There’s a hypothesized critical period to language acquisition that ranges from about 5 years old to puberty, in which humans develop their ability to communicate verbally and after which, find it difficult, if not almost impossible, to foster.
Peter Pisano, a former private school teacher and vocally active half of the Minneapolis folk duo Peter Wolf Crier, holds much the same for music, namely songwriting.
“If you are trying to go to your most natural and organic intuition, then the experiences you had at 10 years old shaped you just as much as anything you’ve done since,” Pisano said. “Most naturally, my instincts were mostly formed in fourth or fifth grade, listening to Beatles records.”
You could do worse for a springboard into songwriting than John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and Pisano has made a big splash with his band’s 2010 debut, “Inter-Be,” a lauded folk-pop record still finding its way into listeners’ earphones six months later. The success of it — coupled with a full touring schedule, including Saturday’s stop at Opolis in Norman — has afforded him the opportunity to ditch shaping minds for now, although he’s not missing it much.
“Performing occupies that same space in my life,” he said. “Teaching and music is the same thing for me. It’s going inside yourself, understanding the way you think, feel and process, and relating that to the way other people think, feel and process, and finding a way symbolizing and communicating that so that you can share a story.”
While he denied that teaching had any impact on him as a songwriter, or vice versa, his decisions have always followed a certain line of reasoning that add up to Peter Wolf Crier being worth shouting about.
The songs of “Inter-Be” came about at a blistering pace, in what Pisano claims was a single evening. He admired their simplicity; reveling in their delicate nature felt eras removed from the present, and he nurtured them like his children until unveiling them to weathered drummer and eventual partner Brian Moen to tailor them into their present state.
“Once Brian started to add his textures, it really put the steam behind the songs that I was feeling as I was writing them,” Pisano said.
Many hold the debut to be a strictly folk affair, but Pisano begs to differ. In folk, the strings and voice are the stars of the show, and Moen’s drums have come to be the Meg Ryan to Pisano’s Tom Hanks in what he calls a strictly pop relationship.
“It’s something that is so primitive and instinctual,” he said. “Drummers have this special connection with the very most intimate part of what a song is and is supposed to be.”
Realizing the impact this simple addition had on his batch of tunes, Pisano decided to make the temporary partnership permanent, and the duo hasn’t looked back, taking time only to pick an appropriately elementary, fable-like name for a pair that looks to become the thing of legend.
“It wasn’t important for Brian and I to give the band a name until we decided that we were going to be a band,” he said, “and it’s pretty clear that Peter Wolf Crier has to be me and Brian, and it’s only appropriate that he be the wolf … he’s such a beast on those drums.”