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Rolling Stone, December 19 2000
BEST BAND YOU PROBABLY MISSED THIS YEAR
Who knew the nose flute could sound this good?
You might not know what the guitorgan is, but trust us, it's the future. And if you need more evidence, pick up the debut album from Peter and Fran, a ramshackle collection of musicians, poets, wanderers and welders.
"It's a guitar that sounds like an organ," Viggo Mortensen says, strumming the strange instrument. "It's more complicated than that, but."
Mortensen doesn't try to explain further, trailing off in a way that makes you wonder if you'd ever be able to understand the complications he's talking about. After spending a few more hours with him, you'd know you couldn't understand, but it wouldn't much matter.
Mortensen is the leader of this modern-day minstrel troupe and listening to him talk about music leaves you wanting to use words like transcendent, revolutionary, magical. And when you do, the other members of Mortensen's band will be there to mock you.
"Vig's amazing, mate, but most people can't pull that kind of thing off," guitarist Dominic Monaghan says, relaxing in a Parisian café. He lights a cigarette and turns his nose up at the coffee, ordering tea instead. "You'll sound like quite the wanker."
Monaghan is more your traditional rock star-- young, blondish, nails painted black and a penchant for scrawling across his hands in permanent ink. He plays lead guitar and, he tells me, "gives the occasional 'oooh' or 'lalala'."
Now Peter and Fran are poised to share their "sonic experience" with audiences everywhere as they start their first world tour, but Monaghan still remembers meeting Mortensen and founding the band along with good friend Billy Boyd, who plays bass and shares vocal duties with Mortensen.
"Bills and I were on holiday in New Zealand," Monaghan explains between sips of his tea, "having supper at the local pub, when this guy shows up, playing a ukulele or something. After a few drinks, we started requesting songs, he didn't know anything decent, so we had to sit down and teach him."
They named their band after a couple they met in Wellington and started writing songs. Between the three of them, they managed to pull together a large group that includes well-known Kiwi musician Karl Urban, drag performer Daisy Wenham, drama student drop-out Orlando Bloom, young Elijah Wood on turntables and two drummers named Sean -- regular drummer and Brit, Bean and back-up bongo specialist Astin, the son of actress Patty Duke.
"We just wanted to bring in anyone who was committed to the sound and the feel and the spirit of what we were doing. The traditional set up of singer-guitar-bass-drums is too limiting for us." Mortensen's enigmatic smile is the kind that makes you feel like he knows a secret, but one that you're not quite sure you actually want to be in on. "My son was there for our first gig and he was just blown away. That's when I knew this was the right path. When we play, the mix of souls and thoughts we've gathered comes together to make new noise."
Backstage in Paris, Boyd distills Mortensen's comments down to, "We use some weird instruments."
"Like that there," Boyd laughs and points to the other side of the room, where Urban and a slightly put-out roadie are unpacking something that looks like a roughly carved miniature kayak with guitar strings. "Karl do you even know what that is?"
"It's from the Philippines," Urban replies, but after a moment adds, "I don't know quite how to play it yet, but she'll be right by the show."
He's not wrong, either. The instrument, which is indeed from the Philippines and is a type of boat lute called a kudyapi-- Peter and Fran are also, apparently, educational-- sounds fantastic during an encore performance of the group's first single "the taste of strawberries."
Boyd no doubt trusts in Urban's ability, but hours before the show, his green eyes twinkle over his pint glass as he says, "Aye, Viggo's right. Quite the mix of souls and thoughts we have here. New noise and all that."
"But," Bloom pipes in from his seat on the floor, "it's not like we're trying to be snooty or anything-- we just like the way it sounds." He shakes his tambourine for emphasis and we can't help but agree with him.