Peter Katz writes & performs as the core of Peaer, a Brooklyn-via-Purchase band that takes cues from 90s era indie rock, slowcore & math rock. Released in late September ‘16, Peaer’s self-titled sophomore release [their Tiny Engines debut] nears it’s first birthday. Clocking in at only 25 minutes, Peaer is one of the more easily re-listenable releases that might get lumped in with the “emo revival” movement. It is a semi-sweet, somewhat depressive selection of songs — a foreboding record that foregoes catharsis. At times Peaer feels heavy, but Katz’s lyrics provide enough boyish charm to prevent the LP from carrying too much weight. If you are feeling stuck, searching for a way to stay in motion, you might find a suitable soundtrack in Peaer.
We caught up with Peter, who in the comfort of his own back yard, was kind enough to talk over the phone for about an hour — only briefly pausing to shoo away the city rats that were desperately trying to join our conversation. He let us in on what Peaer have been up to over the past year, what they have in store for the near future & where the best pizza in America is.
hope: The self-titled is almost a year old now. What have you been up to since it’s release?
Peter: I’ve recently been booking a ton. The record came out in late September & we did a three week tour in November & another tour down to SXSW. We had a booking agent for a short amount of time, but it was pretty clear that he couldn’t really devote a lot of time to booking us shows. We’re still great friends, but I decided to just do it myself again.
hope: Peaer started out as a bedroom project right?
Peter: Yeah, I guess so. It started out as me in my apartment, but I always intended on starting a band & playing shows. It’s been a little weird lineup-wise because I’ve moved a couple times over the last year. The line up was different when we first started & also when we recorded the record, but it is falling into place now. Since November, Jeremy Kinney has joined on drums & he is truly the second person in this band.
As a band, we haven’t been able to work on a ton of new music over the last year, but I have this log of songs that I’ve been able to give a lot of my attention to. It’s really exciting that we’re starting to cracking into those now. They feel like my best work so far — so I’m really excited to hear them.
hope: So are you writing all of the parts for them?
Peter: No, not really. With the more recent batch of songs, I have definitely just put a lot of thought into general arrangement. For most of my songs — once we bring them to a full-band setting — they automatically change. So, rarely, when I do have specific parts, there is a chance that they won’t survive the process.
hope: I feel like some of your songs have naturally evolved over time already.
Peter: Yeah, definitely. I’m glad we’ve gotten to do a couple of live sessions. Because the songs have definitely evolved over times that we’ve played them. I’m glad that’s represented.
hope: I feel like Peaer often gets labeled different genres that don’t really fit your music [ie. “Slacker Rock”, “Math Rock”]. Do you have any preference about what you get labeled as or what you like to call yourselves?
Peter: I do like the inclusion of playing with time & “Math Rock” elements. There’s this one person that billed us as “Soft Math” & I always thought that was nice. I always really liked “Guitar Rock” because it’s so plain & means nothing. Or like, “Guitar Music”. I definitely make it a point to feature the guitar when I can.
hope: What made you start playing music?
Peter: I started taking guitar lessons when I was in 4th grade. I think it was probably because Billie Joe Armstrong — I loved Green Day growing up & I still do. I guess that was it. It sort of became the thing that I wanted to do. I can’t pin down the exact influence, but I definitely loved Green Day.
hope: Were you more of a 'Dookie' guy or an 'American Idiot' person?
Peter: Well when I was that age American Idiot was about to come out. I remember looking forward to it, so I must have listened to them before hand. I forget what my first Green Day song was though...
hope: Mine was one of the songs from ‘Warning’.
Peter: That has some of my favorite Green Day songs on it. ‘Macy’s Day Parade’ is a beautiful song. I also got into Weezer & bought 'The Green Album'.
The funny thing about those two bands is, I heard that Rivers Cuomo loathes Billie Joe Armstrong. He’s very jealous. Rivers Cuomo apparently is very methodical & technical — almost scientific — about writing songs & he kinda has this grudge against Billie Joe who can just write a good pop song in a sitting. I love that story whether or not it’s true.
hope: Tell me about SUNY Purchase. I feel like a lot of great indie music comes out of there…
Peter: Purchase is a cool place, I think it’s important to note that the experience at Purchase really depends on who you ask. It depends on what classes they offer each year & what teachers are there — it’s constantly changing & it’s a relatively young school so it’s very dynamic.
The area of West Chester is not super habitable for young kids — there’s not a ton to do. It’s more of a mall-type, metropolitan suburbia — so Purchase was very insulated. But it had this student-run center that kids would book shows at & it became this popular tour route for certain bands leaving NYC. It sort of sparked an indie-rock community. Purchase bands like Spookhouses, Sirs & Weird Korea have all gone on to form bands like Sheer Mag & LVL UP. Mitski, Dan Deacon & Regina Spektor all went there. There’s this really awesome community that is still relatively strong, but I think that more recently it’s been harder. The community has thinned a bit & it’s become a less-popular tour route spot because it’s been harder for students to book shows there because the administration has changed.
When I went there I got to go see Guerrilla Toss, Tigers Jaw, LVL UP, Mount Eerie & all of these cool bands all of the time. That’s how I spent my time because those shows were always happening. There are students that I’ve talked to more recently where that happens way less often. They just don’t have the same experience… But who’s to say that it won’t happen again.
Purchase has this really cool legacy, I just think that it happens in waves.
hope: How did self-releasing compare to putting out your latest record on Tiny Engines?
Peter: World’s apart, really. I didn’t really have a press campaign for my first record, so it was pretty much like “Hey, I’m releasing a song today. The whole record comes out in a month if anybody cares!” Then I emailed a small Connecticut blog and was like “Do you want to write about my record” & they were just like “sure.” That was the only press for the first one, really.
Part of the deal with Tiny Engines is that they have a PR thing, ya know? So the more recent record had singles premiered on publications — which was refreshing because I was able to achieve a certain distance from the songs. Reading interpretations & analysis of the songs was really cool. It definitely made me think about my lyrics & my writing a whole lot more from a critical perspective. Luckily most of the things that were said were good or relative praise. The review from Post-Trash, if I remember correctly, was lengthy & very thoughtful. I remember the author messaged me & was just like “I really like your record”. That was amazing. A very literalization of that experience.
hope: Were the songs on the S/T mostly about one particular person? It seems to me that there is a certain flow to your record where the songs point to a singular being towards the end...
Peter: Well yeah, I kind of like the idea that the record is chronological — so you could maybe trace the thought from the beginning & see it develop over time if you wanted to relate all of the songs to one person.
But no, the record is not about one particular person. It’s more so about what happened with multiple people. In many of these cases these are the things that keep happening. There’s a lot of repetition in the record — a lot of talk about “scratching the same itch” or doing the same thing & expecting a different result. I would say that is absolutely valid to call it semi-depressive.
hope: Did you write most of the songs during one specific time or were they drawn out?
Peter: My roommate & I were playing in this band & we were going to school together. So we had a year of writing. We would play sets of songs from the old record then we would gradually add these new songs in over time. It kind of ended up colliding with the actual recording of the record. We actually ended up finishing “For The Rest of Your Life” during takes on the day of or the day before finishing the record...
hope: Is there a new LP on the works? I saw some tweets regarding Peaer II...
Peter: Yeah, absolutely — It’s definitely in the works. I plan to record it & have it done by the end of 2017. So after the tour this fall I’d like to hunker down for the rest of the year & just like… Make the record. Yeah… That’s the plan I guess...
But we’re putting two songs onto a split 7” at some point, so we have that to deal with beforehand & there’s just a lot of songs that I want to include on the record. I’d like to give ourselves an ample amount of time to learn all of them & digest all of them.
hope: I’m looking forward to it.
Peter: Me too! I’m really looking forward to sharing the songs that I’ve been writing.
hope: You’re living with some other working musicians, right?
Peter: Yeah, I live with Natasha Jacobs, who plays in this really great band called Thelma — they’re also a Tiny Engines band. I also live with my friend Will Rutledge, who used to play in this band called Pupppy, but he’s just been working on his own music now. He’s been one of my best friends forever… Him & Natasha are also together. We also live with our other friend Dylan who is a model & a student. She’s really wonderful.
hope: Do you ever collaborate at home?
Peter: Yeah, we’ll bounce ideas off of each other or ask each other for help, ya know? We’ll play on each others songs when we’re recording if needed. It’s a very open environment. Sometimes it gets very noisy — because we literally live on top of each other. So it’s kind of funny in that way. There can be a lot of cacophonous noise, but it’s pretty beautiful.
hope: What do you do when you’re not touring?
Peter: I sell chocolate at a chocolate factory in Williamsburg. It’s called Mast Brothers. It’s a goofy job, but it’s kind of fun.
hope: Don't you do music lessons too?
Peter: Yeah, I just started doing that. It’s been amazing. I’ve been loving it so much. They are all college students. The youngest person I’m teaching so far is starting college in the fall, so it’s more like peers — usually people that are fans of the band. I do video lessons, so there’s a student in Texas & there’s a student in North Carolina.
hope: We were both at Shea Stadium during Sinai Vessel’s show which was shut down...
Peter: That was whack!
hope: Very whack…
Peter: Nobody knew what was happening. I felt so bad for Sinai too. It was heartbreaking.
hope: Shea Stadium has since been forced to close it’s doors. What has been the climate of New York’s D.I.Y spaces since then?
Peter: There has been a noticeable shift to bars, for sure. There are some all ages spaces that are killing it. Sunnyvale Brooklyn has really stood up & booked a lot of great shows. Ariel [Vanguard Booking] is a talent buyer there & he used to run Palisades — which is like my favorite place ever. So I was really sad when that went down.
I think that Shea is like a huge blow because it was such a great place to see shows — but there are other places that are kind of happening. There are still shows every night. It seems like everything is still moving forward.
hope: There has to be a lot more awareness of law enforcement, right?
Peter: That’s the cool thing about Silent Barn & Sunnyvale — they’re legal places. So you don’t have to worry about that as much. There are some places that still feel like a low-key DIY space. There’s this one place called ‘The Glove’ which is around now. It has that great DIY vibe, but you have have to be cautious of police presence. People are definitely aware of their space & places aim to be a lot safer now.
hope: What’s better: New York City pizza or New Haven Pizza?
Peter: I just like a good slice of pizza. Those are definitely the only two places with ‘good’ pizza.
Fuck. I need to consciously think about that. Next time I go to New Haven…. New Haven Pizza is like incredible. I don’t think you understand. Fuck yeah. New Haven pizza. New Haven pizza is better.
hope: I think so too. Every time I go to New Haven, I make it a point to stop at Frank Pepe’s.
Peter: That’s the way.
Peaer plays Burlington, VT, on Saturday, July 29th with Amelia Devoid & Milk at SideBar. Entry to the event is free, but come prepared with a $5-10 donation for the performing artists. RSVP to the event here.
- hope all is well