Peter Bjorn & John

By Taylor Burgess
Their name will be forever linked to that song—you know, that whistling one—but Stylus readers should know Writer’s Block had more substance than one hit single. With jaw-dropping and catchy singles like “Objects of my Affection,” “Start to Melt” and “Amsterdam,” Peter Bjorn and John’s breakthrough album remains one of the better pop records of the decade. However, even many fans of the Swedish trio didn’t realize that it was their third release, not their first. And now they’re back with their fifth release, Living Thing, a return to pop after the quietly released and mostly instrumental Seaside Rock. PBJ’s drummer John Eriksson talked to us on the phone from his apartment about their path up until now, and what’ll likely happen in the near future.

Stylus: “Young Folks” was a song that popped up everywhere in 2006 and 2007. It was in commercials, on the internet and even on Top 40 radio. How do you feel about it when you hear it now?
John Eriksson: We heard it at an afterparty the other night, and we… we were so surprised at how good it sounded. [Laughs.] You know, when you hear a good song through a sound system of that quality… We just hadn’t heard it in a while. We felt so proud of it.
Stylus: Before you play it live, do you feel that your fans are expecting something?
JE: Well, I’m not really sure what our fans want. Fans go to see for different reasons, and that depends on the band. Some people watch certain bands to be surprised, and some fans go to see the same old show.

Stylus: What kind of band would you rather be: one that surprises or plays the same set over and over?
JE: I hope we surprise people… I mean surprises are good in everyday life. They’re what make everyday life fun. And besides, we can’t be AC/DC. [Laughs.]

Stylus: How have you guys dealt with your fame since the release of Writer’s Block?
JE: When everything happened, there was also a lot of surprises every day, and we didn’t even think about it. We’re not for the fame, or to meet celebrities. The only difference is that we’re doing this full time now.

Stylus: Living Thing has a noticeably stripped-down sound to it. How did that come about?
JE: We wanted to make music with lots of space in it—something that sounded like a ghost house, like it was spooky. So we didn’t try to take away from our sound, we just thought it was more important to make the drums and beats sound really good. Thing is, we tried to have a stripped-down sound with Writer’s Block but we just didn’t do it.

Stylus: Were you influenced by any particular artist for this album?
JE: This time we were listening to ’80s pop, but last time we were listening to a lot of ’90s indie rock.

Stylus: So what are Peter Bjorn and John’s plans heading forward?
JE: Well, first, we’ve got one year of touring. And then after we’ll get together and talk about making something different. We’ll probably just get together and record something when we’re drunk. [Laughs.]