Lead singer of Peter Bjorn and John, a Swedish indie rock band, Peter Morén spoke to WEEKEND amidst PB&J’s “All You Can Eat” tour.
The band has been together since 1999 and is famous for its hit single, “Young Folks” that played in the popular-to-everyone-except-PB&J TV show, Gossip Girl. The song was a top 20 hit in the UK singles chart. PB&J also collaborated with hip-hop amnesic Drake on his 2009 mixtape, “So Far Gone,” in the outfit “Let’s Call It Off.”
The lead singer highlighted the importance of listening to music conventionally and simultaneously emphasized just how much of composing music is about individual expression. As a result, John said, each genre appeals to each composer and listener differently.
By himself, Morén has recorded and released two solo albums, “The Last Tycoon” and “I spåren av tåren,” which is Swedish for “I should have stayed with PB&J.”
Q. How has “All You Can Eat” been so far?
A. It’s been up and down, a bumpy road. We’ve had 11 shows in a row ridden with injuries and too much exertion. We had to reschedule some shows, too.
Q. Are you excited to come to New Haven?
A. Yeah, for sure. It’s a nice little town here.
Q. What kind of an audience do you hope to attract at your concerts, if any?
A. Any kind is good. As long as they are enthusiastic and not afraid to display affection. It’s great when you have been in a band for while and most of the people that come to your shows are your top fans.
Q. What is your favorite song to play?
A. It’s different every night — yesterday it was great fun to play “Macy Macabre” (that one has been going really well). More generally, that’s a tricky question [pause]. “Love” by John Lennon.
Q. Who is your favorite singer?
A. I listen to a lot of old soul music; there are a lot of great singers out there. Smokey Robinson?
Q. Do you think your music is deemed as ‘hipster’? If so, is that what the band intends?
A. No — in Detroit, for example, there was a 60 year old man dancing like hell, and then there were also many kids doing the same. I want to have as broad an audience as possible. We’re not really a trendy band. We were trendy five years ago, I guess. Now we’re trendy for, like, sixty minutes.
Q. What inspired you to sing “Young Folks,” a song that has influenced and has reached people around the world?
A. It’s been composed differently. In that, it is a duet. I sing it myself most times, but it had to be a conversation piece when it was written. It was hard to write the lyrics, as PB&J hadn’t composed a duet before. And I was inspired because I wanted to write one!
Q. But why was the song such a big hit?
A. It was different from our other songs and from a lot of music at the time that it came out. Now many things sound like that song, but it was pretty unique then. You see many people trying to copy music like that today.
Q. Why does everyone in the video disappear? Is there a hidden a metaphor for the lifestyle of post-empire youth?
A. Because the guy who made the video was inspired by the lyrics to make everyone just…disappear.
Q. Do all your songs have a message?
A. Most have some sort of a message — more or less subconsciously. We have a couple of political songs and some metaphysical and philosophical songs, too. But definitely, the lyrics are important.
Q. What kind of effect do you hope your songs have on people?
A. Well — varied and different effects. As long as people get emotional about it, you know, feel happy or sad or emotional.
Q. Did you ever expect the song would end up in a show like Gossip Girl? The paradox as the Upper East Side living seems to go against the free-spirited thinking the song promotes.
A. I haven’t seen the show, but I think it’s a perfect way to get your songs heard. Obviously, when we started out we didn’t think our songs would get so far, but now they’re commonly used around.
Q. What do you think is wrong, or right, with the music industry today?
A. A good thing is that it’s so broad you can make all kinds of different music at the same time. It is not streamlined, everything is so scattered through the Internet. People can listen to all kinds of different music and like all of it. The bad thing, of course, is that it’s harder to make a living out of it as people don’t buy records. I buy records myself — if you listen to music, the record is still the best way. You can find out about music on the Internet, but to really listen to it you should buy a vinyl and sit down. If you’re online, you get distracted and don’t concentrate on the music. That’s just bad for the whole experience.
Q. So, do you hate any music?
A. I don’t listen to the radio and avoid places that play bad music. This may be stupid — but techno is pretty bad.
Q. Oh! And how do you feel about, say, heavy metal?
A. There’s good heavy metal but it’s not my type of music. MTV Rock — not pop and not heavy metal — that’s plain bad.
Q. What about the Swedish house mafia?
A. I haven’t heard them! Or maybe I have, but I don’t remember.
Q. Who would you like to collaborate with in the future? There were rumors about PB&J joining up with Daft Punk…
A. I’m having discussions with a band called Papercuts, from San Francisco. I like them a lot — we’ll see what happens on that front. There are a lot of Swedish artists — old ones — that I’d like to collaborate with. People you’ve never heard of. Still, Daft Punk sounds like fun.
Q. Is there hope for the artists to be, or is quality music dying?
A. No, it’s a good time for music — the benefits are the same as the problem. And the problem is that people have little attention span. You have an iPod, you get all this music, but there is no effort from you. You have all these new albums but you don’t really listen to them. Before, when you bought a record you would have to make an effort to go and buy it physically; you would definitely listen to it if only due to the price you paid for it. That’s the problem: sometimes it’s better to listen to less music, but to really listen to it.
Q. What message would you like to send to your fans?
A. Thank you!
Q. Would you encourage them to make music like yours?
A. I don’t encourage people to make music like ours; they should make the music they want to make. Music that inspires them.