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Indie pop troupers Peter Bjorn and John are set to release their seventh studio after a five-year hiatus, Breakin’ Point, this month. The band chose to work with several producers on this project, including Paul Epworth (Florence and The Machine, U2, Paul McCartney), Emile Haynie (Kanye West, Lana Del Rey, FKA Twigs), and Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia), and the added lacquer results in a beating, yet airy interpolation of disco and new wave synth-pop sounds.
The work is a marked shift and expansion of sound for a band that has previously dabbled in baroque pop and garage punk textures, but the band manages to do this without losing the buoyant earnestness of their lyrics.
The trio, comprised of Peter Morén, Björn Yttling, and John Eriksson, have been playing together for nearly 15 years and feels like the shift in sound is just a natural progression, the result of growing not just as a band, but also as human beings, having children, and starting their own label.
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Morén explains, “It’s been a long, long journey. We’ve been away from the public for quite some time and obviously we haven’t worked on the record all of that time, but we’ve been up and running since late 2012, on and off. That’s when we started writing the first songs.”
Morén details that during this time the band also changed management a few times, had children, and began working with several producers: “If we had focused and just done this for maybe a year, it would have happened quicker, but there has been a lot of other stuff going on.”
He continues, “One reason that it took so long is that we always set up some kind of agenda for a new album. Like the last one, Gimme Some, we wanted to go back to basics and work with our live performance set up, drums, bass, and guitar, you know? And go for a power pop, punky thing.”
He further lays out that on previous records that band went into the studio with a “production dogma,” experimenting with various production techniques and narrowing their focus to creating new sound palates, “like building our own drum kits out of found sounds and this time around we didn’t have anything like that; our rule was more about the songwriting, which I personally enjoyed more.”
He elaborates, “The dogma wasn’t about the recording, it was about the writing. We wanted to do really well-written pop songs that would all be under four minutes. So, maybe that made the recording take longer, because we didn’t have any strategy for the recording.”
While working on Breakin’ Point, the band also founded art collective and record label INGRID with Andrew Wyatt and Pontus Winnberg of the pop group Miike Snow, along with several others. “It started with Björn, he was offered to take over an old studio in Stockholm. In the seventies I think ABBA did some stuff there and some other famous people. For a while now it’s been kind of going off the radar, but it’s a really lovely studio. So, they [Pontus and Björn] started this studio and from that came the idea to start an organization around the studio, mainly as an umbrella for all the activities that we don’t do in our main bands.”
He continues, “It’s a simple outlet for when you want to get a record out quick, rather than going through the whole grinding process of shopping it around, so it’s not so much a traditional record label.”
The band’s stated goal for this album was to make a real, proper pop record. Which is why they chose to work with so many producers on this project. “There’s a lot of things here, that maybe we wouldn’t have normally done, but I think it makes the songs shine more. The individual songs have their own identity in a way that on some of our previous records might have been a bit neglected, but here every song shines in different ways. Also, we learned a lot from the songwriting [process] because we sat in a room together much more than we normally do.”
He adds, “I think as a band we’ve gone past wanting to do everything ourselves. Because we’ve been together for so long, we need other people in the room; it makes us work better. It’s a social thing, as well. You bring in producers and new people in the room when you’re playing and rehearsing, and it becomes a bit more fun.”
Morén discusses in some detail the history of the band and its growth up till now: “I don’t think we really expected this to be a career at all. I’ve always been doing music all my life, but I’ve always worked other jobs and studied other things and did music on the side. So, we put out two records before working full time with music, on some small indie labels, doing small shows mainly in Sweden and some in Scandinavia. Then it was the third record that went all the way. At that point we were hitting 30, so we weren’t kids. Now we’re even older!”
He goes on, “But you know it was good in a way, because you don’t take anything for granted and you’re a bit more grounded. I always feel like this might end tomorrow, but of course you hope that you can make a living out of it for the rest of your life.” He concludes, “And not just as a band, but just making music and writing songs. You want to keep busy and do different types of music. Of course the band is the main gig, and we’ll see how long we do that, but right now it feels really fresh.”
Standout Track: “Breakin’ Point”
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