Just two days after sharing the Tommie Sunshine & MureKian Remix of his track “Overs”, The Guidance – properly known as Stefan Pruett – was found to have passed away peacefully overnight. Pruett was open about his lifelong heart condition — his pacemaker, his three open-heart surgeries, and one closed-heart surgery. He was formerly the lead vocalist of Phoenix electro pop group Peachcake, which was founded by him and vocalist/multi-instrumentalist John O’Keefe, who was most identifiable as the keytar player.
Nothing could have prepared me for the first time I was exposed to Peachcake. Considering the line-up, it was likely the May 18, 2005 “Suicide Prevention Show” at now-defuct Tempe, Arizona venue The Clubhouse; this would have made me 18 years old when I was introduced to them. I had ventured out to catch a band named My Darling Murder, after drummer Elias Mallin reached out to me on Myspace and sold me a ticket. MDM was influenced by industrial music — I recall Mallin (formerly of Opiate for the Masses) mentioning Nine Inch Nails in particular while chatting it up with him at The Graffiti Shop off of Mill Ave.
Peachcake was absolutely nothing like MDM whatsoever, and how these two acts were included in the same line-up that night is beyond me (probably the theme of the night), but in some odd way it worked. At this point in my life, I was still developing my identity and beginning to cross from goth into raver culture; you can thank my introduction to the movie Party Monster and the frequent spillover between cultures in the widely spread and yet surprisingly small city of Phoenix.
Peachcake brought mammoth-sized energy and a psychedelic atmosphere into the room from the moment they struck up their instruments. It looked like a party store had exploded all over the stage.
The impressively energetic performer was not an extraordinary vocalist, and it didn’t matter because that’s not what it was about; it was about the experience. He had an unapologetic, inherently confident stage presence — somehow very pure and innocent-feeling despite frequent thrusting and convulsing, sometimes wearing as little as little as pink satin boxer-briefs.
Looking back on all of the exhilarating dance parties, he was giving us permission to let our inner children run free amidst a society constantly pressuring us to conform to a conveniently capitalist idea of what being an “adult” looks like. Pruett had a gift for inspiring even the most timid in the crowd to leave their comfort zones, go nuts and participate in oddball activities.
Combining hippie and punk elements in both sound and lyrics, the artists cultivated a community that demonstrated a tone of universal acceptance and unconditional love while challenging the status quo. Many years later, I learned of The Flaming Lips, who had an unquestionable influence on the church of Peachcake, with a similar ethos.
Making a great impact, Peachcake performed at countless interesting venues across the valley, continuously toured, played festivals, performed with noteworthy acts, released their debut full-length What Year Will You Have The World?.., held drum circles in downtown Tempe, and participated in political causes on topics such as demilitarization and opposing anti-immigration.
They cycled through a handful of live band members over the years. O’Keefe departed from the group in 2009, and Pruett continued on with Mike McHale (guitar, synthesizers, percussion, backing vocals), Henri Benard (drums, percussion), and David Jackman (programming, beats, production, soft synths, vocals).
They worked on retooling the band, their sound was refined with the help of producer/engineer Jalipaz Nelson (Audioconfusion), and the 2012 album Unbelievable Souls was released.
“Everything’s out there, we’re climbing up these walls,
Falling down the stairs laced with sweat and tears,
It’s time to pick ourselves back up, show the world we’re tough
Stop running on an engine of fear.
Because something is out there waiting for you to find it,
And when you do, it may hit you oh so blindly.
Pick yourself back up, show the world you’re tough
Stop running on an engine of fear.”
— taken from the track “Don’t Panic, It’s Organic” by Peachcake
On April 13, 2013, Peachcake performed their final show at Crescent Ballroom. Unfortunately, after this show I never had the opportunity to witness the glory of Pruett and Peachcake again.
He went on to relocate to Los Angeles and start his new “Darkwave Pajama Pop” musical project, The Guidance — its Facebook bio currently reads:
“In an effort to escape the monotony of electro pop, Stefan Pruett moved from Phoenix, Arizona to Los Angeles to begin his solo project ‘The Guidance’. As The Guidance, Stefan wants to craft a reflective approach to making electronic music that he has termed “Future Grunge”. This aural concoction is the convergence of electronic synth sounds, driving beats, and dance elements representing the aesthetic and energy of 90s grunge, but all sequenced digitally instead of live instrumentation.”
When I learned of The Guidance late (thanks, Facebook algorithms) I was thrilled. I planned to see him perform at a show in Phoenix at the Valley Bar in 2016, which ended up being canceled. Pruett’s impressive energy was like a much-needed supplement for a deficient world. I feel that no words can properly convey how meaningful and refreshing the experience of Peachcake’s live performances was. It is wonderful that he continued to perform and uplift fans and strangers until the end.
Despite all of the light in a dark world that Pruett brought to countless individuals, on his Facebook profile mini-bio, he left us with the words, “I haven’t done shit with my life yet.” But beneath all of the layers of weirdness that he wore existed a profound musician with an insightful mind, a quirky sense of humor, and a big heart. I believe that those inspired and supported by Stefan Pruett’s music, performances, words, and deeds will always carry some of his light deep in their souls.
Stefan Bennett Pruett
Mar 8, 1985 – Jun 14, 2020
“They put us in little cubes and tell us how to do our jobs,
Saying that there’s no more left for revolution.
But I’m sorry sir, I’m going to have to stand and disagree ,
Cause no matter what, you’ll never ever ever ever get to me.
I’ll always have my light, my will, my creativity,
To shine bright upon you and all the world you see.
What would happen if we spent out time creating harmony
Instead of all the destructive, lost, calamity?
The clock is ticking away, what are you doing today?”
— taken from the track “Step Away From My Destiny” by Peachcake
Thank you and rest in peace, dear friend.
Stefan Pruett Memorial Photo Album
Photography: Katherine Amy Vega