Peter Bjorn and John

Music Features Peter Bjorn and John
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Björn Yttling just wants you to relax and have another drink. The bassist/keyboardist/vocalist of Peter Bjorn and John is on the phone in his hometown of Stockholm, Sweden, talking about his band’s new record. “We took out the ballads and all the songs that aren’t fun, uptempo songs,” he says. The trio broke into every gossip girl’s playlist with the infectious whistle-melody of 2006’s “Young Folks,” but have since mellowed and twisted their sound to whatever mood they please. Removing the piano and organ from the mix, they now focus more on the guitars. “We made it into a record you can listen to when you’re hanging in a bar and drinking.”

For Gimme Some, PB&J’s sixth studio album, Yttling and bandmates Peter Morén and John Eriksson set out to create a punk-rock record, but in the end got something a little different. They tried sleeping on floors, drinking, and foregoing the luxury of bathing to help drive the songs, but nothing could distract them from their natural juxtaposition of chipper, upbeat melodies with relatively depressive subject matter. “If you want to order more from a bar when you hear the song, then its a good song,” Yttling says. So to set the mood, the boys set up a makeshift bar in the studio. A stand-in bartender helped them assess the quality of songs based on whether or not it made you want to order another whiskey. The result is more akin to garage-pop-rock, as Yttling says, “They’re really catchy songs but with a scruffy sound.”

A perfect example is album opener “Tomorrow Has To Wait.” A haunting echo of the main line repeats over and over. “I don’t think that you are sorry for what you did. / I know you need it, and you just don’t know how to quit.” The pounding drum beat and jubilant chorus make you quickly forget the song is telling you something to the effect of “give up, its too late.” “You can’t play a happy song and sing about how happy you are,” Yttling says. “You have to balance that out. You don’t want a song to bum you out in the end. If you can keep the album on repeat through a whole party, it’s a good thing.”

Even better is mid-album heavy hitter “Breaker Breaker.” The song clocks in at a mere minute and 37 seconds, but a quick drum beat, Yttling’s driving bass and an energetic, dancing guitar from Morén supplant the particularly dark image, “Before you break my heart, before you start. / I’m gonna break your arm and concentration.”

Despite dressing more like Oxford hipsters than dirty punk-rockers, they command the stage with an explosive presence. “When we play our trio, we can improvise more; we can change the songs up more than when we have a fourth person,” Yttling says, “We tried to make an ‘us playing in a room’ vibe more than before.”

This feel is definitely reflected both on the album and on the stage. Morén has a dancing love affair with the microphone, often weaving in and out of packed-club crowds, both with and without guitar or mic in hand. Yttling is more reserved, maintaining his place on the stage during Morén’s antics. At the end of the day though, they just want you to enjoy the music. I ask what he would order if the album was played while he was sitting at the bar. “It doesn’t matter what you’re drinking” Yttling replies. “You just tap the glass, and point with your finger, ‘One more of these!’”