Peter Bjorn and John

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Peter Bjorn and John

Peter Morén, Björn Yttling and John Eriksson are all experienced producers in their own right. The Swedish indie pop trio self-produced their first five albums, while Yttling has also produced records for the likes of Lykke Li and Sarah Blasko. But for album six, 2011’s Gimme Some, they brought in fellow Swede Per Sunding, best known for producing The Cardigans. The result was a guitar-centric power pop record, marked by the trio’s exuberant energy.

The band members have kept busy in the five years since Gimme Some. Yttling produced Li’s I Never Learn, as well as records for Chrissie Hynde and Franz Ferdinand; Morén released his second Swedish-language solo album, Pyramiden; and Eriksson released a couple of albums under his solo alias Hortlax Cobra (1984 andNightshift). Plus, the band have been instrumental in the advent of Ingrid – a Stockholm-based record label and artist collective formed alongside Li, songwriter Coco Morier, members of Miike Snow, Teddybears and more.

“[We] started to hang out more with people in the pop business here in Stockholm,” says Yttling. “Making shows together with them, like Lykke Li and Miike Snow and Teddybears. Also building that studio was a bit different, or actually two studios; they’re called the Ingrid studios.”

Along the way, Peter Bjorn and John were steadily working on their seventh album, Breakin’ Point. They again sought out help with the production, but this time they enlisted a long list of studio experts. The album credits include Patrik Berger (Robyn, Icona Pop), Paul Epworth (Adele, Coldplay), Emile Haynie (Lana Del Ray, Kanye West), just to name a few. These guys are responsible for producing and co-writing many of the most successful mainstream pop releases of recent years, from Kanye’s Runaway to Adele’s Skyfall, Robyn’s Dancing On My Own to Sia’s Chandelier. This is exactly the territory Peter Bjorn and John wanted to inhabit.

“We wanted to make pop songs and put out a pop album,” Yttling says. “We started with Patrik Berger. Actually when we started building the studio he was like, ‘This band I have, they want to make a show in the studio’… We started with him, we made maybe five, six songs with him, and we felt like, ‘We have to do this how we did it with him on the other songs too.’

“Then we recorded some songs and we wrote songs and we were like, ‘Who else is doing what he does on an international level?’ Paul Epworth was in a band before he started production; Greg Kurstin I knew because I worked with him on the Lykke Li album a little bit; Emile Haynie we also knew and he just seemed like a great fit. So we wanted to make contemporary, current pop music for us that would be valid now.”

There’s long been a conspicuous pop aspect to Peter Bjorn and John’s songwriting. Their international breakthrough came ten years ago via the single Young Folks, and it’s no exaggeration to describe it as one of the most infectious songs of the 2000s. However, the band’s proclivity for pop music has never before been condensed into a whole album package quite like it is onBreakin’ Point.
“Maybe the last album influenced it in such a way that the last album was more of a power pop, punky album where we looked at Guided By Voices or obscure [bands] like Suicide or something like that,” says Yttling. “Those records were more like getting cool sounds and then recording a record. This time we really wanted to focus on every aspect of the songwriting, sort of like how Motown worked on their songs where they never finished until they got it right.”

On paper, Guided By Voices seem a million audio interfaces away from refined Swedish pop music. The US band are emblematic of the mid-‘90s lo-fi movement, and their iconic releases Bee Thousand and Alien Lanes are characterised by the hum of a four track tape recorder. That said, Guided By Voices bandleader Robert Pollard certainly knows how to conjure up a classic melody. Accordingly, Gimme Some is loaded with accessible songcraft. However, Breakin’ Point is designed to make a broader impact.
  “If you want to compete with the Drakes – who, by the way, is super great and has awesome melodies, a personal favourite – then you have to look into production and how people communicate,” Yttling says. “We looked at Fleetwood Mac. Not Rumours, more like Tango In The Night. We of course looked at Michael Jackson, [especially] Thriller.
“I love Buzzcocks and those sort of bands that have strong melodies, but if you don’t get the communication right then it’s not pop. Since we did the whole rock thing on Gimme Some, we wanted the songs totally solid before going into the studio this time.”

Written by Augustus Welby

When & Where: Corner Hotel, Melbourne, Thursday July 21; Splendour in the Grass, North Byron Parkland’s, Friday July 22 – Sunday July 24.