They’re the trio behind the insanely catchy whistle solo that infected everyone’s brain back in the summer of ’06, but Stockholm’s Peter Bjorn and John have a lot more to offer than “Young Folks.” The Swedes just released their sixth studio album, Gimme Some, and are gearing up for a tour with one-woman psych-pop outfit Bachelorette at the end of the month. We caught up with vocalist/guitarist Peter Moren to talk about Gimme Some, the double meaning behind PB&J’s album art and his favorite up-and-coming Swedish musicians.
OS: So how do you guys feel now that you’ve released Gimme Some?
PM: Great. Better than ever.
OS: Do you feel like seasoned vets now that you’ve put out your sixth album?
PM: Yeah, we’re a bit more relaxed and a bit more mature and we know that we’re going to survive no matter what happens. It feels more fun than being, like, a cool new band.
OS: A lot of critics had mixed feelings towards 2009’s Living Thing, did that affect the way you crafted Gimme Some?
PM: No, I wouldn’t say that. It’s a reaction to the album before—Living Thing—but not to the critics. You always want to do something different than the time before. We talked about, quite early on, that we wanted to do something that would be really fun to play live. Living Thing was kind of hard, we had to bring along a lot of synthesizers and, you know, practice a lot. [Laughs] We wanted to do something that was a bit more simple and that was based off the way we usually perform live, which is guitar, bass and drums with a bit more energy and punk to it. So that’s what we did. It is very fun to play live.
OS: This is the first time you brought in an outside producer. Why did you make that decision?
PM: Partly because we wanted to make this kind of record that I was talking about, and we felt that in order to be able to get the great live takes where we’re all playing in a room together, it’s nice to focus on playing and being the band and not being a producer at the same time. We wanted some outside ears and some fresh input. But it’s also, of course, that we’ve been a band for almost twelve years, and we felt that we could stand to have a fourth opinion for a short period, you know? Just bounce things off his head. Also, the thing is when you vote when there’s just three people there’s always two against one. So now it comes out two against two, or three against one. It’s another dynamic, and that’s pretty nice.
OS: Can you tell us about the album art?
PM: Actually, we did a photo session of the band for a magazine, and in the picture we all did thumbs up. We didn’t use that picture, but we liked the idea of the three thumbs up. So we talked to a graphic designer we knew, Jonas [Torvestig], and he came up with this deformed, three-thumbed hand. It’s just a great image because on one hand it’s colorful and positive and peppy, and on the other hand it’s cut off so it’s a bit morbid and scary. And I think that describes the music accurately. It’s positive pop music that’s energetic, but at the same time the lyrics are pretty dark and negative. It’s like a description of the album.
OS: You have to answer questions about Sweden all the time, so I apologize, but what are some cool Swedish bands that listeners should check out?
PM: Well, I actually just learned about a band yesterday that just released one song. It’s a brand new project, but I actually found out who they were. They’re not brand new people, but I’m not going to say how old they are. [Laughs] But it’s a very good song. They’re called the Serenades, very good song. I think they have a Web site, like, serenades.com. And there’s another new band I like a lot, which is called Into the Woods. And they haven’t put out anything yet, I think. Really new. New, new stuff.
OS: You guys have said before that you get asked about your homeland so often that you sort of feel like “music ambassadors for Sweden.” Do you like that, or do you get tired of being “that Swedish band”?
PM: I mean we are a Swedish band, so it would be hard to get rid of that. But I feel we’re part of a long and proud tradition. And also the not-so-well known indie scene in the nineties, which is kind of what made us start to play. Per [Sunding], the producer, he was in a band called Eggstone in the nineties before we started Peter Bjorn and John. There was a lot of bands at that time, too, that are not so well-known to the rest of the world. But it’s not a new thing with the Swedish, the indie thing. It’s just that after the Internet came it was easier to get out there. We always had some really good bands over time.
OS: The tour with Bachelorette starts at the end of the month, are you looking forward to that?
PM: Yeah, that’ s gonna be fun. I haven’t really, to be honest, I haven’t heard a lot from her. But I think it’s going to be good. I’m really looking forward to the shows, and playing the new album.
OS: Is there a different energy when you play shows in Sweden and Europe compared to those in North America?
PM: No, I mean we always essentially do the same thing. We play and jump around and sing and dance. [Laughs] I don’t know. Audiences might be different here and there, but American audiences are usually very, very good. So I’m not worried about that. Sometimes it might be different at different venues, actually. Even if you’re just playing the same town, if you’re playing a bigger room or a smaller room sometimes the audiences are different. I don’t know why, but I think it’s more about the venues than the city. If people like a venue, they’re more happy. I don’t know.
OS: We’ve noticed that you’re constantly updating your Web site with hilarious bits of your life—do you do that more for your fans or for your own amusement?
PM: I guess we maintain the blog and the Twitter because of fan interaction, but I definitely think that part of it is amusing ourselves. Most of the funny pictures, actually, that’s John. John is a really funny guy. I think he puts them up to amuse me and Bjorn, maybe. And the fans as well [Laughs] And the fans as well. It’s really good.
OS: After six albums, is there anything new you still want to explore in your music?
PM: There’s always new things that you want to try, and even when you sit down to do something it usually ends up being something else. You can’t really plan to much, but you can have an idea beforehand of what you want to explore. And it’s not so much about songwriting. The songs you can really mold in any kind of way. You can actually write the song first, and then you can decide afterwards how you’re going to perform it. Like now on the tour, we rearranged some of the Living Things songs, for example, and they really fit in with the new songs because we play them differently. What we have been talking about for the next album, and I’m not sure that’s going to happen, is a bit more funk and soul and blues. That’s the next thing we’ve been talking about.
Check out Gimme Some, available now, and don’t miss PB&J on tour!