A transcript of my interview with John Eriksson of Peter Bjorn and John. See the article on NJ.com!
Summer Dawn Hortillosa: For people who aren’t familiar with your music, how would you describe your style?
John Eriksson: Maybe like a smorgasbord of Swedish, English and American music – flavored with some chili. Our forte is our knowledge because the three of us have been in music for a long time. I was in it for eight years, Bjorn is a jazz pianist – usually when bands have that combination of people, they might play like…some kind of…we have good taste in what to play. We’re tasteful musicians.
SDH: So I know you guys are from Sweden, but you also mentioned that you have English and American influences. Did any of you guys ever live there, or have you just listened to a lot of English and American music?
JE: Sweden is very interesting, it’s like a country that’s not so patriotic. There’s no strong culture, the culture is not that strong in music and art. So we’re playing our Swedish version of American music in some way.
SDH: What is different about “Gimme Some?”
JE: It’s our 6th album and we wanted to do something with just bass guitar, drums and vocals like a trio. We want to make people see us in that way so we took away all the keyboards and piano, all of those instruments. Before, we used all the instruments on earth. We wanted to make a change.
SDH:Is there a theme, idea, concept or message behind the album?
JE: Lyric-wise kind of a lot of self-hate on the album.
SDH: Who does most of the songwriting? You? Does the band write together?
JE: We write 33.3% each. It’s a very democratic process but in studio we work together it’s all like a weird mix.
SDH: So you all write and the album is about self-hate – so you all hate yourselves?
JE: Yeah, more or less, haha. We tried to give it a positive sound – it’s about being able to change that feeling. When you listen to the album, you’ll be a better person.
SDH: How will you become a better person? What do you see after listening album that you wouldn’t have seen before? Do you think everyone can relate to these ideas?
JE: I don’t know, we all make mistakes and sometimes you force yourself to make mistakes in order to develop. We make mistakes as a band and people make mistakes as friends, politicians – we try to incorporate that in lyrics but not in such an obvious way. It’s angry but it also has a happy, energetic, positive feel. If you have a night out or a party, you can listen to the album. It’s a weird mix, that’s what we like. There’s a different feel to the music.
SDH: Is there anything you’ve wanted to try but haven’t yet?
JE: Yes! We wanted to use like, animals. Real animals. Like having a bunch of monkeys play one song. Maybe three monkeys and maybe some house chickens. It could work out, we’ll just instruct them.
SDH: Haha! Okay, so what is your overall goal as a band?
JE: Well we just had a meeting that we’re gonna try to be The Rolling Stones, like, age-wise. We’re going to keep on going until we drop dead. We hope with each album to surprise ourselves and fans so we’re like, the band you want to be friends with and we’re gonna stick with our fans for the rest of their lives. If you want to join us, you can. We want to keep evolving and not repeat ourselves. Like this tour, we’re doing now as a rock trio – next year, we don’t know what we’re gonna be like. Anything can happen.
SDH: Have you played here in Hoboken before?
JE: Yes, it was one of our first gigs in America, it was mind-blowing.
SDH: I hear you guys were giving away food or something like that at shows. Is that true? Is that gonna happen in Hoboken?
JE: Oh that’s the All-You-Can-Eat tour. The Hoboken show is part of our one-week residence in the New York area so we play every night in different rock venues. We make people feel full. Sometimes you can be full of music from one week of seeing us every night. Also, the food truck can give you food if you have a secret password. I think it’s online somewhere. It’s something like, “Gimme Some”?
SDH: That makes sense.
JE: Yeah, it does.
SDH: What else can the audience expect at your shows?
JE: For the moment, they can expect a rock trio. They’ll like it, I’m sure. Expect some band banter between songs in a Swedish and English dialect, so they might not understand all of it. All the songs should be in English, though, I hope.
SDH: You hope?!
JE: Haha, we’ll try to play all our hits and some that aren’t hits. It’ll be an experience.
SDH: Awesome, looking forward to it. So I just wanted to ask you, since one of your biggest hits is “Young Folks” and in the video, the cartoon guy teaches the girl how to whistle. Can you teach me how to whistle?
JE: Uhhh….you form your mouth like a small “o” and you just have to use your tongue to create some sort of bridge between and you blow air. You might look a bit weird, but it’s good to practice while walking. Practice makes perfect. It took me 15 years to learn it. I practice every day. It’s worth it, though, because if you do it at night when you walk behind another person and you start whistling, it’s a good practical joke.
On NJ.com, I posted “Young Folks” and challenged readers to whistle along. But here I’ll post one of my personal favorite PB&J songs, “Second Chance.”