Listening to peaer is like watching a children’s marble maze in action. The way the marble slides up and down, back and forth, clattering its way through a series of angular obstacles with enough momentum and finesse to keep you entranced until it satisfyingly pops out at the bottom. The maze is intended to be playfully disorienting, and so are peaer. The band’s name (pronounced like the fruit) comes from frontman Peter Katz’s old Tumblr url, which was simply a reworking of Peter with an “a” instead of a “t.”
“I liked the idea that you didn’t really know how to pronounce it,” Katz, 23, said over the phone last week. “It distracts you from thinking it’s a real word.”
Peaer’s music isn’t quite as hard to make sense of, though. Like the marble in the maze, it’s just hard to keep track of. On their self-titled Tiny Engines (Jouska, The Hotelier, Adult Mom) debut, the slow chugs and monotone vocals on opener “Pink Spit” quickly curve into a swirling instrumental section, eventually dropping off into a thick muck of fuzzy riffage and strained vocals. Peaer aren’t conventionally melodic, nor are they particularly flashy, but you’ll be humming along by the end of track. They’ll make you work for it though, forcing you to pick apart the bassline or re-listen to that riff until it fully clicks. This gives peaer’s songs a deliberate lasting quality—the record came out almost a year ago but it really started sounding its best on recent playthroughs.
“It’s important to me to write a song that I’ll be able to play in a year and not be bored with,” he said. “That’s sort of always the goal I guess. To try and think about it in the long term.”
He views songwriting as more than just creating a stagnant piece of art, but rather making something that’s going to evolve and continue to hold meaning down the line, particularly on the stage.
“It’s also important to be open to changing the song over time to retain the energy and find new things about it that I like,” he said.
Interestingly, the band’s consciously mutating music is juxtaposed by lyrics that deal with what Katz calls “the cyclical, almost destructive nature of habit.” Lines like “I keep scratching the same itch,” “sick of being tired of myself,” and the particularly acute, “long week / long weekend / it’s still happening / and when it ends it will begin again,” all read like revelations of stasis during moments of clarity. Then there are songs like “Drunk” and “I.H.S.Y.A.” that are about masking those realizations, ultimately perpetuating the habits until the next reckoning.
“Often when people are drunk there’s this double body experience where it’s like your sober self vs. your drunk self,” Katz said. “That’s like a common trope in our world. So I was using that as a springboard for other times in life when we actively root against ourselves, or see ourselves from outside ourselves. In that song, it’s about disapproving. Like, ‘you’re being stupid.’”
“I.H.S.Y.A.”, which stands for “I hate seeing you around,” is the next track and it acts sort of like a response to “Drunk.”
“[It uses] the concept of ‘I have eyedrops in, so it looks like I’m sober but I’m actually, like, clouded.’ Basically using that as a metaphor for coping mechanisms or distractions that we use when we’re in uncomfortable situations,” he said.
Katz’s thoughtful responses mirrored the discretion that went into peaer, and it’s that level-headed character that’s helped the band develop a following through what Katz calls “organic reach.”
“I was looking for people to share it rather than a lot of press stuff. If you got a recommendation from your friend, or if someone posted about the music, it’s a little bit more meaningful than just like a song premiere or something like that.”
Peaer will be playing The Nicholas Cage in Albany with Prince Daddy & The Hyena, Full Body, Hate Club and Bruiser & Bicycle this Friday.
Photo by Hayden Sitomer. Pictured L-R: Jeremy Kinney, Peter Katz, Thom Lombardi