Random Rules: Peter Morén

Random Rules: Peter Morén

The shuffler: Peter Morén, singer, guitarist, and harmonicist of Swedish indie-pop trio Peter Bjorn And John. He recently completed a U.S. tour behind his new John Lennon-esque solo debut, The Last Tycoon.

P1/E, "49 Second Romance"

Peter Morén: I got it from a good friend called Stephen who works for [Yale's] Holocaust archive. He used to be in a band called Butterglory. He used to live in Sweden before. This is like '80s electronic. I don't know. It's kind of funny, Kraut synthesizer, and very monotone.

The A.V. Club: How do you feel about Kraftwerk?

PM: I love Kraftwerk, totally. I guess they're pretty melodic. Great melodies and all of those vintage synths work well with voices that are very monotone. They are very long songs, like the Trans-Europe Express album—I think it's great. It puts me in a pretty good mood. I kind of like this song. I've listened to it before, but I don't know anything about it.

AVC: How's it affecting your mood?

PM: It's kind of similar to Joy Division, in a way, but with more synthesizers. And a bit more stupid. Like German-stupid.

AVC: "German-stupid?"

PM: When Germans sing in English, it sounds like marching music. Not very melodic; like a computer voice. It's pretty good. I don't listen to it a lot, but I've listened to it before. Next song? I like this song game!

The Langley Schools Music Project, "Good Vibrations"

AVC: These CDs supposedly inspired School Of Rock.

PM: I haven't seen it. Oh, I thought that was much more loud, like rock. But this is very pop, in a way.

AVC: Well, kids can rock, too, right?

PM: Totally! There seems to be a wave of the rocking kids right now. It's pretty funny, because we were at a venue in Cambridge, and on a couple of dates, we're having a band called Smoosh. They're very young, and pretty good. They are from Seattle, and their dad is traveling with them. I think the youngest is 11.

AVC: They started when they were about 10 and 12.

PM: But what happens next? What happens when they grow up?

AVC: They go to high school and get a job.

PM: [Laughs.] This is probably more healthy, in a way.

Rock 4, "The Time Machine"

PM: They're from Israel, and I think they're from the '90s. It's very '60s, kind of Beach Boys, but it's from Israel.

AVC: Is it a concept album?

PM: Could be, but I haven't really figured it out. [Laughs.] But they sing in English. I have some other Israeli stuff that is not in English.

AVC: How is their English compared to the German English?

PM: On this, they only sing "Ahhhhh ahhh," so it's hard to tell, but they have more "Kchhhhhh." [Laughs.] It's hard to explain, but it's less robotic. It's more—they have some weird diphthongs. It's hard to explain in English. Your English is good. [Laughs.]

I got that one from Stephen, too. I have a couple of people I get a lot of stuff from who know what I like, and it's so great. I have a couple of those people who have big record collections. He's one of those people.

AVC: Do you give them a lot of stuff back to listen to?

PM: I just really started, because I just got a Mac Pro in January, so I haven't had a proper computer before. I have the 30GB iPod. I actually found it. I used to work in a bookstore, and there was a guy or a woman who left it there. I gave it to the police, but after three months, you get it, like finders keepers.

AVC: What was on it?

PM: All it had was all the Metallica albums, all the Pink Floyd albums, The Da Vinci Code as a speaking book, and like 10 records of '80s hits. So actually, I kept a lot of the '80s songs, because there are such a lot of good '80s songs I'd forgotten. So I kept a lot of that, and I kept the first Pink Floyd album, and then I took the rest away. But now it's full again.

AVC: What kind of person do you think it belonged to?

PM: Well, he went into a bookstore, he forgot it there. I don't know, I'm imagining he might be into history, reading.

AVC: He may not be big into reading if he had a bestseller like The Da Vinci Code on audiobook.

PM: [Laughs.] He might be into collecting weapons or something. Or books about dogs, I don't know. There are a lot of weird people who come in. But I do think he won't miss it. He didn't need it as bad as I did. [Laughs.]

AVC: What if they come forward now after reading this?

PM: Well, it's mine, so—[Laughs.] He won't read this interview of me slagging him off, so it'll be okay. I don't think it would be much of a problem. And I got all of those great '80s hits.

The Shins, "Caring Is Creepy"

AVC: Is caring really creepy?

PM: Not necessarily. I think it's a good thing most of the time. But I've been a really big Shins fan, especially the first two albums. I didn't like the third one as much for some reason. I think it wasn't as well produced. But it was funny: When this album came out, they weren't known at all in Sweden, and I was telling everyone about it, and lots later, they started to catch up after the movie.

Françoise Hardy, "Je Suis D'Accord"

PM: She is a very famous pop singer of the '60s. It has that melancholy chanson vibe, but it's also very poppy. There was a wave in France called "Yé-yé," and she was a part of that. The "it" girl, you know? I just love to listen to French. I think it's so beautiful. Portuguese too. Even though I don't understand anything. There's good production, and I like her voice. It's not special—her voice is pretty plain, but there's something about it. Not this song, but there's something about her.

AVC: Many Americans aren't as open to listening to music where the lyrics aren't in English. Other parts of the world are probably more open to it, because they tend to also know English and other languages.

PM: I think that's a good thing, that we listen to a lot of different things. Even in Britain and in France, they have a strong sense of tradition, so they're not as open either. Like in Britain, they have this whole Britpop thing they still think is going on. In France—like, they still have their electronic thing, with Daft Punk, but they still have all these chansons. I like that. But in Sweden, I think because we don't have a pop tradition of our own, that's why we're so interested in everyone else.

Bill Fay, "Lily Brown"

PM: I guess that period, like early '70s folk-pop, is my thing.

AVC: You seem to have a lot of stuff from that era.

PM: I have cornerstones I will go back to. Part of it is '60s, '70s, but also a lot of new-wave punk, and '80s. I think maybe not as much '90s music, maybe because I was young then, so I got bored of it. From the '80s and back is my favorite.

There's a lot of great stuff. I listened to a lot of the lo-fi like Sebadoh and Elliott Smith. I never liked the Britpop thing that much. I liked a couple of Blur songs, and a couple of Pulp songs, of course, but Oasis I always thought was total crap. I never liked them. [Laughs.]

AVC: A lot of people here feel that way, too.

PM: We had a couple of good Swedish bands in the '90s, like Eggstone. Have you heard of them?

AVC: I haven't. I think most Americans' knowledge of Sweden doesn't go beyond Swedish fish or the Swedish penis pump from the Austin Powers movies.

PM: [Laughs.] I don't remember that scene. Can you explain it?

AVC: Basically, he's frozen. When he gets unfrozen he goes to collect his belongings, which includes a Swedish penis pump. It makes his penis bigger.

PM: That sounds very German to me. Or maybe Danish.

AVC: You're picking on the Germans again.

PM: I'm just thinking about when you tour in Europe. In Sweden, we don't have strip clubs and sex shops. Maybe we have, but it's very few. And when you go down to Denmark and the Netherlands, and Germany, it's all over.