He may not be a household name, but pretty much all you need to do to get a bead on Peter Morén these days is to whistle the intro to "Young Folks." Morén, in other words, is the Peter part of Peter Bjorn and John, the Swedish invaders responsible for one of last year’s most slyly infectious and catwalk-friendly pop singles. Hot on the heels of that success, Morén recently released his debut solo album, "The Last Tycoon," and this week he concludes the American leg of his tour in support of the LP with two shows in Los Angeles. "The music is more low-key than Peter Bjorn and John," Morén says of the surprisingly folksy "The Last Tycoon." "Writing with the band, we tend to put all our ideas and inspirations together, and then the songs come out somewhere in the middle of our tastes. The point of making a solo record is to liberate my own taste, whatever I’m feeling, and give it full expression. Maybe my next solo record will be punk." In the meantime, fans of Morén’s melodious, literate, and distinctly un-punk tunemaking can catch him tonight at The Hotel Café or tomorrow at the Troubador; after that, it’s back to the band life for Morén: Peter Bjorn and John are hard at work on an instrumental album, which should be making its way onto the runways sometime next year.
His second solo show at New York’s BUIA Gallery might be called “Heaven Is a Place on Earth,” and his first one entitled “Painting Can You Take Me to Heaven,” but the paintings by Kadar Brock—described as “kick-ass abstraction” by the Village Voice—are rougher, rawer, and louder than any divine perch. Thanks to his mostly sunny palette, Brock’s canvases have a hyper nu-rave style bounce to them, but even his all-compositions have a punch. His paintings might not be heaven, but they sure make living seem fun.
It’s 1997. A little company called Google hasn’t yet been incorporated. Monica Lewinsky passes her days in anonymity. Princess Diana is still alive. "Titanic" is expected to bomb and executives at DreamWorks have just placed a big bet on Jonathan Fire*Eater, signing the band to the very first contract at the label. Funny what happens in a decade: In the years since the 1997 release of Jonathan Fire*Eater’s first and only album, the remarkably durable "Wolf Songs for Lambs," nary a word has been heard from Stewart Lupton, the band’s shamanistic frontman and the person upon whose shoulders so many hopes used to rest. A pop Tom Waits with laser-cut cheekbones, a Jagger-worthy sneer, and the aged rocker’s snake hips, too, Lupton seemed destined for stardom. But after making quick work of midwifing the look and sound of the New York garage rock scene that was soon to flourish in Jonathan Fire*Eater’s wake, Lupton bailed out of the biz in a hedonistic blaze, only to watch the Strokes walk away with the glory. Now, at last, Lupton is back: Last month, he released "Cheekbone Hollows," his debut EP as the Childballads, and tonight at New York City’s Webster Hall, Lupton kicks off his national tour opening for the Kills. Here he tells Style.com why the return of Stewart Lupton to the music scene should in no way be misconstrued as a comeback.
So, Stewart, what have you been doing? Where have you been?
Where have I been? I’ve been at the library.
No, I mean—
I know what you mean. What do you want me to tell you? I could say, oh, you know—I fell in love, almost got married, blew it all to hell, wrote a bunch of poetry, did a little of this, and then I did a little of that, and then some other stuff happened…Or I can just say: I’ve been at the library. Which is pretty much the truth.
Read anything good?
The last really good book I read was "Lunar Park," by Bret Easton Ellis. Everything up to and including "American Psycho" I can take or leave, but "Lunar Park" is his masterpiece. The prose is really tight, and…Do you want to hear this?
Well, as long as I’m making recommendations, I’d like to put in a plug for John Ashbery. I’m a poet, so reading poetry for me is basically going to the grocery store—I’m wandering the aisles, picking out ingredients to cook into something later. And Ashbery is the best. Reading his poems is like going to church in another country. You don’t know the language, but you can feel it. You know?
As you say, you’ve been writing a lot of poetry these past few years. Was that in place of music?
I never stopped making music. This is what I love about New York—and I do love New York, don’t get me wrong, but there’s always that thing, like, if people haven’t been seeing you around at Marlow and Sons or wherever, it’s as though you’ve ceased to exist. Believe me, life goes on outside the bubble.
So, back to my original question: Where have you been? What have you been doing? Music-wise, I mean.
Here’s the whole tawdry tale. Jonathan Fire*Eater breaks up. I hole up in Harmony Korine’s apartment for a while—a real diorama of healthy living—meet a girl, fall head-over-heels in love, and because DreamWorks hadn’t yet plumbed the full depths of my uselessness, I cut a demo, and with the money left over, I buy a guitar. Let’s pause here, to note that I manage to buy the same guitar—entirely by luck—that you see in those old photos of Robert Johnson. A Gibson LG, and I swear, the place that sold it to me was the kind of shop that probably sells gremlins at night. So Sadie—my girlfriend—we start playing together. She’s a drummer, I’m trying to figure out how to sing and play guitar at the same time, and sometimes our neighbor plays with us, too. Some other people come and go; the lineup kept changing. Plus Sadie and I broke up. Then there was Betsy. Shit, relationships are hard.
The short version is that I was messing around, trying out new ideas, playing a few small clubs in D.C. and trying to get my sea legs back. I had no idea it would take so long.
How does it feel now, to being heading out on tour? And to have a record out?
How do I feel about going on tour…and wrestling? Wrestling with what? My love life? My brain chemistry?
Not "wrestling." Having a record out. Again, after all this time.
No, no—let’s stick with wrestling. That’s a more interesting question.
For many stylish New Yorkers, interaction with flowers happens either courtesy of a Miho bouquet or a Balenciaga dress. But this weekend, you can get a little closer to your posies during the first annual NYC Wildflower Week, hosted by the Torrey Botanical Society. The initiative includes lectures, gardening demonstrations, plant walks, and a Native Plant Display Garden in Union Square, which shows off some of the thousands of flora that are indigenous to New York City. The weeklong series aims to raise awareness about the treasure trove of plant life native to the Big Apple, and the importance of preserving it. Find out more about the events and get information about the area’s natural greenery at nycwildflowerweek.org, and put the lovely spring weather to good use.
“I still love those old Ukrainian folktales,” said artist and fashion photographer Yelena Yemchuk at last night’s preview of her show “Notes on Fantomas,” which opens at the Dactyl Foundation next week. “Although maybe even a bigger influence was ‘Master and Margarita,’ by Bulgakov. That cat in the book changed my life,” she added. Yemchuk was referring, of course, to the bumptiously anthropomorphic pet of the devil immortalized in Bulgakov’s Stalin-era novel, which has near-biblical stature among ex-Soviets; for her, “that cat” offered a key lesson in the power of art. “You can create anything,” she noted. “Why paint something you could just as easily photograph?” Flying crocodiles are among the phantasmagoric animals that can be found within Yemchuk’s darkly whimsical tableaux, wherein animals of the human variety are playing an increasingly larger role. Nevertheless, according to Yemchuk, her Bulgakovian rule of thumb remains the same: “I figure, save reality for the camera.”