Thursday, June 2, 2011

More with Peter Bjorn and John

Q: The band just finished a run of American tour dates, where you did two shows in one night for L.A., Chicago and NYC. Had you done that before? How did it work out?
We did that in 2007. On the early “Writer’s Block” tours, we did a couple double ones. It’s tough of course. You get really tired, but at the same time, it’s funny. When you play during the second show, there tends to happen a lot of fun things. You really get into it. You’ve already played 90 minutes and you’re going to do it [again, so] you start playing differently and fun things happen. It’s kind of similar to when I was younger; I used to do a lot of cover gigs, like playing weddings and birthday parties. Then you play 3-4 hours. It’s similar to that. You start soft and the longer the night goes, you start jamming more and it’s more crazy. I like it [laughs]. Better than drugs.

Q: Last time I caught the band was at Coachella ’09 when you did the main stage on the final day in the late afternoon. What do you recall about it?
That gig, I remember it was kind of hard because it was daylight and a lot of sun. We haven’t done that many shows like that. You have to learn how to see the guitar pedals and everything. It was a pretty early gig on that tour. I had some new pedals and I couldn’t really see them because of sunlight. I mixed up the pedals. Festivals – I think it gets more fun the more you do it. You get used to the bigger stages. Also since we did that Depeche Mode run in 2009, you get used to putting a lot of energy in a shorter time period on a bigger stage. I like it more and more. But it’s nice to play the longer club gigs as well.

Q: Since all three of you make mix tapes for inspiration before the records, do they serve as a good springboard for ideas when making the music?
Yeah, it’s really helpful because you can go back and listen while you’re working on it, for maybe a guitar sound or drum fill or just a general feeling of a song. It’s really helpful to bounce back and forth to those references. Usually, things turn up on the way as well while you’re working. We all like a broad range of music. That’s part of the reason you’re making music – you want to make something that make you feel as good or bad or whatever as stuff that you like. It was easier this time around. The mix tapes for “Living Thing” were super eclectic, like all over the place, from old African field recordings to ‘80s synth pop and hip hop. For this record, since we knew we were going to do guitar/bass/drums, it was still eclectic, but more on the rock and roll/power pop side. And referenced by that side.

Q: Some examples from the liner notes: on “Black Book,” is says a laser gun was used and “Tomorrow Has to Wait” includes the use of shoes. What exactly did you do with them?
We actually took off some shoes and banged them against a wall. The laser gun, I don’t know exactly what it is, probably like a synth effect on John’s demo. We just took it from the demo because it sounded so good.

Q: How do you think the band’s sound has progressed over the years? Is there a musical intuitiveness between all of you?
As a live band, we definitely have this [natural] thing when we play and there’s a chemistry. Certain things we do sound really good. For instance, “I Know You Don’t Love Me,” the last song [on “Gimme Some”] is kraut [rock]. It’s just something we do really well without practicing much. That was like a couple of takes, really quick. Very live. That sort of thing is something we do good as a band. And also some of those power pop things like “Lies.”

Q: “Lies” actually dates back to 2003. What prompted you to dig that one up to rework it?
That was a song I had in the cupboard. We actually practiced it in 2002-2003. The other guys don’t remember that, but I know we did for a fact just one rehearsal with that song. Then I changed the lyrics a little bit. That was the kind of music we did back then. It was power pop – a bit like Buzzcocks, early Elvis Costello…since I knew we were going to go back to that sort of thing for this record, deliberately, I just thought it would be a good fit to take that song back.

Each of the members is active outside the band. Moren has put out two solo albums, including one in Swedish and did guest vocals for Groove Armada and Lykke Li. John Eriksson has done music with his other band Holiday for Strings and solo project Hortlax Cobra.

Q: When you’re writing a song, do you make a delineation between what should be saved for PB&J and your solo albums?
Recently, it’s been really easy because I did a Swedish record last year with Swedish lyrics and I am working on a new one. If I know I have that frame of the language, then it’s easy and I know it’s going to be a solo thing. Of course in the past, there’s been a couple songs that I tried with the band then felt I had a clear idea what I wanted to do with it. In the band, you have to be really open-minded because it’s very democratic and you can’t really be too clear or have too much pre-conceived ideas about an arrangement. If you want it to go through with the band, you have to be open for things happening. Sometimes, I put songs aside because I know what I wanted them to sound like.

Q: Over the years, Sweden has produced more pop/rock acts that found success or a cult following in America than other Scandinavian countries. What do you think the reason is for that?
In regards of pop music, somehow we do. In Scandinavia, Sweden has become the main culture country. I don’t know why really. Historically, Norway is like a little brother. Economic-wise, Norway’s leading and is really rich because of the ore. In Denmark, you have a good beer culture and films [which are] probably top of the game.

Q: Later this year, the band will return here to do residencies in several cities. Are you looking forward to laying down stakes in some of our metropolitan areas longer than usual?
It’ll be nice to stay in the same areas and do a longer stretch. We usually do shorter focus, play every night. This time, we’re going to relax a bit more. We’re also going to play a lot of different venues, different sized rooms. It’s fun to play super small clubs.  


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