"When I told Steve [Lewis of Kill the Vultures] I might move back, he said, 'If you come back, you're going to make the dopest music you've ever made,'" Peter Pisano says as he sips a beer between drags of a cigarette. "As a musician, that's exactly what you want to hear."
On this early July day, the 31-year-old lead singer of indie-folk band Peter Wolf Crier leans back in his chair, seeming more relaxed than he's been in years. A week prior, he packed up his belongings in Toronto, drove 950 miles to Minnesota, and made a quick visit to Milwaukee, before arriving back in Minneapolis at the Chatterbox Pub.
Lives shifted and resettled in different locations after the release of Peter Wolf Crier's sophomore album, 2011's Garden of Arms. Drummer Brian Moen married and moved to California, and Pisano moved to Toronto with his then-girlfriend. While many things changed in his absence, Pisano says moving back is a culmination of timing and a music community that fosters artistic growth. With Peter Wolf Crier's forthcoming album, Plum Slump, due August 25, he hopes to rebound from a rough couple of years.
As he touches on the time since the release of Garden of Arms, Pisano's speaking voice parallels his singing voice — passionate and joyful, sometimes intense, and full of ideas that come spilling out faster than his mind can process them. When asked why he continues to invest in a project where geography separates him from his lone bandmate, Pisano simply states, "It's Brian." In the six years since the pair formed Peter Wolf Crier, miles on the road and mutual musical growth fused their relationship into a brotherhood.
"After playing as much as we did, I was pretty done with touring; I was jaded, and honestly, there wasn't as much demand for the second record as there was for the first," he admits. "It's terrifying, the life cycle of an album. That's why I had to lick my wounds and try something else. There are multiple levels that you exist on as an artist. One of those is still being a person, and I had to get that right before I wanted to do something artistically again."
A hard reset to his life led Pisano to teaching humanities to high schoolers in Toronto. He says he values holding a day job and existing as a normal person. "Teaching is so love-based and human-based and selfless. It's not abstract like making art is. I never grew up thinking I had to be a famous musician," he says.
Pisano focused on life outside of the music world while in Canada, playing only a handful of shows. But it wasn't long before he got out his guitar to write new songs for what would eventually become Plum Slump. The first single, "Don't Leave," drenched in longing like the end of a long winter into spring, tells of an ending relationship, yet carries traces of hope in its notes — much like a lot of the rest of the album.
"There was a sort of naive charm on that first record," Pisano concedes. "Inter-Be was definitely coming from the heart. Garden of Arms was from the head. This new one's coming from the heart again, but I think it's way more grown up. Garden of Arms was our artistic statement, and Plum Slump was not like that. I had spent enough time in Canada, and I knew I wasn't a player in the music game there. There was no, 'What should Peter Wolf Crier's third album sound like?' We experimented on Garden of Arms and did what we wanted, and I think it turned on us."
Peter Wolf Crier's big-time indie label, Jagjaguwar, home to artists like Bon Iver, Sharon Van Etten, and Dinosaur Jr., ended up dropping the band from its roster following the disappointing impact of Arms. On the self-released Plum Slump, Pisano and Moen don't pander for commercial appeal, as a band might after a previous creative effort falls flat. Instead, they took the opposite route — making the exact record they wanted to make.
"I spent time growing up as a man and being honest with myself during the making of this latest album. I didn't have any price, and there was no trying to maintain popularity," Pisano says. "We were going to make whatever the fuck we were going to make. It's an illusion of constancy. Neither of us are who we were in 2009. Certainly there's a relationship, but doing what that was and what this is. It's a different fucking thing. We're gonna make similar decisions, because at some point in time, the thing you're creating ends up creating you."
Peter Wolf Crier will release Plum Slump on August 25 and play the Cedar Cultural Center on September 12 for Matt Latterell's CD release show. Purchase tickets here.