A lost summer from the past accompanied by warm, fond memories of relationships with nature, oneself, friends and lovers. These themes of exploration, togetherness, isolation, love and loss are all meticulously created through Jacksonville multi-instrumentalist, producer and recording engineer Taylor Neal’s latest project, Teal Peel.
Teal Peel is a dynamic, multifaceted collaborative project started by Neal many years back, but it wasn’t officially a band until July of 2021 with the release of their first single, “Smello Coffee.” Inspired by ’90s alt rock blended with smearing pedal steel lines, Teal Peal consists of five main members: Taylor Neal (guitar, vocals), Brian Lester (drums), Caleb Hollan (guitar, keys), Landon Gay (pedal steel) and Daniel Hubert (bass). Jacob Cummings, who directed the short film Country River, also contributed both saxophone and synth to the recording process. When Teal Peel performs live, Neal includes Paris Sullivan on French horn and Langston Oliver on trumpet. Teal Peel isn’t just a band, it’s an immersive sonic experience.
Earlier this year, the 28-minute short film, Country River, premiered at Root Down in Riverside’s 5 Points. This short film directed by Jacob Cummings, serves as a visual accompaniment to Teal Peel’s upcoming debut record. The visuals within the short film take on a voice of their own, while complementing the underlying themes of the record. Country River takes place in a lost summer a few years back, a time of exploration balancing in between themes of love and loss. From building sandcastles on the beach to catching bugs at the park, Country River brings up buried feelings of nostalgia, longing and comfort. Music videos for both of Teal Peel’s singles, “Smello Coffee” and “How Many Bugs,” were moments pulled from the short film.
Neal has been working on this project for years, stemming from his dorm room at Jacksonville University in 2018.
“The majority of this record came from melodies and chord progressions I came up with in my dorm room, and once a song started to form, I began to look at the world around me for lyrical inspiration. Boats in the river, my childhood dog and daydreaming about my girlfriend while bored at work all contributed to the early concepts for these songs. Oh! And bugs, of course,” said Neal.
Neal played a number of house shows under the name “Tay” for a few years where these songs he had been working on started to come to life.
“I began to piece things together and sequence these ideas into an album, and at the beginning of 2020 I reached out to Jacob about the short film,” said Neal.
The band’s first single, “Smello Coffee,” was released on July 14th along with Country River’s premiere. The single tells a never-ending and familiar story of waking up morning after morning, having a cup of coffee and going to work, all while eagerly looking forward to seeing that one special person at the end of the day. Teal Peel’s second single, “How Many Bugs,” released on September 24th. This playful tune is all about bugs, creeping and crawling around. When Neal was preparing for the premiere of this project, years in the making, he was eager to put it all out at once.
“I wasn’t planning on doing any singles, but after talking to some musicians and artists I look up to, they convinced me otherwise. Releasing these tracks as singles allows me the opportunity to take my time with everything and really focus my intentionality with this project,” said Neal.
A notable, recurring theme for Teal Peel is bugs. And all sorts of them! Ever since Neal was young, bugs, and nature in general, always intrigued him. As he grows older and becomes more aware of the realities of life, Neal finds that it gets harder and harder to maintain a grasp on this childlike curiosity.
“I think it’s really beautiful to focus on something so small and seemingly insignificant while the world is spinning around you at 1,000 mph. The thing about bugs and nature is that it’s messy and gross and dirty, but even throughout the dirt and muck, there’s this organized yet fragile ecosystem that is literally breathing all around us,” explained Neal, “These ideas influenced the lyrics, the way I produced this record, and the conceptualization of this record.”
In terms of recording the debut album, Neal worked closely with Brok Mende at Friends of Friends studio in Springfield to discover and solidify a sound for the record. In January 2020, Neal did a demo recording session in his apartment with Lester, Hubert, and Hollan. They officially begun the recording process in June with Brok Mende. The songs were all tracked live in the same room, an important aspect to Neal, who spent the following eight months producing and mixing the record. In March, Neal re-joined Mende again to master the record.
Artists who have heavily influenced Teal Peel include Radiohead, Duster, Pile, Andy Shauf and Alex G.
In the future, Neal plans on releasing more singles, playing more shows out of town, and working on more videos with the band. He also hopes to press the record on vinyl one day. Being able to witness Teal Peel’s work in action, progressing and growing, is a uniquely special and exciting experience that you don’t want to miss.