Peter Wolf Crier talk record deal with Jagjaguwar

Brian Moen and Peter Pisano of Peter Wolf Crier
Stacy Schwartz

The two twentysomething musicians in Peter Wolf Crier have been in bands before—Peter Pisano formerly funneled his songwriting efforts into the Wars of 1812, while Brian Moen has played in a laundry list of Eau Claire bands that includes Laarks and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver’s solo project, the Shouting Matches—but their new collaboration is pulling them into unfamiliar territory, and with remarkable speed. Since releasing their debut album, Inter-Be, last fall, Peter Wolf Crier have earned heaps of local acclaim (their record landed on our list of top local albums of 2009); signed to hip national indie label Jagjaguwar, home of Bon Iver and Gayngs; took SXSW by storm, playing several shows a day and recording an exclusive Daytrotter session; and are now preparing for a two-month U.S. tour opening for Freelance Whales and Heartless Bastards.

As they get ready to re-release Inter-Be with a show this Friday at the Turf Club, we caught up with Moen and Pisano over beers at a local watering hole to see how their newfound success has been treating them, and what they are doing to stay grounded amid the chaos and hype.

City Pages: How is life post-SXSW?

Brian Moen: It's kind of a weird thing to go from really focusing heavily on music and on our "careers" as musicians so hard that week, and then coming back to regular life, with the idea that we really will be pursuing our career in music. There's this weird limbo time [in which] we still have jobs and we still have to pay bills and whatever. It's been a weird, biding-our-time sort of scenario, trying to get prepared for the re-release and not get ahead of ourselves.

CP: What's it like to get ready to re-release an album that's already been out locally?

Peter Pisano: It's strange. But if you look at it as a celebration of this record, which is a record of a time that already happened, then it makes sense. Rock is a celebration of a moment that already took place. So it doesn't really seem that weird to me to just celebrate it all over again, because I feel like that's what you do every time you play the record. If I went and saw Halloween, Alaska play, and they played songs off the second album, Too Tall to Hide, I'm celebrating that record because I love the fact that it was made, and how I felt when I first listened to it. So to me, that's how it always is. It's always redundant. You're always just trying to get back to that first place, which is beautiful.

CP: Something I've noticed with your projects is that there is a time between when the record is made and when you perform, where you have to figure out how to recreate things on stage. Is there a process to learning to recreate those recorded moments?

Pisano: Totally. That's the thing that is always trying to be preserved for me—being able to create arrangements that you're actually capable of doing live, that hold people as captive as when they're listening to the record by themselves in the car. And that kind of immediacy and closeness, finding a way to do that live, is much different than the record. You have to play with people's minds and their expectations in a different way, because they're not naturally captive. This [record] has even more of a unique thing going on, just because of the limitations that we have with only two people. And it's really funny—we stumbled upon that so earnestly and so blindly, it's almost impossible to take credit for it, because when it came to those arrangements, I just had bass pedals in my basement, and he came over one night with Jeremy Catterton and his girlfriend, and we were all drinking 99 Bananas, and I just brought these things out and started playing with them, and Brian's like, yeah, that would work. We can do that.

Moen: I think it's interesting. There are two ways of making records, in my mind. One is to just make something with freedom, with no limitations, and just really make whatever you want to make, and really that's what we've done. I wasn't originally going to be in the project. I was just recording Peter's solo album, and we got carried away. The other way of making an album is to try to capture what a band does, and I think that's just as worthwhile, it's just a totally different school of thought. And we didn't do that at all. We had never played live. It's interesting knowing that when Peter recorded the guitar and vocals, we had no idea of anything else that was going to happen. We recorded the entire album with just him, and then we just figured it out. And I think, for me, that was the most exciting part of it, watching everything unfold kind of accidentally.

CP: Do you get asked about the band name a lot, with Peter's first name as a part of the band's name?

Pisano: No, but it's funny, because some people say that our name is like a pun.

Moen: We hardly ever get asked about the name. People will refer to Peter, specifically, as Peter Wolf Crier. Like somebody writes a blurb about a show or something, and says, "Peter Wolf Crier played, and he was terrific."

Pisano: Who's Hootie? Which one of you guys is Hootie?

Moen: Totally! You'll be like Alice Cooper, and you just have to change your name to Peter Wolf Crier, because everybody starts calling you that anyway.

CP: What's the impact of signing to Jagjaguwar? Any changes you've noticed so far?

Moen: I don't think we know the full impact yet. I think it's just wider exposure. Being able to work with Jag, with their name in the industry, they have a lot of respect and they have a lot of listeners who will check out kind of anything they do, because they're trusted. So I think if nothing else, I take that as a huge compliment that these people who are so widely trusted put that trust in our music.

CP: What are you doing to get ready for your upcoming tour?

Pisano: I'm getting ready for the tour by not thinking about the tour. The tour thing was a very scary and daunting thing, because of the way I was experiencing it, relating to it. It seems very simple, and maybe most people look at it differently than me, but for my pedigree, when I understood being on the road for two months, I was like, holy shit. I'm going to be fucking on for two months. I'm going to be Peter Wolf Crier for two months straight, and I don't want to fucking do that. And I don't know when it was, but at some point in time I realized like, no, it's actually you are going to be on for like three hours a day, and then you are not that person for the rest of the time.

Moen: You're only performing for part of the day.

Pisano: It's really important for me to understand that now. I'm not on stage right now. The whole thing is a really fucked-up thing—I remember I called up Justin [Vernon] like three nights after the signing happened, and I hadn't talked to Justin at all leading up to that, and I was looking for the fucking secret. I wanted to know, how do you deal with this? I said, "Look, I'm going to give you a call again if I freak out." And he's like, "If you freak out in 15 minutes, call me." And I didn't learn anything from that conversation—there's no piece of wisdom that I took and was like, okay, now it's all better, but knowing that, feeling that kind of compassion from a human being, that meant a shit ton.

PETER WOLF CRIER play a CD-release show with Kill the Vultures on FRIDAY, MAY 21, at the TURF CLUB; 651.647.0486

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Turf Club

1601 University Ave. W.
St. Paul, MN 55104


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