BY CHRISTOPHER HEIM and COLIN HERZOG
On March 26 at 7:30 p.m., Luna Café will host the Dead Pigeons, a hit band out of Minneapolis
whose lively country-Mumford & Sons-esque sound getting attention all over the country. We
had the opportunity to sit down with Dead Pigeon’s song writer Drew Peterson for an exclusive
Chris: Who are the Dead Pigeons?
Peterson: Well, I’m Drew Peterson and I do the writing, guitar, and banjo. Then we have Gretta
Hunstiger, she does fiddle and backing vocals. Then we have Ryan Canyon who plays mandolin
and backing vocals. We also have John Reinhart on bass and Daryn Christensen on drums.
Colin: Okay, we also see an Andy Caroll on bass according to your website . . . .
Peterson: He is kinda our sub for us, he also plays bass for us once in a while.
Colin: So was it always you five?
Peterson: Yep, it tends to be us five
Colin: So how did the band come to be?
Peterson: I was in the north projects in the Minniapolis area . . . I initially played at one of my
favorite bars, which is a crappy CD bar in Minneapolis on Tuesday nights. I thought “I love
playing and it keeps me going,” so I did it for about five years believe it or not. During that time
period, a lot of local musicians moved in and the projects kept morphing into something different.
It was around that time Gretta hopped on board, she was the first, then Ryan was the next, then
Daryn and John joined last year.
Colin: So, when did you guys start calling yourselves the Dead Pigeons?
Chris: Yeah, what was the inspiration behind that name?
Peterson: You know, the funny part about that is the place I was talking about didn’t know how
to bill it. I just didn’t care, so they were billing the act under my name. And, well, I simply don’t
have that great of a name for music. At first it was the “Amazing Drew Peterson” . . . but then we
went through many other names before finally settling on Dead Pigeons. In a way it is us taking a
shot at ourselves. We all work dead-end jobs and what brings us together is the music, so the
name is kind of a statement about us.
Colin: We listened to your album and supposedly you guys are working on your sophomore
Peterson: Yeah, we are actually working on that right now. We have been writing it for a while.
It’s going pretty well, we have 6-8 songs finished and we still have plenty more we are working
on. We don’t know what it’s going to turn into but it’s a fun album. It’s always difficult keeping a
vision of it but it’s a fun album.
Chris: What can listeners expect out of the music from the next album compared to the first?
Peterson: It think it’s more upbeat than what we normally do. It’s got kinda a darker theme but
it’s still fun music . . . I mean . . . I love mixing happy music with dark themes. A lot of it is about
what we are going through, which is the frustration of general existence and the prospects of the
future. It should be interesting; we are really shooting high and aiming to make a more cohesive
album. I kinda miss that in music these days where it’s all about the singles. I miss the old days
were albums were more cohesive and had a point, which is what we are aiming for. It’s not just
song-to-song, but works as an abled body
Chris: I hear that! What are the main influences of the Dead Pigeon sound?
Peterson: Funny thing is, we come from different backgrounds, so we have different influences.
Personally I like to write, so lot of writing influences. I remember wanting my music to sound
like Tom Waits, Van Morrison, and Led Zeppelin. This is common for all of us, but not exactly.
Gretta is into hip-hop, Ryan is into a lot of that bluegrass and Daryn is into that hippie stuff like
the Grateful Dead. All works to bring a different vibe to the music and I think it works well.
Colin: Do you guys tour outside of Wisconsin and Minnesota?
Peterson: We are doing a lot in the Midwest, although recently we did a West Coast run, we went
to North Dakota, Canada, Montana, Washington, and Oregon. That was a two week run and it
was good. We also did Texas and Oklahoma. We also have a slot at New Mexico coming up.
Colin: I also noticed that your music is neither on iTunes or Spotify. What’s the reasoning behind
Peterson: To be honest, we didn’t have any intentions other than to make great music; that was
our goal. We are not very good at business quite frankly. We just have never got around to it. The
album has been selling very well for us and gigging has gotten crazy for us. We are literally
gigging 5-6 days a week. We have no business behind us. We just haven’t found the time. I know
that is a horrible answer (laughing). As far as organizing we just haven’t found a chance.
Colin: Well, it’s an honest answer. So when did Jen come into the mix? She is the manager right?
According to the website?
Peterson: Yeah, she is the only one that does any kind of business for us and it’s made a huge
impact for us. She is very organized and very on top of things. If it wasn’t for her, things would
be a lot different. Booking and contacting interviews all falls on her. She basically quite her job in
order to manage us since it was taking up a lot of her time. Yeah, it’s made all the difference to
Colin: Well that’s amazing. I’m glad you guys are doing so well. I was going to ask then: Where
did you guys record your first album? Did one of you have a home studio or does Jen help reserve
a place in the area?
Peterson: The first album we recorded through a buddy who used to work at a school that taught
recording and he basically only records friends in a weird old school. So it was a cool vibe, very
striped down. But on the new album we have taken a whole new approach through another buddy
that’s an engineer. We are basically doing it out of a drummer’s house…I probably shouldn’t say
this but, the days of big studios are coming to an end because it has become so easy to record. I’m
sure it will come back around when people want it very polished. But for what we do, it works
perfect. We make sure it stays stripped down even though we probably could polish the crap out
of it. So yeah, we are basically doing it at home.
Colin: In that case, where did you guys film the “Drunken Banjo” music video?
Chris: Yeah, that music video was one of my favorite things; I was showing it to all my friends.
What was the inspiration behind that video?
Peterson: The inspiration came from “Trailer Park Boys,” ever heard of that? It’s a show up in
Colin and Chris: No.
Peterson: You should look it up it’s a hilarious show. Yeah, so it’s basically about these guys
that live in a trailer park up in Canada and it’s a complete debacle of a show. There is an episode
of the show were this one guy in their group of friends gets busted for drugs and he has to do a
public service announcement about not doing drugs for kids. So he is horribly afraid to speak in
front of people, so the guys make puppets of themselves to give the speech. It’s a very funny
episode basically. It was from that and Netflix recently picked it up. That’s where the idea for the
video came from . . . .
We are a small band and we were joking that we need a music video, and someone said
“Let’s do puppets!” So after a couple of cocktails, we tried to film the video that same night with
the puppets. Couple of friends from another band was over and helped with the camera and extra
stuff. Funny part is we drank too much, so that first night the camera girl suddenly goes “Hey,
wait a minute. How does this thing turn on!”, so we missed half the video! So we finished the
video that second night. So it was two nights having some drinks and having some fun. So it’s
fun, everywhere we go people just want to know about those dam puppets! (Laughing) Kinda
Colin: Well, it certainly is a unique video. So, what vibe are you guys going for with your music?
Like, what kinds of music do you guys enjoy playing?
Peterson: Well, it’s a question I always struggle with because personally I haven’t changed that
much since I started playing music. What is weird for me is that I used to get characterized
underneath “jam band,” which was always hilarious to me because I don’t jam at all. I don’t like
solos, I’m more of a songwriter. Then we got shipped over into the “old country” category, then
bluegrass turned huge in our area so people called us “bluegrass” or “new-grass” or something
like that. I gotta be honest, none of that seems to fit for me. I’m happy with people calling us
whatever they want. The hard part is that we don’t particularly shoot for a genre, we just try to
write a good song. I just write and the bands finds things to attach themselves to. There is some
bluegrass in the album’s music and even instances of “waltz” which is pretty rare in modern
music. We are not trying to break new ground, but we do find ourselves crossing over a bit so it
makes it harder.
Colin: True, and “genre” tends to be a loaded term anyway.
Peterson: Yeah, and the answer that some people would give you that really annoy me are things
like “We are a blues band with a touch of reggae and a bunch of funk” and I’m like, “Ehh . . . no
you’re not.” (Laughing)
Colin: Yeah, you guys have a pretty interesting aesthetic going on, a Midwestern band with a
banjo . . . I wouldn’t have expected that (Laughing).
Peterson: Yeah, well I’ve been playing this style of music for 20 years. What’s cool to me is that
when first doing it, playing the banjo and mandolin, everybody kept coming up to me and asking
me “What are those guitars?” and the nice part about it is that they are not asking that anymore.
So now people know what they are. It’s definitely made life a lot easier (Laughing).
Colin: So what do you like about the banjo vs. the guitar? I mean, you play both but what is so
appealing about the banjo?
Peterson: Personally I just picked up a banjo recently and it helps when writing because it
inspires certain things. We used to have a bandmate that played banjo, he left for another project .
. . On a guitar there is only so many ways you can play a C-chord and it starts to sound the same
after a while. With another instrument different feelings and emotions come out of it. There are
less strings but it opens up a whole new level of musicianship. I feel a lot of people get annoyed
by it but I feel it’s a wonderful instrument.
Chris: Well, it certainly sounded beautiful on the album.
Colin: Your website described your live shows as being “intimate.” How are your live shows set
up? What was the largest audience you’ve had?
Peterson: I think the most interesting thing about us is our history. I’ve played both theater and
bars. The new band has pushed us in a way in which we can do both. We actually like to go with
the vibe of the room and how it feels. If we feel people want to get rowdy, we play rowdy. If they
want to hear something they can sit and listen to, we play things they can sit and listen to. I think
it’s a rare thing with bands today that can do both. I personally don’t know of any that can do
both. As far as size of the crowds, the biggest we’ve had was at the Cultural Center in
Minneapolis, which was two people short of selling out. So there must have been around 800
people there. That was one of the bigger shows. We’ve also done bluegrass festivals where there
must have been thousands of people there . . . .
Chris: Were there any standout moments that occurred during Dead Pigeon concerts?
Peterson: Well, for the band we get these moments were we are in the zone. Playing live can be
this wonderful tightrope thing where you have moments of terror and moments of joy. To point to
one exactly is hard for me. I’ve had large-crowd concerts where even a mistake heightens the
experience for both us and the crowd. We are doing very well and we are playing for crowds that
don’t even know us and it doesn’t fail that they end up dancing by the end of the night.
Chris: It also says on your website that you guys do “obscure covers”. What kind of covers and
why do you play them?
Peterson: The covers came after years of me playing at bars. I’ve been a solo songwriter for
many years, so you can imagine being in a crowded redneck bar and saying you are playing a
song you wrote. Well, they kinda want to kill ya! So I would do covers but not the standard ones
like “Brown Eyed Girl” because nobody wants to hear that. So it came out of that. Sometimes I
would take this approach were I cover songs by artists I don’t like to get a feel for who the artists
are. For example, I’m not a fan of Prince but we would do a cover of “Nothing Compares 2 U”
because I don’t think people realize how good of a song that is. It’s interesting to try to feel back
despite that I think . . . well . . . Prince is a weirdo (Laughing). We also do this medley that
emerged out of my time playing bars. I was trying to arrange the songs and realized they follow a
similar pattern, so we cover about 20 songs in this medley. So they flow seamlessly from one to
the other. Lately we’ve been doing covers of songs from Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails in
order to surprise people since they wouldn’t expect an outfit like us to do so.
Chris: Just out of curiosity, since I’m a huge Alice in Chains and Nine Inch Nails fan, which
Peterson: The Alice in Chains one is “Rooster”, which is a fun song to play . . .The Nine Inch
Nails song is called “Wish”, that one is a blast to play. Although, we can’t perform that often,
especially if there are kids in the audience since it has a lot of cussing in it (Laughing).
Colin: You said you played solo for a while, so what is the group dynamic like? How often do
you guys hang out when you are not practicing?
Peterson: Well, the thing is I’m super proud of the members of the band. I just made the personal
decision many years ago to start playing, which is suicidal in the climate we are in. These guys
just slowly came around and the jobs are secondary. We are just practicing 5-6 days a week. As
far as hanging out, I really hired for personality so we just really love each other and love hanging
out. We are together, especially in the car when riding toward gigs, so it’s important that you
really like the people you’re working with. When we are up on stage smiling, we are not faking it.
We really love each other and being together. Corny, but it’s totally true. So as far as hanging, we
do it too much (Laughing)!
Colin: So this may sound like a weird question but who gets to pick the music in the car? What
do you guys listen to while driving?
Peterson: You know what’s funny? We actually don’t listen to a whole lot while in the car. I
know that sounds weird, but a lot of what we do listen to is a ton of local music. We like to
support people who are as crazy as we are and try to do what we do . . . . Some of it is a thousand
times better than the stuff that is played nationally.
Colin: Did the taste in the audience vary when it came to touring the West Coast? Like Northern
California vs Montana?
Peterson: Well, we spent most of our West Coast tour in Oregon and there is definitely a group
of people that have a taste for this kind of music. The crowds there don’t categorize but just
listen, so the crowds are great. I didn’t see too much of a difference in the audiences according to
state. It winds up being the same.
Colin: So how is word of your band spreading since you don’t have much of an online presence?
Peterson: It’s hard because it’s changing every day and the further we go along. We started the
West Coast tour immediately after the first album dropped, so the audiences there heard about us
through word-of-mouth or were in the venue to see the other band. Our videos have been doing a
great job of gaining us notoriety. The album has been spreading like a virus, but in a good way.
Recently we were contacted by a venue in Texas, who were wondering if we were coming around
the area since they just heard our album.
Colin: So how do people acquire your album? Jen was nice enough to send us a copy.
Peterson: You can buy them off our website or download it off bandcamp.com. Hopefully we
can get the music on iTunes or Spotify soon.
Colin: Are you guys expanding into other forms of merchandise?
Peterson: We are presently having shirts being made but with the playing it’s hard to keep up
with the commerce side…So we tend to give a lot of stuff away.
Colin: Okay, just curious since merchandise is nice way of free advertising, especially with a
band with as fun of a name as yours. It’s one of those names where you see it and you just have to
Peterson: Yeah, we get plenty of people who love the name and others who are like “Why the
heck would you call yourself that?” One older lady in Iowa said she loved our music but she said
she loved pigeons more (Laughing). She literally thought we had something against pigeons. She
is like “Well, I don’t understand why you want them dead!” and I’m like “That is not what it
means, it’s just a name!” (Laughing).
Chris: Then I guess she wasn’t too pleased with the album cover either?
Peterson: Yeah (Laughing).
Colin: Who designed the cover?
Peterson: A friend of ours, a street artist in Minneapolis who is named Mike Simons. He’s been
blowing up and is doing stuff all over the world. I met him through a friend and he just loves
Colin: Have you played in Green Bay before?
Peterson: We have not. We would play stuff in Door Country but not Green Bay.
Colin: Yeah, you guys are booked at the Lunar Café, which is a place that I didn’t know had
Peterson: A friend of ours played there and spoke positively of it. It’s like that for a lot of us
musicians, it’s word-of-mouth.
Colin: Do you guys allow recordings at your concerts?
Peterson: Oh yeah. We have a lot of bootleggers in our area [Minneapolis].
Colin: Are all of you Minnesota natives?
Peterson: I’m the only one that is technically from Minneapolis. Ryan is from the suburbs, both
Daryn and John are from a little town in Wisconsin. We forgive them (Daryn and John) for it!
Colin: I don’t know, Wisconsin is a pretty good state.
Peterson: I’m just kidding, we love it. The funny part is that there is no difference between us,
the two states. They look the same, the people are exactly the same. You guys may have better
football but we may reinvent that!
Colin: You guys have hockey, which automatically makes you better (Laughing) . . . Well, we’ve
been talking for a while, Do you have any more questions Chris?
Colin: Okay, do you have any questions for us?
Peterson: No, but I appreciate your guy’s time though
Colin: No, thank you so much for talking with us. Do you guys have a Facebook page?
Colin: Alright, then we’ll give you guys the link to the interview when we post this up on the
Peterson: Are you guys going to be at the show?
Colin: Yes, it’s on March 26 at 7:30 in the Luna Café; we’ll try to be there.
Peterson: Cool, I’d like to meet you guys.