Peter, Bjorn and John are an indie-pop trio from northern Sweden, so why does their music sound so warm? COLIN DELANEY chats to Peter about Sweden’s weather and music scene.
Peter MorÃ©n and Bjorn Yttling met at high school 15 years ago and have been playing music together ever since – everything from Burt Bacharach to improvisational rock.
“Then we met John in ’99 when we moved to Stockholm and we split our previous bands. We were starting to make our own demos and we found out we couldn’t play drums. So we had to have a drummer and we met him at a party and he seemed like the perfect match. He’s probably the best drummer I’ve ever played with,” explains Peter. After two locally released albums, their third album, Writer’s Block, has finally reached international indie acclaim.
How has Writer’s Block differed from previous work?
Not so much really. We just listened to the old albums because they are about to be released in Europe and probably in Australia. The sound is pretty similar. You have your slow songs and your fast songs. The recordings may have changed a bit though.
Will you do anything on the older albums?
We changed the artwork a bit and put in some more liner notes – which is really nerdy – about the recordings and we put in some extra tracks, some B sides that aren’t available anymore, so there’s some bonuses.
Some people might be familiar with “Young Folks”, but could you explain your sound to our readers?
Well, it doesn’t sound like that one on everything. It’s a mixture. Since we’re three writers the music ranges from soft songs with spare instrumentation, to rockin’ songs with noisy guitars, but it’s pop music with personal lyrics.
So when did things start taking off?
We decided to rehearse in ’99 and then a year later we started to play shows. In 2001 we did a vinyl EP and that was the first thing we did ourselves. Then it got to the point where we wanted to release an album. You don’t want to get in the studio as the first thing you do. A lot of the songs on the first album were quite old because Bjorn and I had been writing for a long time. We probably wanted to get to know each other musically and play a bit together first.
Why does so much great music come from Sweden?
Not sure. I’m not sure everybody is great but there are some good bands. I think we have a strong tradition of picking up on styles early. Jazz musicians came hear early on, the Beatles came here early as well. In the ’60s we had some good bands. It’s mainly in the later years now that we have exported a lot of stuff. We are very influenced by American and English music but perhaps we have a different attitude towards it, some other angle I can’t tell for sure. But I don’t think it’s a scene as in we all sound the same, ‘cos no one sounds like us – but there are a lot of great bands. For a small country, I don’t know what’s happening over there. I still listen to a lot of American and British music, but right now Sweden is almost the third nation in pop music, in indie music. That’s quite weird.
Do you think it has something to do with the climate? Speaking to Canadian bands, they say the weather is very conducive to being a musician.
Could be. We have definite seasons, it’s not just one blur, so perhaps you get inspired by the weather. We grew up in a small village in the north and you really didn’t have a lot of inspiration from the climate there, like you get in Stockholm, which has plenty of culture. You couldn’t go to good movies or concerts. You had to stay home, you didn’t have a lot of friends. You couldn’t even find good music in the record store so instead you find yourself sitting at home with your guitar writing your own music. That’s how it started for me – boredom is a good inspiration.
Well, you’ll be down in Melbourne for the Laneyway Festival won’t you?
Ja, it will be great. It’s a great line-up. We’re really looking forward to it, especially as it’s summer there and winter here.