Peter Wolf Crier is a sensitive band name to be sure, but more in the Bon Iver sense than a Pedro the Lion ilk. The Minneapolis-based duo (or trio, of late) is the offspring of Chicago-bred singer Peter Pisano, with his unmistakable vocal cords cutting through the void. Both of the group's albums, 2010's Inter-Be and this year's Garden of Arms, nestle themselves comfortably into cold-weather playlists with introspective lyrics and melodies fit to ponder along with them. More on the new album from our sister paper City Pages here.
We caught Pisano during a day off in Portland. He was in a good mood, sort of, "I think I may have had some bad
Thai yesterday, but outside of that, I'm not in the van right now." We'll take it. Pisano, drummer Brian Moen, and keyboardist/guitarist Kyle Flater are traveling with Sondre Lerche, whom County Grind also interviewed, and providing backing support. With all of the introspection found in Peter Wolf Crier, we decided to discuss Pisano's early development as a musician and found out that the Stratocaster that belonged to his dad, Peter Pisano Sr., proved pivotal.
County Grind: What was it like growing up in the Chicago suburbs?
Peter Pisano: It was cool when we had little league, and once I grew out of sports, there really wasn't much more to connect me to other people. In short, it wasn't great after sports ended.
You hadn't found a musical place at that point then in your life?
Well, I had found musical places inside of myself but not Beatles records. I did have one really close friend that I played guitar with a lot. I wasn't aware of any music scene happening. There weren't people that I could go up and talk to and who were really doing anything musically. The closest thing that I had to being inspiring musically was going to Guitar Center and playing the guitars there. That was the closest thing that I had to feeling like I was around music.
I remember hanging out at a Guitar Center in Minneapolis in my youth as well. Most of the people there are playing the same Smashing Pumpkins riff over and over again, but it definitely gives you some inspiration to look at all those instruments. Did you get your first guitar from that Guitar Center?
The first guitar that I ever got, it was kind of a fluke the way that it went down. I think my dad said it was his. My dad played guitar when I was growing up. He was totally proficient at being able to play chords and strum, but he never really took it too much further than that. He had bought a Stratocaster from someone at the warehouse he was working at. I think the way that it was phrased, "It was his guitar, but I could play it." I think it was kind of an easy way for him to introduce an instrument into the house without necessarily having a very great sense of pressure that I had to take it in and actually start playing it.
But from that point forward, once that guitar spent more time in my room than it did in his room, then I think he felt more and more comfortable to be able to just support that habit. My dad was really, really incredible when it came to supporting us, supporting me musically. I don't really remember there being a time that I ever felt that my dad didn't take my music seriously. Even when I was in eighth grade, I felt like he took it seriously. He really respected that I gave a shit, and I always got that sense that there was nothing that was more important than that.
That's awesome when parents actually can make that leap with you.
Right. And there aren't too many ways in which they know how to do it. There's not too many ways they can relate to their kids, and I think it only becomes increasingly difficult as generations change profoundly. But that was one that was doable for him, and he understood really well.
So now compared to where you've gone with it, how has that conversation changed?
When I speak to my dad now, it's like catching up with an old friend that you haven't seen in a while -- where you guys have a real intense past. That changed in our dynamic in my mid-20s or so. That changes things. The music is just going to change as well. It's more or less he's so far on the outside of what I'm doing musically now, but he appreciates it from afar. He doesn't see me practice in my bedroom or jamming in the basement with my friends. He's not around for any of that, so all that he sees now is the finished product. I think for that reason he can... there's a bit more mystery shrouded around it, and I think that he's able to enjoy it even more. He was able to make the leap from Inter-Be to Garden of Arms without really blinking. Maybe it's because knows me so well, or maybe it's because we listened to the same records growing up. He seems that he's always able to understand where I'm at musically. And it always makes sense to him why I'm doing this now and why it's coming out like this now.
Did you inherit your singing voice from him or someone else in your family?
No, I don't think so. I've heard my singing voice change very much over the years. If you ever heard me sing in high school, I think it would sound like Dave Matthews. If you ever heard me sing in college, I probably would've sounded more like Jeff Tweedy. I'm not really entirely sure who it sounds like now. I think it's getting closer and closer to more natural habit. I don't think that I've entirely sunk or settled into either. I think there was a spell there where my throat and my chest were kind of at equilibrium, and they're probably going to be sitting at the same place for a while.
My singing voice is probably going to have a very similar timbre, but I feel like that's starting to change again. For so long, your singing voice gets affected by things both externally and internally. The singing voice inside your head starts guiding your voice, but then that's competing with puberty. That kind of thing is like your inner voice, your outer voice, your projecting voice, your silent voice. All those things are trying to get on the same page, and I don't think that that's there at all quite yet. I don't think they really are because the pure mechanics of how I talk and that are just continually changing. But I've enjoyed the sound of my own voice more and more as time has gone on.
Sondre Lerche. With Peter Wolf Crier. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, November
17, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tickets
cost $15. Click here.