Peter Bjorn and John whistled their way into our long-term memory with 2006’s “Young Folks,” and a decade later are still making extra catchy, extra bouncy tracks with their latest LP, “Breakin’ Point.” The Swedish rockers’ seventh album, which dropped in June, featured the work of a flurry of new collaborative producers, a new method for the trio who typically self-produce. The result is a more polished power pop, with twinkling melodies and disco-hued beats, and as always, plenty of handclaps and whistling. We chat with drummerJohn Eriksson who discusses the legacy of “Young Folks,” their ABBA-stolen-errr… -influenced album and which member of the band is the worst whistler.
We’re in the middle of fashion month, and “Young Folks” got such heavy rotation during fashion shows the year it came out — was that expected? How did it feel to get embraced by the fashion community?
Nothing was expected for us at that time. [Laughs] Every day came with a new surprise. We were and still are the least fashionable band since ELO, especially Bjorn. He dresses like an alcoholic retired cop. But we all like clothes. Most of all Peter, when we get stuff for free. If “Young Folks” were an outfit, it would be a beret — a bit too much, but never goes out of style.
This album was influenced by ABBA’s greatest hits. Can you tell me about your relationship with the band’s work?
ABBA were master thieves. They stole the groove for “Dancing Queen” from Gerorge Mccree. So, as an homage, we stole everything from ABBA apart from Anni-frid and Agneta. We called ourselves “Dancing Kings” for a couple of weeks. Then Avicii came and f—d everything up.What we love most about ABBA is their darkest melancholic lyrics combined with their colorful music. We liked that real, un-tight musicians played everything you hear on their albums.
You worked with a collective of producers this time — what was the decision making process with them? And how did you decide who to work with?
We broke down lots of producers during this album process. One mysteriously disappeared, another one ended up seeking mental care and a third one mostly talked about how much he missed smoking weed.We picked out people we thought could manage to over-ride the three of us in the band. No one could. But, we found some of the best, crafty producers for the specific songs that needed an extra layer of fresh paint. For the first time we wanted the music to sound expensive, it ended up with us turning bankrupt.
There’s a really transient ambiance on songs like “A Long Goodbye” and ”Between the Lines.” How would you describe them?
“A Long Goodbye” is one of our most atmospheric sounding songs. We added a bunch of electronic drones together with Paul Epworth at his church studio in London. U2 had been there the week before, so that must have affected the sound of this song. We found some fun U2 notes in a trash bin saying “delete Bono’s guitar” and “write good lyric.”
Our other song, “Between the Lines,” has ambience in a different way. It’s a typical PB&J production. It’s only acoustic instruments and a lot of space in the arrangement that makes the song feel open and cinematic, and the lyric on this one is constructed as some sort of an Ingmar Bergman scene.
How do you incorporate all that clapping and whistling into the live shows? How does that work during the songwriting/recording process?
We love hand clapping and whistling.They are sounds that everybody in the whole world can make. It doesn’t cost anything and even a child can do it.We put handclaps on almost every song we record and we find it hard to stay away from whistling.
When it comes to doing it on stage, it’s a nightmare. Peter can’t whistle in tune. He is the worst whistler in the world. On this “Breakin’ Point Tour” we have two amazing extra musicians with us.For the first time we can play every song almost as they sound on the records. We have never sounded this good before and this might be the last time we can perform “Young Folks” like this.
Guilty pleasure question: You worked with Drake in 2009 on “So Far Gone.” Did you stay in touch?
[Laughs] Good question. I tried to send him a text once but I think he has changed his number or something.
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