In 1999, guitarist/vocalist Peter Moren and bassist/vocalist Bjorn Yttling were regrouping after a Stockholm move and a band break-up when they met drummer/vocalist John Eriksson. After forming the aptly christened Peter Bjorn and John, the Swedish trio turned out a pair of interesting indie pop albums (their 2002 eponymous debut, 2004's Falling Out) but hit global gold with their 2006 album Writer's Block and its sticky single "Young Folks."
The triad of the digital-only concept album Seaside Rock, Moren's solo acoustic interlude and the diverse but slightly bony Living Thing moved PB&J's needle ever so slightly forward. When it came time to think about their sixth studio full length, Gimme Some, the trio decided to look back in order to move ahead.
"We talked about making this kind of album for a long time," says Eriksson. "We've been listening to old, great albums by the Buzzcocks and the Damned. This didn't turn out as punky as that, but we wrote some songs that suited that idea."
PB&J even revisited songs that hadn't made the cut for Living Thing and Writer's Block but which suddenly seemed perfect for their current sonic context.
"We tried a lot of different tracks to find a good combination of songs for the album," says Eriksson. "We've always had this rule of 'less is more.' This time, we used that expression on the arrangements, so we just used bass, guitar, drums and vocals. It becomes much easier to get a unity between songs."
One of PB&J's pre-recording rituals is to make mix CDs that document the kind of music that has occupied them individually. Those mixes often hint at the direction the band will take on their own music.
"Before Living Thing, there was a lot of synth pop like Depeche Mode and New Order and hip-hop like Jay-Z," says Eriksson. "This album, our mix tape was more like Buzzcocks and Sex Pistols and some old soul, music that focused on bass, guitar and drums but in different styles.
"It's good to get your mind set on some kind of sound and expression before going into the studio, then you try to find your own version of that style."
After a decade of self-production, one of the biggest shifts for PB&J on Gimme Some was the presence of an outside producer. They talked about different options and pursued at least one.
"I think we actually called James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem, but he was busy with his own album, or he didn't have time, or he thought we were strange guys from Sweden," says Eriksson with a laugh. "With a producer, you let go of a lot practical issues such as booking the studio, backing up the hard drive and finding the right cables. When you do that you can relax more as a band. We could all three behave like what we think is a rock band; drink beer, play computer games and watch football while the producer is trying to fix something you didn't play right."
The trio ultimately brought in veteran boardsman Per Sunding, vocalist/bassist for Swedish indie-pop inspirations Eggstone and one of the PB&J's personal heroes. With Sunding's help, PB&J were able to create an immediate and visceral atmpsphere on Gimme Some.
"It's a cliche answer, but I've always wanted to make an album that sounds like a live concert," says Eriksson. "Of course, there's no people yelling and the sound system works so it's not the whole experience, but it's a perfect wave of energy. We open with an overture, it builds up against punk then it ends up with a long crowd song. I think we mananged to get that sequence."
Peter Bjorn and John
Peter Bjorn and John
7 p.m. Sept. 17. Toad's Place,
300 York St., New Haven. $18. 203-624-TOAD, toadsplace.comCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun