PETER WOLF CRIER Not pictured: a wolf.
Cameron Wittig

LIKE A RIGID SHOE that eventually gives, Peter Wolf Crier have grown accustomed to being a band in the traditional sense. That was not their initial thrust, though, and the fact that they've come this far—the better part of the last year was spent on tour, and the Minneapolis-based duo has just headed back out in support of Garden of Arms, their sophomore album—seems almost baffling to drummer Brian Moen.

"Inter-Be was really supposed to be Peter [Pisano, vocalist/guitarist]'s solo record, and our first live shows were actually more of a site-specific performance piece," says Moen. Peter Wolf Crier's first shows featured a serious of vignettes performed by actors and guided by a local director; Inter-Be served as the score, with each song played in different rooms throughout a house in Minneapolis. "Peter and I didn't even play in the same room most of the time, because the drums were too loud," Moen says, referencing the initial disconnect between the two of them. After such a unique—yet not necessarily unifying—experience for a burgeoning "band," adhering to the typical club setting was a bit of an adjustment.

"That was one of the most exciting things I've ever done, artistically speaking," says Moen. "And once we're inspired to take this project in another direction, we go for it; we like to keep things fresh. But for now, we're really excited about Garden of Arms and the potentiality of the songs. That alone is enlivening the live show for us."

Indeed, Garden of Arms has a malleable, experimental temperament that did not quite exist in the considerably straightforward, acoustic gospel of Inter-Be. Moen expresses this while discussing his percussive techniques: "This time around, I was able to write my drum parts knowing that I was going to be the one performing them live, so I felt like I was able to take some liberties." In a flash comparison, you can hear this difference—Inter-Be begins with "Crutch and Cane," a hollowed-out tune where the drums are more metronomic than anything else. On the other hand, Garden of Arms' "Right Away"—an aptly titled track to prime a listener for the band's new direction—features a blithe, varied fill that sounds as if it's in orbit with the reverse piano loops that begin the song.

This shift is undoubtedly situational, given the aforementioned premise of Inter-Be's inception, but also a product of indelible musical chemistry—bonded after a long haul together on the road. Garden of Arms was conceived almost immediately following seven straight months of tour, when Moen and Pisano had truly honed their sound as a pair and still possessed the lucid visions and raw textures of the things they'd seen around the country.

It should be mentioned, however, that the duo has become a trio as of late, with the addition of keyboardist Kyle Flater. Flater has played in the Twin Cities-based group Laarks with Moen for roughly six years, and according to Moen, he's the best possible addition. "There are a lot of weird things going on [in Garden of Arms], but Peter and I wanted to keep the live show as organic and natural as possible in spite of that. That's why we added Kyle; he's great with textures and really knows his place in the music. There will be no showing up and hitting play on some noise box this tour."