Inside Their View, an interview with Peter and the Lion.
We recently talked with the band Peter and the Lion. They’ve released a track called Inside Your View and from the moment I heard it I knew it was something special. I believe sometimes we underestimate the power one song can have. There are times one song can change a life or start a movement. It is my opinion all of those things could be true for this group and their work. We hope with this interview we can be a part of that.
Setlist: So where are you guys based out of?
Peter: We live in Los Angeles California in a neighborhood called Echo Park.
Setlist: I hear that's where all the up and comers are
Peter: That's right
Setlist: So what brought you guys together?
Peter: I met Haider in Hollywood at a piano bar, a lot of great local artist go there and I was playing with my buddies, then Haider showed up. From there we started playing music together and writing and realized we have similar styles.
Haider: I came here hoping to start an Americana folk style band I was really looking for someone that could fit my style and someone who style I could complement as well. When Peter and I got together we started writing and the first song that came out of that was inside your view. After that we just realized we have some chemistry
Setlist: Anna when did you come into the picture?
Anna: I’m peters sister and a singer myself. So they became Peter and the Lion and I went to a couple of gigs and it just became obvious that their style lends itself to more than just two voices. The more the merrier type of thing, for what they were trying to do. they needed more voices and a female voice really lightened it up.
Peter: Not to mention i played in LA for years and i would always have anna sit in to add a different dimension to the music.
Setlist: Where did the name peter and the lion come from?
Haider: That’s a good question Haider in Arabic actually means lion, it’s typically a religious name but is also given by parents who hate their child.
Setlist: So now that you’re a trio who would you describe your roles?
Peter: Well Haider and I write all of the music and Anna comes in and helps write the harmony.
Haider: a lot of times we'll write line by line and word for word and Pete and I go through it, so when we say we co write a song we really co write a song. Now with Anna being a trained vocalist it really helps us be precise with the technicality of harmonizing.
Peter: That’s the thing with Anna, she has been doing acappella for years, and her ear is so tuned in, it’s easy with her to get it right in one session.
Setlist: That’s interesting because I was going to ask if the harmony between you was something that came naturally or was it something you had to work at?
Anna: I think that with Peter and Haider had a really good groove and music writing relationship before I got to them, but what we have to work on now is that we have three really different voices of various levels of training and style. That’s the one thing we work on a lot, balancing how different the sounds are and trying to really listen and focus on getting to that one sound that we really want.
Haider: As far as the style goes, it really started with inside your view. I’m half Mexican and half Pakistani, and obviously listen to a lot of Mexican mariachi music and I wanted to meld it with an American sound. Mariachi is really like the folk music of Mexico and always believed that the combination would create a really cool sound. So those harmonies are a combination of American folk and mariachi that we have been utilizing.
Setlist: Haider you said you moved to la last year where was it you moved from and why?
Haider: I’m originally from New Jersey, and I graduated college of January of that year and moved to San Diego for work in the field I graduated in, which was biomedical science. Yeah and I absolutely hated it so I quit and moved to la. It’s kind of one of those cliché stories when you realize the real world sucks and you’ve kind of got to go play some music.
Anna: Pete actually has a similar story about how he ended up in LA.
Peter: Yeah I was living in Florida at the time; I didn’t know what next move was going to be. I didn’t like where I was at and I didn’t like my state of mind. So Anna was actually a catalyst for me going, I told her I felt like I needed something new something crazy and I was thinking about heading to the west coast.
She was totally supportive and like you should do that. Those words made me realize oh, I can do that, and it was a week before I left. I sold everything in my apartment and packed whatever would fit in my car and with fifteen hundred dollars in my pocket I drove across the country to LA.
Anna: Mind you I did not live in LA, so me saying yeah go was just me being a supportive sister. But he knew no one out there, no friends or family. I came about 4 years later.
Setlist: Wow, well we know how difficult that is to tread into uncharted territory alone, so good for you. So Anna what made you decide to eventually take the trip to Los Angles?
Anna: Well, I have a music degree from when I went to school in Florida, and traveled around for a while and had my own cabaret, then I moved to New York and wanted to get involved in more musical theatre type of stuff but I just thought New York was kind of cold…
Peter: Literally or figuratively?
Anna: Both, and Peter had been living in LA and I missed my brother and felt like I needed a change. Like him I just came out here not really knowing what I was going to do, I had a little more money that fifteen hundred dollars but…I came out to la and started doing my thing, then peter asked me to come out to some of his gigs and sing with him, I wasn’t really a part of his band but I loved doing it. Then when this project came along it seemed like the perfect opportunity to add another layer.
I mainly contribute the harmonies but I did help write one of the songs, but we kind of integrated that into peter and the lion from some of peter’s older solo stuff, which I think we will be able to do with a lot of his songs because it is such a similar style.
Setlist: What was the moment in New York that made you realize you needed a change in scenery?
Anna: Oh jeez, ummm I can’t really pinpoint an exact moment...
Setlist: I need an exact moment Anna...
Setlist: We’re just kidding
Anna: Ha-ha I do love new York but after being there on and off for two years and having some contracts that took me out of it for a few months at a time, I don’t know that I really gave it a fair shot, but at the end of the day I felt like I needed a different drive. It felt really uptight and competitive and the pace is so different than here. There is more of an open mindedness in LA and the west coast in general that I wanted to explore.
The thing is what we are doing isn’t exactly in my wheelhouse, I come from studying classical music and musical theatre so being out here has allowed me to be more free.
Setlist: Not to mention you already sent your brother out there as a sacrificial lamb, so you knew it was safe
Anna: Exactly! And he said it was great!
Setlist: How does what you did before compare to what you’re doing now?
Haider: What I did before was robotic. The hardest part of being in the real world is trying to find a reason to get up in the morning. It’s hard for everyone. You have so many years ahead of you and you wake up in some kind of clock work. Being in a band is something new every day; you know it gives me purpose. Creating something original.
Anna: For me it’s a completely different style, and I love the honesty between us, opposed to being solo not having anyone to check you and make suggestions. When you’re with a group of people who are open and honest you get to explore so many different options.
I wasn’t doing original music before and with this the possibilities are endless.
Peter: I’ve been in and out of bands over the years, when I came to la it was my first venture into solo work. It was tough because LA is competitive and completely saturated. Everybody is the best guitarist, singer, and songwriter. It’s true, coming out here thickened my skin. It made me feel good, and it made me feel bad. Working alone has made me stronger with everything and I love that. But I also love playing with others though you can’t find the right people every time. So having a good song writing partner is so important to tell you when something sounds awesome or not.
Anna: I didn’t know Haider before hand, I just showed up at a practice once and the vibe in the room was immediately really open. A lot times when you do these projects there is a lot of egos in the room, like Peter said everyone is the best guitar player or the best singer, and there is none of that here. It’s really cool to work with people who are so open minded and willing to try new things.
Peter: Yeah, that’s it. We all are confident and trust what the other person can do. I know Haider is a great songwriter so I don’t have to check and nitpick every little thing he is doing. Same with Anna I know she is tuned in to the harmonies and melodies. It’s that mutual trust that helps us to be open minded in the song writing process.
Haider: I think that speaks to the collaborative environment that we’ve created. And being surrounded by so many talented musicians it influences you, and motivates you to do more.
Setlist: I love the feeling you created in the song In Your View, what was the process to reach the end product you were happy with?
Peter: I’m going to start this out and then let Haider finish because this is one of those songs we wrote together line by line. The combination of what Haider and I were going through at the time was the major influence for this song. What we were going through were two totally different feelings. Haider had just found a little love in his life and I was having some issues with my love life, and all of it coming together in one song.
Also the combination of the mariachi style Haider brings, with my brand of folk created the atmosphere we were looking for.
Haider: So basically what he was saying is he was going through a break up and I was getting into a relationship, so it’s a song of falling in love while at the same time looking at the darkest strain of that.
Peter: Yeah and love is a living breathing thing, so the idea to only represent the surface aspects of it is only one way to look at it. We try to expose every part of it.
Like the line “You stole my heart and kept my blood, turned my body numb but I’m still warm” We put a lot of weird opposing things in there.
Haider: That line especially is one of my favorites, it’s just about how love can totally rip you apart and almost kill you but at the same time it can feel so right.
Setlist: Are there any moments that in a relationship that you come back to through this song?
Peter: The opening of the song reminds me of the beginning of a relationship. Everything feels so nice, it feels refreshing. When I listen to the intro I feel the beginning of new young love.
Setlist: Going into your next project, will it stand alone or is there a continuous message you’re trying to create?
Peter: I believe we will continue an organic root kind of message. There is a lot of music today that is heavily produced and lacks a lot of real organic instrumentation. So our message is that simplicity is still beautiful. Lyrics today seem to be a lot of phrases that are used in pop culture, nothing against that kind of music but if you want to feel something from prose in poetry, we have it.
Anna: Lyrics have gotten so simple. Whatever you hear that is all it is, there is nothing behind the words. You can’t really read into “Dance, dance, dance” they’re talking about dancing in a club. So the lyrics that this group puts out can mean something different to anybody depending on where you are in your life. I think there is something really beautiful about that, that’s poetry.
Haider: Yeah our goal is to really bring litterateur back to music, and for people to feel something again.
Setlist: Now that we’ve gotten to know a little bit about your inspirations and your past, what can we expect from Peter and the Lion going forward?
Peter: After we do a couple more of these releases an album is next.
Anna: Another goal of ours is to add some unique upright instrumentals.
Haider: When you listen to Inside Your View, it has an upright bass in the recording. In the future we imagine a big band setting.
Anna: When you listen to us you should feel warm like you’re sitting around a campfire.
Setlist: We definitely get that feeling, and really believe even with the small sample size you have the sky is the limit for you guys. So tell me this, our favorite question on this blog, why is what you’re doing important?
Peter: Music is important to me, Anna and I grew up in an environment with a real appreciation for music. So to put music out that makes you feel something specific and send chills through your body, and the hope with doing that is to encourage more music to strive for the same.
Haider: Music is a form of expression right? The funny thing is you can connect with people anywhere through music and create something where you and the listener share a feeling while still in a totally different experience.
Anna: There is this movement we see with food, everything to be organic. People are looking for the real thing. We are trying to do that with music. We are the quinoa and kale of music. I think we are creating something completely original. The combination of sounds, the mariachi, our voices, and all the different influences, I’ve never heard a song like Inside Your View.
I feel like there is room for something like that in the world, and by continuing we can expand horizons and open minds.
Do to the addition of band members Peter and the Lion official changed their band name to Foxes and Lions. A big thank you to Foxes and Lions for a truly enlightening conversation and be sure to check them out here.