Peter Wolf Crier howls in a secret house
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Local duo Peter Wolf Crier doesn’t quite have a handle on what it's channeling in debut album Inter Be, and rightly so. It’s an album birthed in the middle of the night, and it sounds like one: Guitarist/vocalist Peter Pisano of The Wars Of 1812 and drummer Brian Moen of Laarks frame what Pisano refers to as “the ashes of a memoir” with eerily stacked harmony howls, crackling percussion, and guttural guitar work. Inter Be’s simultaneously ethereal and rugged home-recorded sound will undoubtedly draw legions of comparisons to For Emma, Forever Ago—particularly since Moen has collaborated with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon—but possesses bewitching qualities entirely its own.
Instead of a traditional CD-release show, Peter Wolf Crier will perform as part of This Is Not For You, a site-specific theater experience directed by Jeremey Catterton of local troupe Lamb Lays With Lion, which runs Oct. 14-23 at a secret location in St. Paul. (To find out where, you'll first need to buy a ticket; peterwolfcrier.com has more info.) Pisano and Moen took time out to talk with The A.V. Club about accidentally becoming a band and the long shadow of Bon Iver.
The A.V. Club: The sound of Peter Wolf Crier is quite a departure from your work with The Wars Of 1812. What triggered this new approach?
Peter Pisano: This new album, really this whole new direction for my music, found its way out of me when I was least expecting it. I had the summer off from teaching and found myself alone and living in my head more than I ever really had before. Things got a little weird. I was on a whacked-out schedule—staying up until three in the morning, waking up at two in the afternoon, spending all day alone. I was trying to write but nothing was coming, and nothing had been coming for a while. Then I suddenly had this night where five songs poured out of me. It felt like nothing I had experienced before and sounded like nothing I had done before. I had found another voice that I didn’t know was inside me and the whole experience was really cathartic. I think I’m still figuring it out.
AVC: How did Peter Wolf Crier make the leap from late-night, solo-recording project to living, breathing band?
PP: I e-mailed Brian after I had recorded the demos with the intention of having him record what I thought was my solo project. I felt I had the album pretty well tied up and had figured out the aesthetic. But once I started working with Brian, out of pure admiration for his skill as an all-around musician, I knew the project would only benefit from untying those knots and digging into the songs again to build them from the ground up. Somewhere in that process we became a band.
Brian Moen: Peter’s initial recordings had almost no percussion at all. He had done some foot-stomping in places. I remember Peter being shocked a little by the direction some of the songs had gone when I first played him some of my early ideas. From there we just started building and building.
AVC: Rather than play your typical bar CD-release show, you’ve chosen to unveil these songs publicly as part of a theatrical production in a rented house. What was the impetus for this unconventional approach?
PP: Jeremy heard the demos and wanted to be a part of the project somehow. My willingness to participate in the theater project is largely just trusting him and seeing how passionate he is. I remember Jeremy saying we should rent a house and put on these special shows and thinking, "That’s one of those great ideas you don’t actually do." [Laughs.] Then Brian was totally on board with the idea and I realized "Hey, we can do this!" It allows us to provide some context in a really beautiful way. Nowadays, the way most people are discovering your music is just clicking on a link—they can be doing whatever the fuck they want while they experience it. Creating an alternate space for the audience to experience the music in is really appealing.
AVC: There have already been a few comparisons of your music to Bon Iver floating around on social networking sites, probably just the first of many. How does the comparison sit with you?
PP: I love Justin as a person and [for] his music, so I’m certainly not going to take any comparisons to him as an insult. It’s a natural comparison to make, and fair, because Brian’s been involved with Justin over the years and I just recorded an album at his house [with The Wars Of 1812]. I’ve acknowledged in the press before how much he’s affected me as a person.
BM: I know Peter drew a fair amount of inspiration from Justin’s record when he originally wrote the songs. When he brought them to me I thought it had some of that Bon Iver vibe, but it certainly had its own thing going as well. Part of my challenge was to take them to a different spot. Even if For Emma, Forever Ago started out as a closer reference at the beginning, we ended up somewhere decidedly different. I think it’s distinctive enough that people won’t see it as a rip-off.