Name: Petra Schrenzer
Fun fact:Loves the sound of hair dryers
Name: Aurora Hackl, drums
Fun fact: Collects airplane safety instruction manuals; has kleptomaniac tendencies.
Petra Schrenzer and Aurora Hackl were running late. The two members of Viennese duo Petra und der Wolf had decided that for this particular gig – an uncommon broadly-daylit brunch show at a Vienna art gallery – they would make their load-in a breezy Sunday stroll. Their practice space was very close by, after all. An hour later, the guitarist and drummer arrived panting, sweaty, disheveled and pre-caffeine. As soon as the gig began, though, the rough start no longer mattered – everything fell into place. The audience watched and listened intently – to a backdrop of clinking coffee cups – as Petra und der Wolf launched into a typically dramatic – and, well, totally atypical – set.
Petra (guitar, lead vocals) and Aurora (drums) are no strangers to creating this kind of intimate, atmospheric and musically striking experience. The two, who describe their sound as “postgrunge/singer-songwriter/jazz,” have been at this thing they call Petra und der Wolf for two years, still going strong. Petra was a solo artist when she put the word out that she wanted to try playing with a drummer. Aurora heard the rumor and introduced herself at one of Petra’s gigs. They got together to start playing and the chemistry was instant. Petra attributes some of this to the way that Aurora uses the drums, and how completely compatible that is with her approach to guitar: “It’s not so straight – it’s more playful, and tries to avoid being repetitive or boring,” says Petra As a result, Petra und der Wolf’s music is extremely moody and rhythmic with lots of breaks, time signature shifts, stops and starts and surprises.
Aurora’s approach at the drum kit is direct and assertive if also playful and even volatile. “What I love about playing drums is the way you can express your feelings through the kit,” she says. “Perhaps drumming is like singing. You can scream and you can whisper and sometimes screaming is way more pleasurable than discussing something in a quiet and civilized way.” She started out as a saxophonist at age 10. She took lessons for many years and now loves the challenge of being the drum-half. “In a duo, there’s really no background,” she notes, as she talks about filling the role of an entire rhythm section by herself. “Being just the two of us is a really new and exciting experience.” Petra adds that their ‘newest band member’ is a loop station, which somewhat expands musical possibilities for a duo like them.
Petra and Aurora practice in Petra’s tiny apartment. It’s directly over a gym, so from below, they hear loud aerobics class music. In the room they call their “cozy cave,” however, the band has set up blankets and mattresses as baffles, mics and a PA and play hard and fast to battle the techno from below, and to meet the challenge of keeping warm despite a sometimes-broken radiator. Aurora gets time alone with her drum kit, too – at least twice a week for a couple of hours – in a small room where she gives her lessons, too.
All told, this is a band that loves what they do.
Both members of the band swear by the power of listening to music constantly to stay musically motivated. “Every concert I see inspires, and even if I don’t like it, then I know what I don’t want to do, and that’s very important too,” says Aurora. She listens to music and then dissects and transcribes the drum parts. (She also thinks Morgan Doctor is an excellent example of a drummer who “plays unusual, interesting grooves without exaggerating.”)
“Our inspiration comes from all kinds of things – from music, but also from an incoming train, a drunk bird, an empty room,” she says. Petra draws a lot musically from Nirvana, Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Joan as Policewoman and Sleater Kinney. She listens to a lot of jazz. Both cite Ani DiFranco’s rhythmic guitar playing as something they find moving.
As Aurora puts it: “For me, the greatest artists are those who break – or, even better, ignore – the rules, in a musical way.”
And rules really aren’t for Petra und der Wolf. Petra and Aurora are somewhat committed to being difficult, musically. They don’t want easily digestible pop or pretty harmonies; they’d rather do what comes organically to both of them and stay musically interesting. “It’s just what comes out when the two of us make music,” says Petra. “It’s not like we want to be difficult or to give the audience a hard time!” “We don’t want to fulfill expectations or feed people’s ears,” agrees Aurora. “We’d like to keep a kind of roughness, to stay authentic and honest. Our music really depends on atmosphere and consists of moods much more than anything else.”
What’s next for this moody duo? Petra und der Wolf are currently unsigned but are looking for a label, or even considering starting one. They love playing locally and are active in the queer/feminist music scene in Vienna, where they feel very supported by the community. They also have hopes of touring beyond Vienna someday soon. They have an EP coming out sometime this summer, and hope for increased gigging.
But whatever it is, they’ll be doing it together: “Someone once said about us performing together that we created a sense of belonging for all the people who were there, says Aurora. For a band whose music growls so temperamentally, ‘a sense of belonging’ might not be what you’d expect to get from one of their shows. However, for a band who loves what it does so fiercely, you might not be surprised to find that it’s totally infectious, and that you belong nowhere but right there.