Peter Moren says he started recording his solo debut before the international success of "Young Folks."
A thousand years from now, when archaeologists dig up U.S. pop culture from the year 2007, they'll keep running into the song "Young Folks," by the Swedish trio Peter Bjorn and John.
They'll hear its whistled melody in dusty episodes of How I Met Your Mother and Grey's Anatomy, and in countless TV commercials and DJ remixes, including one by someone our civilization called Kanye West.
With one monster hit firmly entrenched in the archaeological record, a member of Peter Bjorn and John turned to literary history as inspiration for his solo album. Peter Moren visited Soundcheck to play a few songs and speak with John Schaefer about The Last Tycoon.
An Introspective Side
Markedly different from the breezy pop of Peter Bjorn and John, The Last Tycoon portrays the introspective singer-songwriter side of Peter Moren. He says that he'd been working on his solo project since before Peter Bjorn and John exploded onto the scene. The band's success allowed him to quit his day jobs and finish recording.
"I guess I just wanted to do something that is more as I write songs at home," Moren says, "because most of the songs I write I obviously write on acoustic guitar, and I kind of like the self-contained style of performing music where you've got the fingerpicking and the rhythm all in one instrument. So when everything is channeled through the band, it obviously becomes more arranged, and ends up poppier and more upbeat. And I just wanted to do something that was more like the 'bedroom' things that I was doing."
Some years ago, Moren saw the film version of The Last Tycoon, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished novel The Love of the Last Tycoon. He says he kept the phrase stashed away for this moment.
"I guess I've been nurturing this idea of doing a solo album for quite a while, and always had the idea that we were going to be pretty acoustic, folky, low-key," Moren says. "So I find it funny to have a title that is very pompous or pretentious, together with this very soft, homey music."
The filmic Last Tycoon is a silent-movie producer at the end of his era in Hollywood. Moren acknowledges that it's also the end of an era for the music industry. He says he cares about things like album art and track sequencing, now endangered in an age of digital downloads, but also sees a positive side to the current business climate.
"I'm okay with it, too," he says. "The great thing is you listen to a lot more music now, in a wider range, 'cause you can afford it, and you get stuff from your friends, and it just opens up your mind."
The Future of PB&J
It's not the end of Peter Bjorn and John, though. Moren says the band will come out with an instrumental record soon, and will release an album with singing next year.
So does Moren have any regrets about "Young Folks"?
"There might have been a couple of things we did early on that we might not have done had we known how big it would become, but basically no. I mean, it supports us, it makes me pay my rent, so that's pretty good.
"I think it's a great song, but I don't feel that it's as close to myself as some of the other songs. It's kind of everyone's — which is great. I mean, why not?"