It seems as if youíve been on tour forever. How has that been going?
Itís been hit or miss. Thereís always some markets that are great and others that are really tough. We played in Atlanta and down the street Tapes Ďn Tapes was playing and five minutes later tUnE-YarDs was playing. That was a Tuesday night. That gives a good indication of how many bands are out there and how many bands are competing for a finite number of fans in a given night. We played in Savannah, Georgia a few days ago and it was very clear that Savannah isnít a market being hit up by as many indie bands. For that reason, there were a lot more people out and there were a lot more people who donít necessarily go to indie rock shows who were out. There were people who heard that a band was coming to town so they went out and listened to the record and studied up before the show. It made me think that thatís what touring mustíve been like ten years ago. There would be 50 bands on the road at any given time trying to criss-cross and win over the same group of fans. On nights when weíre not competing with multiple bands in a city, itís a fine night. If there are 75 people out to see us play, thatís enough for us. We get super excited. When there are literally 5 people out there it can be really difficult.
Last year, you guys recorded two Daytrotter Sessions. What was that experience like?
There were two very different experiences. We met up with the guys from Daytrotter in Austin at Rachel Rayís party. It was a really big party at SXSW. Daytrotter recorded a few sessions earlier in the day. If you read the pieces written about both sessions, theyíre very different. At SWSW, we woke up at 8 despite having played seven shows in three days. It was pretty exhausting but we got up super early and turned a restaurant into a small performance space. We got everything set up and we got a soundboard going to record the session. There was a really great sense of camaraderie to it. It was almost like we were building our own festival for the afternoon. It was really special.
When we went into the Daytrotter studio, the second time, there were three bands going in that day. Iím amazed at how they take the time to be articulate with the articles they write. You can tell Seanís heart is in it. He must have so much heart. For me, my personal preference was Austin. That was how I got to know the people at Daytrotter.
Are there plans to do a third session?
Iím not sure. We played in Iowa City and Sean came. I hope that our story with Daytrotter and with Sean isnít over. I donít know if bands do three Daytrotters. That seems like a lot. I feel pretty lucky to have done two.
How do you feel Garden of Arms compares to Inter-Be?
Itís a progression. I donít feel like Iíve said that out loud yet. I think Garden of Arms is a record that Iíve been trying to make for a long time. If I was older when I made Inter-Be maybe it wouldíve turned out more like Garden of Arms. To compare the two, I think as a songwriter I grew up a little bit.
In the song ďSettling It OffĒ, you sing, ďI wonít die, I wonít grow.Ē That specific line really struck a chord with me. Could you talk about the lyrics to that song?
ďSettling It OffĒ for me is an angry song. I donít personally hold anger to be a virtue. The song looks at the relationship between growth and death and birth. Personally, in my journey, I had to kill my conception of God before I could grow to be closer in some spiritual way to it within myself. To me, throughout the album, Iím trying to reclaim some words and terms that were given to me with a very specific meaning that I donít think that they innately hold. Even in a song that sounds like itís an early 90ís hip-hop thing, even then itís appropriate to talk about death and dying in a way thatís beautiful.
Would you consider death to be a major theme of the album?
Certainly. Itís difficult for me to call anything a theme of the record because, at least lyrically, each song contains its own message. The subject, object, and verbs of every song are only referencing themselves within that song. Itís difficult in that way to call it a theme, but I would call it a theme in the sense that it continues to pop its head up throughout various songs. ďCut A HandĒ is a very similar message but a little bit more personal than ďSettling It OffĒ. It definitely pops up quite a bit.
ďBeachĒ was featured as an iTunes Indie Spotlight. Did that bring any extra success to the band?
I donít think it really did all that much for us, to be honest. The song was downloaded over 100,000 times. I donít think that we sold 5,000 records on iTunes because of it. In fact, the number of records we sold at that same time was only a few hundred. It really depends on what you determine to be success. It was successful in that a lot of people heard it and it was a part of peopleís lives for a day. Iím under no false pretense that just because someone hears something of mine and they sit down and listen to it that thatís something that theyíre going to continue to do from that day forward or even purchase the rest of the record. For a lot of people, they enjoyed that song and were probably happy that they didnít have to pay for it and that was probably it for them. As far as my musicís concerned, it was a part of someoneís life for a day. I donít think they need any more of it than that. I can be grateful for that fact. As far as giving the band more momentum or anything, I donít think it had that big of an impact.
You did a really great cover of ďPlace To BeĒ by Nick Drake. When I listened to it, it was like hearing the song for the first time. What was your approach to the song?
Brian and I were about to play our release show for Inter-Be. When we ran through the set, it was 30-35 minutes. We needed to go longer than that and knew that we needed to bring a cover song in. Picking a song to cover, for me, was pretty easy. Weíre actually doing a different cover now. My intention behind both songs is how much I love those songs. Being able to perform them and allowing them to come through my hands to my guitar and from my mouth to the microphone makes me feel so alive. Itís about wanting to connect further to a song that I already feel connected to. There arenít any drums on the original recording of the song. That made it way more interesting for Brian. His preference is to be totally different than the original intention. I created an intro for the song and once Brian started playing, it felt like the first step towards Garden of Arms. It felt like the first time that people who listen to Peter Wolf Crier got to see Brian drumming to his fullest capability. You got to see him at 100%. It was great to stretch our set with that song. It just worked. It feels like an electric version of the song. It feels like thereís a thicker spark running through it.
Peter Wolf Crier is currently a part of Jagjaguwar Records, which is a well-respected label in the indie music scene. Did you feel any added pressure from that while making Garden of Arms?
Iím very much proud of the fact that weíre a part of Jagjaguwar. We really like telling people that weíre on that label because itís the coolest thing. People respect it and thatís really great. Itís very flattering. I personally donít feel like Iím one of the artists that make Jagjaguwar a hip label. I donít feel any sort of responsibility to maintain a certain image because I feel like the guys who made the label what it is made it that way a long time before I became a part of it. Iíve been writing songs for a long time before I joined Jagjaguwar so I feel like we both have our own stories. I donít think that anything that I do is completing their story and I donít feel that itís their job to complete mine.
I really love the fact that I can talk to my label whenever I want to talk to them. I love that when it comes to make decisions about how to put out music and what the most appropriate way to get it in peopleís hands, I can call up those guys while their making plans for one of the biggest indie records of the year (in the case of Bon Iver) and theyíll take the time to talk to me about that. That to me is something is one of the most substantial things about the label. They actually care about my record just as much as they care about any other record they put out. Itís probably for that reason that theyíve been able to be as successful as they are.
You mentioned that you donít feel as though Peter Wolf Crier isnít a part of what makes Jagjaguwar Records the label it is today. What do you feel you bring to the table?
Thatís a difficult question to answer because it makes it seem like they chose Peter Wolf Crier over all of these other bands. I donít understand that to be the case. Itís not like every band in America lined up and they picked us. I donít see there being the same amount of intention behind us getting signed and not someone else. I donít know if thereís a very specific reason for why it was us. More so than anything else, I think itís just about good songs. People will enjoy music like ours. Itís a really genuine and subtle craft to put together these songs. At the same time, I donít think that youíre going to pick up a Peter Wolf Crier record and hear one song and think it was one of your favorite songs and say it changed the way you hear music. It doesnít seem to have that kind of impact on people. If I had to guess why Jag wanted us to be part of their roster, I think itís a general preference for bands that can put out quality music and continue to grow overtime. They have enough artists that will leave a large footprint. I donít think they expect us to have that. I think they just like the way we walk.