Swedish Trio Whistles Around the 'Block' With steady touring and a ridiculously catchy bit of whistling, Peter Bjorn and John has become one of the year's hottest bands. Singer/guitarist Peter Moren plays tracks from the band's third record, Writer's Block.

Swedish Trio Whistles Around the 'Block'

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Well, unless you spent last summer in Waziristan one cave over from Osama bin Laden, you probably heard this song.

(Soundbite of song, "Young Folks")

BURBANK: The song is "Young Folks," the band, Sweden's very own Peter Bjorn and John. The song was all over TV shows and ads. It was remixed by Kanye West. The hype got so big that when they showed up at the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, a guy launched a blog called Stoppeterbjornandjohn. He protested outside one of their shows but eventually retired, citing a, quote, "total mental and emotional breakdown." Such…

STEWART: I would say so.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Such is the power of the whistle. Joining us here in the BPP studios is Peter Moren, the Peter of Peter Bjorn and John. Welcome.

STEWART: Welcome.

Mr. PETER MOREN (Vocalist, Peter Bjorn and John): (Swedish spoken).

BURBANK: Hey, hey, hey, though.

Mr. ERIKSSON: (Swedish spoken)


STEWART: I'm well. Thank you.

Mr. ERIKSSON: Oh, good.

BURBANK: Wait, I took Swedish in college, and you actually know what he said.

Mr. MOREN: She's better.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Yeah, well. She's better at a lot of things. I think the dirty little secret about that song "Young Folks" is that it's a great song, but it's not even my favorite song off of this record. I think that I would have to say "Object of my Affection" is my favorite song.

I guess I wanted to ask you what is it like to be so well-known for one song right now when you've written three different records with lots of really good songs on them?

Mr. MOREN: It's good, because people buy the album and hopefully will like some of the other songs. But it's bad if they only like that song. It's a bit bad. But it's good, because we get some financial support - some financial support.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOREN: But, I mean, yeah, I can stay in New York for a while because of that song. So, that's nice, but I hope that, eventually, people get into the other songs as well.

BURBANK: Have you been in a, you know, in a store or walking down the street and heard it come blaring out of someone's window and thought, hey, that's my song?

Mr. MOREN: You hear people whistle occasionally. You don't really know - and also, like, sitting in restaurants and it's coming on, and you can't really tell if they recognize you or if it's just accident. That's pretty weird, actually. It kind of upsets me. I don't want to hear it when I'm eating.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Even though it's probably what's paying for the food.

Mr. MOREN: Yeah, that's true.

BURBANK: Well, you brought your guitar in.

Mr. MOREN: Yup.

BURBANK: And you were going to play a song for us. What do you have?

Mr. MOREN: I'm thinking about doing "Objects of My Affection," since you praised it so nicely.

BURBANK: It is my favorite song.

Mr. MOREN: Thank you.

BURBANK: And I know you aim to please.

Mr. MOREN: Yeah.

BURBANK: So I appreciate that.

(Soundbite of laughter)


(Soundbite of song, "Objects of My Affection")

Mr. MOREN: (Singing) I remember when, when I first moved here a long time ago, 'cause I heard some song I used to hear back then, a long time ago. And I remember when even further back in another town, 'cause I saw something written, I used to say back then, hard to comprehend. And the question is was I more alive then than I am now? I happily had to disagree. I laugh more often now. I cry more often now. I am more me.

But, of course, some days I just lie around and hardly exist, and can't tell apart what I'm eating from my hands or my wrist. 'Cause flesh is flesh, flesh is flesh is flesh. The difference is thin. But life has a certain ability of bringing new life into me. So I breathe it in. It tells me here you are, and we all are here and you still can make sense if you just show up and present an honest face instead of that grin. And the question is was I more alive then than I am now?

I happily have to disagree. I laugh more often now, I cry more often now. I am more me.

(Soundbite of whistling)

And the other day this dear friend of mine said something to me. Just because something starts differently doesn't mean it's worth less. And I soaked it in. How I soaked it in. How I soaked it in. And just as to prove how right he was, then you came.

So I'm gonna give, yes, I'm gonna give. I'm gonna give you a try. So I'm gonna give, yes, I'm gonna give. I'm gonna give you a try. And the question is was I more alive then than I am now?

I happily have to disagree. I laugh more often now. I cry more often now. I am more me. I'm more me.

(Soundbite of applause)


Mr. MOREN: Thank you.

BURBANK: People are, like, collecting outside the studio. It's like, what is that sound? That sound is Peter Moren of Peter Bjorn and John here on THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT. You guys are from Stockholm?

Mr. MOREN: Yes.

BURBANK: And I was going down the list of Swedish bands that I've been listening to and enjoying lately, and it seemed like a whole bunch of them have made the jump over here. You've got The Knife, Jens Lekman, Jose Gonzalez. What's going on in Sweden right now?

Mr. MOREN: I don't know. I don't really know. I mean, there's been good bands there forever, but, of course, it's exploded the last five years or something, especially over here. And I guess it's - part of it is because of the Internet, because you get a lot of hype from blogs and stuff, and people don't actually need record deals. That's what happened to us. The record wasn't out here, and people would start talking about it.

STEWART: How did you consume music when you were little? I mean, you think about kids today, they can just log on…

Mr. MOREN: Yeah.

STEWART: …and consume anything from anywhere.

Mr. MOREN: Yeah.

STEWART: But how did you find it?

Mr. MOREN: It was pretty difficult, because I'm raised in a small village called Vika, which is in the part of Sweden called Dalarnas, where there's lots of skiing and ice hockey and not a lot of good music apart from traditional fiddle music. And it was very hard. I had to, like, buy records while I was on a vacation with my parents to bigger cities, and then you had to go and buy lots of records to keep you busy for half a year.

BURBANK: Who were you into? Who do you listen to?

Mr. MOREN: In the '80s, when I was about 10, I was really into the Housemartins.

BURBANK: Uh-huh, the Housemartins.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MOREN: Yeah.


Mr. MOREN: And also stuff like a-ha, you know? And also lots of '60s. I was like a '60s freak when I would grew up, like Beatles, Beach Boys, Birds - like really early.

BURBANK: Do you feel like that - does that come out in your music, that kind of '60s influence, you think? That sort of harmony and stuff?

Mr. MOREN: I guess it still does. I mean, you don't listen to it as much anymore, but when I started to learn to write songs, that's what I listened to. So it kind of - somewhere in the back of your head, it's still there, I guess. But it's very interesting, as you said, because, like, my cousin who lives in the same village now…


Mr. MOREN: He gets all these fashionable clothes, and he knows all the latest music just by sitting in front of the computer. And it wasn't - that couldn't happen in the '80s.

STEWART: It wasn't like that.

Mr. MOREN: It wasn't - you had to move. I had to move to Stockholm, which was good because I met the boys and everything.

BURBANK: Would it be possible to play another song for us?

Mr. MOREN: Well, I'll do a song that we sometimes do as an encore, which was on our first album…

BURBANK: What's this called?

Mr. MOREN: …with just the guitar. "Collect, Select, Reflect." So it's on the album called "Peter Bjorn and John," which is red.

(Soundbite of song, "Collect, Select, Reflect")

Mr. MOREN: (Singing) Think of me, and I will think of you. Then at least we all can do what the other one's asked to. Be with me, and I will be with you, as to complicate things further. I will always be true. Collect, select, Reflect something. Take out the things you want on me. They're telling me you can't always be the center of attention, but you can try. You can try. You can try. You can try. Try, try, try, try. Honesty is easy to lack, as a matter of a fact, it disguises what you lack. What do I lack? What do you lack? What do we lack? Try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try.

(Soundbite of applause)

BURBANK: Peter Moren of Peter Bjorn and John. People get that on your - can they get that record on your Web site, I assume?

Mr. MOREN: Maybe. I don't know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: They can get it at the shows, when they play all across the states late November and December, right?

BURBANK: Absolutely. They're going to be playing. But first off, some free shows, I understand, coming up in Manchester, Bristol and London, if you're listening to us in the U.K., and then back here in New York…

Mr. MOREN: Yeah.

BURBANK: …playing at Joe's Pub on November 19th.

Mr. MOREN: Oh, that's just me. Yeah.

BURBANK: Oh, that's just you?

Mr. MOREN: Yeah. That's a solo show.

BURBANK: Well, I think based on the performance today…

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: …it's going to be sold out.

Mr. MOREN: Okay.

BURBANK: If I have to buy the tickets myself.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Peter, thanks for coming on.

Mr. MOREN: Thank you very much for having me.

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