Nothing was known about Peer Pressure other than they were from Connecticut and had released one impossibly hard-to-find EP in 1980. Circa November 1999, I resolved that it was time to crack the case and find myself a damn copy of the record. The only information I had was the address on the record — a post office box in Old Greenwich, Connecticut — and a contact phone number listed in the International Discography of The New Wave. Armed with this sad arsenal of information, I got a dirt-cheap ticket and flew up to Rhode Island where my sidekick Jason lives. On our way to the WFMU record swap, Jason and I planned to stop at the Greenwich Public Library for a few hours and dig around. This trip to the library was deemed a "complete waste of time" by our I-love-to-repeatedly-eat-my-words friend and fellow collector, Brian Devereux. In less than five minutes among the stacks, I'd matched a name to the old phone number we had via a real estate directory from 1981. Jay Paine. Jason and I were high-fiving at this point. A quick search found no phone listings for Jay Paine, but it was a start.

A few listens to a tape of the Peer Pressure EP told us this HAD to be a high school band. With a song called "Underachiever" and "That's Why They Call 'Em Moms", there could be little doubt. We looked through high school yearbooks in and around 1980 for any Jay Paine's. Nothing, though we noted any slobs wearing new wave t-shirts or anybody who appeared to be a "rocker". We looked through some alumni directories. Nothing. We looked through the card catalog for any references. Nothing. We finally decided to look through newspapers from 1980. These were all on microfilm, and one quickly begins to go blind with the pages going by at a steady clip. Jason picked up on an article about a recording studio in Greenwich. It was the only thing remotely worth noting, so he took down the name of the guy who ran the studio and the credits for the article. We called it a day and headed for WFMU.

Upon returning home, I called upon El Azteca for more leads on Mister Paine. El Azteca is a gumshoe acquaintance of mine who — for a fee — can find out information via public records not readily available to regular joes. El Azteca came back with nada. I was starting to wonder if I even had the right name. At this point, I decided the thing to do would be to write to all the Paines in southern Connecticut, a laborious method that had worked a couple times in the past when I'd been stuck. I sent out approximately 30 letters.

I got a few responses saying "no relation", but that was it. At the same time, Jason had tried finding the studio engineer, the subject of the newspaper article. We found one listing for him and — because of his unusual name — figured this had to be him. Wrong. Another N-O. No other bands from the area in the early 80's had ever heard of Peer Pressure. Welcome to impasse city. At this point, I was beat and ready for a break from the hunt, but mi amigo Jason still had some fight in him.

Amidst the many dead ends, Jason located a phone number for the photographer credited in the one remotely relevant newspaper article. We had nothing else, so it was worth the cost of a stamp. Amazingly, the photographer would prove to be the break we needed. A few days later, a female voice on the other end of Jason's phone uttered the words we both longed to hear: "I knew the band".

label Not only that, she'd been responsible for a full Peer Pressure article that appeared in the same newspaper, an article that somehow slipped past us as we combed through reel after reel of microfilm.

One of the major pitfalls of searching for old punk rockers is the fact that memories from the time period are often, um, hazy for many reasons. Not so with the photographer who not only confirmed that we indeed had the correct name for one band member but also gave us the only other band member's name. Peer Pressure had been a two-person effort. I immediately contacted El Azteca who returned a couple of possible contact addresses for the second member, Brock Estes. There was only one person in the U.S. with his name. Having waited so long already, we forked over the extra cash for an overnight delivery to the first address and anxiously tracked the letter's status on the USPS website. Delivery attempt first day. Delivery attempt second day. A few days later, the letter remained unclaimed. Undaunted, an overnight letter was sent to the second address. One delivery attempt, then two — nothing AGAIN. Frustrated, I contacted El Azteca once again. Though the information was listed as current, it appeared to be wrong. Brock Estes was a nomad! A couple days later, El Azteca hypothesized that a listing he found in Greenwich, Connecticut for one Evelyn Estes was almost certainly the band member's mother. I looked up other Estes listings in Greenwich and found three. I immediately dialed the first number.

"Hello, my name is Ryan Richardson, and I'm looking for Brock Estes."

"Yeah, that's my uncle," answered the deadpan teenage voice at the other end.

Yes!!! I thought: "Great, would your dad know how to get in touch with him?"

"Nah, they haven't talked in years."

"Well, do you think your grandmother would know how to get in touch with him?"

"Maybe, but she's in Florida right now."

After confirming the mother's phone number, I called and got an answering machine with an elderly woman saying to call so-and-so at this number, and she'll take care of me. I called and got another answering machine. I hung up and figured I'd try the next day. I was now to the third number on the list.

I dialed and a man answered after a couple of rings.

"Hello, my name is Ryan Richardson, and I'm calling from Texas. I'm trying to locate Brock Estes."

"That's my brother, but we haven't spoken in 15 years."

The estranged brother tally was now at two. My only thought was "What the fuck is going on here?", though I asked again "So you have no means of contacting him?" He said no, though the last he'd heard Brock was living in the Bay Area. Thus far, that statement was the only helpful utterance that night — my two unclaimed letters had at least been sent to Brock's general vicinity. I hung up and hit the hay.

The next morning, I called the second number again, and a woman answered. I repeated my mantra from the day before, and she responded: "Well, this is his sister, and he was officially disowned 15 years ago, and I haven't spoken to him since." Shaking my head, I told her I'd spoken to Brock's (and her) brother yesterday who told me the same thing. The sister then told me that this other brother was also disinherited. It seemed that out of four Estes siblings, not one of them had landed on the same side of the fence in what was presumably a fight over some inheritance. So goddamn close and yet so goddamn far. As if these chaps weren't hard enough to find, I'd now reached Connecticut's most dysfunctional family, and I was once again at a dead end.

I called Jason with the news and requested that he call back the photographer and see if she might have any other helpful information. He called back a couple days later with the names of Jay Paine's two siblings, one brother and one sister. The prospect of reaching a brother sounded promising, though sis was less likely to pan out since the traditional forsaking of maiden names make women that much harder to track down. Once again, I called on El Azteca who was, by now, familiar with the frustration of Peer Pressure. He came up empty-handed on the brother but found who he felt was probably the sister, apparently still in Greenwich, Connecticut. At this point, I was skeptical, but once again I sent an overnight letter to the address. When I logged in the tracking number on the postal website the next day, it returned the following message: "Your item was delivered at 11:56 in Greenwich, Connecticut." While this was a good sign, it was by no means confirmation that I had the correct person. My letter had requested an immediate reply, and by the next day I still hadn't heard anything.

The following day proved to be a long day at work, busy enough to make me forget about the vexing pursuit of a hopelessly obscure band. When I finally made it home, I checked my messages and after the second beep, there was a pause and then "Ryan, this is Jay Paine from Peer Pressure calling from the U.K. My sister relayed your message to me." He left his number and despite being dead tired, my brain wouldn't allow a minute of sleep. I waited until 3:30 AM (which is 9:30 AM in the U.K.) and — at long last — had something to show for one of the longest, most twisted, and bizarre searches for a band member I've ever undertaken.


Among the first things Jay Paine of PEER PRESSURE said was that my search for the band was much more interesting than the band itself. I'll leave that to the reader to decide. The details of Peer Pressure's formation and brief tenure as a band are on the stranger side of such mundane details. The band formed in late '79 in Greenwich, Connecticut after Jay Paine spotted his old friend Brock Estes walking down the road. Jay and Brock had been members of a garage band called the Uncalled Four (yet another one!) in the late 60's. Brock had headed out to San Francisco circa 1967 and hadn't been spotted since. Excited to see a familiar face in town, Jay — also recently returned to the area — offered Brock a ride. The conversation inevitably turned to music, and eventually the words were spoken: "let's make a band." And so Peer Pressure was born.

Jay Paine would play drums AND bass AND guitar. Paine was and is an extremely talented musician. Brock Estes would pen lyrics and sing. As Brock puts it, Jay had the talent but needed a certain creative push, and that's where Brock came in with his lyrics and "vocalizing" (he is loathe to call it "singing"). Brock was into punk rock (Ramones, Devo, etc.) but Jay needed some convincing. "We talked about how tough it is to really think independently, how the aesthetic of the group always predominates, how it takes more courage than most people have to stand alone and be different. Gradually we come to give it a name: It is Peer Pressure that is the problem. You must resist it."

Peer Pressure set forth some rules for their songs: "Songs could never be more than three minutes long with 2:14 the optimum time. No overdubs. Just guitar, bass, and drums. And since the snare drum has as much metal on it as skin, you had to hear as much metal as you did skin — no amplified pillow drum sounds." Brock aimed his lyrics at the inevitably alienated teen set despite the fact that both members were 30 years old at the time of the recording. Their ruse, so to speak, proved successful; my friends and I were positively convinced the songs were recorded by Greenwich High School punks. Estes' voice is especially convincing as a teenage Johnny Rotten-on-helium crooner. The Peer Pressure songs are less about inciting rebellion than about simply expressing some empathy with adolescent angst. The Peer Pressure EP is a soundtrack for popping your gum in class instead smashing the state, more about staying out past curfew than turning over a police cruiser. The band also hoped that disposable teen income would keep record sales going.

Adding to the bizarre nature of Peer Pressure is that they were a band only in the studio sense i.e. playing out or touring was just not possible unless Jay grew a few extra arms. Despite this, the two pooled their money and pressed up an EP, a D.I.Y. effort from beginning to end. Jay's niece would yell "anticipate the future!" in the opening of "Sound of The 80's". Both members hoped for bigger and better things and persisted in promoting themselves with full-page ads in the Village Voice; dropping in on unsuspecting college radio stations; hounding club owners. Their ad ran with the headline "PEER PRESSURE IS NOT NOW PLAYING AT THE FOLLOWING VENUES: CBGB's, Max's, etc." Needless to say, their persistence never paid off as planned, or I wouldn't be writing the notes for this page. The hands-down most bizarre promotional idea the band conjured was a contest where kids were encouraged to write their own lyrics for Excitemint, a song slated to appear on their 1st EP. The winner of the contest was to have their version recorded and released on the next Peer Pressure record. Have a listen to the hilarious and vaguely disturbing contest description followed by an instrumental version of "Excitemint" (the misspelling is intentional)...

Following the release of the 4-song Peer Pressure EP, an article in the Greenwich paper showed Jay and Brock hanging out in the generic aisle of the supermarket where they hoped to have their Record snapped up alongside other generic items: Beer, Soda, Dog Food, and so on. For those too young to remember, there was a day when supermarkets dedicated whole isles to generic products, all in plain white packaging with just-the-facts black lettering. Peer Pressure's EP label artwork reflected a fascination with generics long before Flipper or PiL put such musings into wider circulation. Of course, the songs on the EP are anything but generic. "Sound of the 80's", in my opinion, is the clear standout of the four songs. Peer Pressure also recorded a blazing version of Eve of Destruction along with "Cash In" and "Excitemint" (sic) for an EP originally slated for release BEFORE their 1980 EP. Unfortunately, it would take 20 years before those tunes finally made it to vinyl on a limited edition posthumous EP. The Dickies had nothing on this...

Brock eventually headed out — unlimited Greyhound bus pass in hand — on a cross-country personal distribution spree. Restless and not content to simply mail records out, the hand delivery of the Peer Pressure EP's in far off places like Houston, Texas must have caught some record shops by surprise since the band wasn't — and couldn't be — on tour! Quaaludes were apparently helpful in the traveling salesman scheme. Unfortunately, it would be this trip that would dissolve the bonds between two friends. For right or wrong, when Brock returned to find that J had started some other projects, he found the slight unforgivable, and Peer Pressure disbanded.

Jay eventually moved to the U.K. and currently plays in a somewhat successful techno/trance outfit. Brock moved back out to San Francisco. The two haven't spoken since Peer Pressure ended.

— Ryan Richardson

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