Christopher Peifer captures the essence of COVID times with his latest album, “The Social Distance”

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New York musician Christopher Peifer wrote much of his last two records – “Suicide Mission” and the newly released “The Social Distance” – while sequestered in the Midwest, where he retreated to help his mom after his father died of COVID-19. (Both albums are available on Bandcamp.)

“My plan is to do my first three solo albums as a triptych,” he says. “The songs are about what I’ve endured during the pandemic. The music’s been keeping me sane. ‘Suicide Mission’ represents the dark, early COVID times. ‘The Social Distance’ is about the purgatory of waiting this thing out. The third album will hopefully have a resurrection air.”

Both albums are filled with highly melodic power-pop gems in the vein of Elvis Costello, The Figgs, Nick Lowe, Big Star, Sloan and The Replacements.  On the new album, “Something to Believe In” is an upbeat rocker about people reclaiming power. “Meet Me at the Bar” is a catchy, celebratory song about a hopeful return to normalcy. And “Let’s Get the Band Together” name-checks Albany’s Palais Royale in a comic tune about some real-life band mishaps.

“The Social Distance” is the culmination of Peifer’s three decades in the music business. In 30 years, he’s performed in almost 20 bands, some his own and others as a sideman. More recently, he formed Blockhouses, a rocking power-pop trio, in New York City with guitarist Guy Lyons of the Figgs. 

Peifer is now primarily based in New York City, where he works as a sound designer and composer for theater productions, which largely have been on hold for the past year and a half. 

However, he still considers Albany home. Peifer spent his formative years in the Capital Region as a SUNY Albany student, playing in bands like the Staziaks, 500 Hats and Mercy Twin.

“Suicide Mission” – which got spins from independent radio shows like Little Steven’s Underground Garage and Bill Kelly’s Teenage Wasteland on WFMU – reflected a self-awareness about the difficulties of a lifetime in the music industry, when against all odds and good advice, he continued to play music. “Now I’m past that,” he says. “I’m hitting my stride, and I’m not looking back.”

Peifer recorded both albums at Roots Cellar Studio in Cold Spring, New York, in a converted barn owned by his long-time collaborator Todd Giudice. For both albums, Peifer hit upon a collaborative but unconventional style. He didn’t send Todd the songs in advance, but rather would start right in playing them on guitar and singing while Todd created the drum parts on the fly. “I would live in the studio, and we’d track and mix all day,” he says. “I’m proud of what we created.”

Future plans for Peifer involve getting a band together and playing live as soon as conditions allow. “It’s the possibility of that redemption that keeps me going. I love playing rock music. It’s what I do,” he says. “I’m actually putting together several lineups, with a ‘first string,’ and then regional subs from Philly, NYC, the Capital District, New England, and the Midwest. This way, unlike ANY and EVERY band I’ve been in, I can immediately say ‘yes’ to all gigs, and play them!”

Peifer is currently teaming up with Pete Hayes, drummer of the Figgs, for his seventh annual Bike MS campaign and victory lap around Manhattan to raise funds to defeat Multiple Sclerosis. Their bike team is also a band, called The Maybe Sump’MS. which performs a yearly musical tribute to pull in more donations to the cause. This year’s theme is “CBGB ’77.” The ride is Oct. 17, and the concert will occur in NYC later this fall. 

Visit www.chrispei.com or download the album at chrispei.bandcamp.com.

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