Peter Bjorn and John

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The Swedish trio played a gig in the Button Factory last night. We had a quick chat with singer Peter Moren about the gig, their new album and his penchant for Eighties pop.

 

So how do you feel the gig went?

I think it was really interesting, it was funny – a lot of weird things happened that didn’t happen in the other places, so that was fun… like climbing up the amps and some weird guitar solos and Nicolai guesting and not knowing the song.

 

You’ve got a new album, Living Thing, coming out very soon?

Yeah, and we’re doing seven of the new songs in the set, so it’s kind of weird for everyone who doesn’t know it, but that’s how it is, because we want to play it and we need to practise, but people seem to like it pretty much.

 

The last album you did was an instrumental album, Seaside Rock, which was released quite recently. Were you working on songs for Living Thing at the same time, or did you just take some time out to do the instrumental album?

We had been touring for Writer’s Block, our breakthrough album, the third album, and we toured forever, because it was released in different territories one after the other, so it took such a long time. Seaside Rock was recorded in 2007 in-between tours, like a tour break, but we started on the new album in January 2008. It was kind of an intense touring period and our first [album] with a budget and proper studios. We used to do everything in our spare time and as a more of a hobby, so it’s great to do this as a living now, it’s amazing.

 

What was it like after “Young Folks” got so big? It must have been quite a change for you, suddenly getting so famous.

Yeah, it was a really big change. We’d put out two records before that and we’d played some gigs in Sweden and Norway, and all had jobs. I went on and off to university for ten years and never became anything. But it’s hard to concentrate on other jobs when you’re always thinking about music. So, obviously after Young Folks took off it’s been a big change, as now we live off the band, it’s our jobs. We didn’t expect that really, because we’re a bit older. We never wanted to be rock stars, we just wanted to make great music, and that’s what we’re doing.

 

What did you work as before the band became a full-time job?

All kinds of things. We were working quite a lot in schools, substitute teaching, teaching small kids music, or trying to – it didn’t work very well, I’m afraid. I also worked a lot in second hand bookstores, which was kind of nice, and as I said, on and off at university. At the time the record started to break through I was studying information science to become a librarian, but I didn’t finish that, obviously! (laughs)

 

Do you feel like your new album has progressed from Writer’s Block?

Yeah, it’s a huge difference. I think it’s our best album, I mean we always think that way with our songs, but we were able to pay more attention to the details and talk it through and make it properly, so to speak, a bit more expensive. It’s funny, because in a way it’s our most accessible record, the most “pop”, and it’s less like indie-rock, it’s more like classic pop or synth-pop or whatever. A lot of influences are from when we grew up in the Eighties, the things that were on the radio then, so it’s kind of more luxurious, more like champagne and less like beer. But at the same time, we achieved that by experimenting a lot, we didn’t take the expected routes, we kind of played on bottles and knives and matchboxes and all kinds of stuff, instead of a drum kit. The guitars and the piano are played in a more percussive way too, it’s more rhythmical. So it took quite a lot of talking and figuring out how to do it. Because we want to surprise ourselves, and that’s not really about the songs, because the songs are classic pop songs, it always has been, so they can be played in any kind of way. So it’s more about how you put space around them. It’s a blue, kind of cold, melancholic album in a way, but it’s also very melodic and has all kinds of influences.

 

I noticed that with Seaside Rock – you were really innovative with the arrangements and your choice of instruments.

That was really important for this new album too, just to let loose in the studio and play around. And in that one [Seaside Rock], we played on a lot of instruments we can’t play –like violins and saxophones – we can’t really play them, but we played them anyway, so it was kind of like children in an orchestra. So with this one, we went even further and played stuff that isn’t instruments. It’s funny, we’re more naive and childish now than when we started, even though we’re older as people, so it’s kind of interesting.

 

How do you write the songs – is it a collaboration between all of you or does one person do most of the writing?

We all write separately to begin with, so we sit at home with a guitar or a keyboard and write songs. Then we make demos for each other, and then we arrange and produce it together. It’s very democratic, almost painfully democratic. It’s three bosses, there’s not one who has more to say.

 

What have been your influences for this latest album?

We listen to a lot of different music. For me, somewhere in the background are classic pop songs from all ages. But for this new album we listened to a lot of hip-hop and old synth, African and Brazilian music, rockabilly and even some funk, so it all goes into the mix. It’s like this show now, it’s like a musical history, that goes from the Forties and Fifties to the present, we go through everything.

 

What are your plans for the next few months?

We’re going home tomorrow, we’re doing some more promo in Sweden and then we’re going to New York the next Sunday. We’re playing at the SXSW festival in Austin and then we’re going to do some more dates in Europe. And then another American tour, it’s never-ending, but I think we’re coming back here in the fall, hopefully.

 

 

 

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