APRA event called the Pocket Sessions. He was phenomenal live! Everything; the banter, the musicality, the wholesome energy. 10/10.

Jay-LeeGretta Ray is an incredible songwriter! I’ve got such a habit for trying to squeeze a million words into my lyrics and I listen to the way Gretta Ray does it with such ease and it’s honestly just… goals.

Lara: I grew up on the Gold Coast so it’s really exciting to see other artists from the GC, like Eliza and the Delusionals, doing such huge things on an international level! 

Who are your biggest all-time musical influences?

PhoebeThere are so many women in music that have inspired and influenced us as a band. Songwriters like Julia Michaels, Sarah Aarons, and Emily Warren. And there’s definitely an extra soft spot for other all-female bands like HAIM, MUNA and the Aces too.

Jay-Lee: I love Alicia Keys and Kiana Lede too. They just bring so much feeling to everything they do. 

LaraAnd personally, I love Taylor Swift. I think she’s the greatest songwriter of our generation. And Ryan Tedder, he really introduced me to the notion of being a songwriter as well as an artist.

What’s your number 1 feel good track?

Lara: Mine, is Tik Tok by Ke$ha. Honestly, you put that song on and everyone will start singing.

Phoebe: Yeah for sure. I feel like I have specific feel-good tracks for when I need to gas myself up too. I think Soulmate by Lizzo would be my go-to for that. 

Jay-Lee: Ooh, definitely, I Wanna Dance With Somebody by Whitney Houston. Love it. Every time.

As a band that’s “two thirds queer, two thirds POC and all three thirds female”, how do you believe this dynamic impacts your approach to and perspective with your songwriting and production? Continuing from this, on a wider scale, have you ever faced decreased opportunities despite increased efforts over the past few years towards equal opportunity?

PhoebeWe’re fortunate to be entering with this project at a time where there is a consciousness for creating equal opportunities. A huge part of our purpose is to contribute to the representation we all longed for growing up.

LaraI know for Jay-Lee and I, music is so crucial to Polynesian cultures. And somehow there’s little-to-no representation in the commercial pop music scene, particularly with Polynesian women. I think about how much I would’ve loved to see a band with 2 Polynesian girls in it and have it displayed as an actual option for me and my career in music. It’s exciting to be a part of this.

Jay-LeeIt’s exciting to be part of the change! We’re stoked we get to do this all together and I feel like we’re more than up to the challenge of whatever is thrown our way. 

And finally, what can we expect next from PEPTALK?

Jay-Lee: We’ve got more music coming. We’re planning on sharing some of our favourite songs we’ve written together in the coming months.

PhoebeAnd hopefully we’ll get to play them at some live shows in Sydney and Brisbane soon too!

LaraWe’ll be sure to keep everyone posted on what’s happening through our socials. 

White Sneakers is available NOW on all platforms – LISTEN HERE


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