Don’t be fooled by the title of Peter, Bjorn and John’s recent release ‘Writer’s Block’. Throughout its 11 tracks, there nothing to suggest the Swedish trio hit any creative brick walls – far from it.
‘Objects Of My Affection’, the album’s first proper song after a 16-second intro, gallops along with a joyful pace and intensity, and it’s a mood which rarely relents on any of the subsequent songs.
But who are these Scandi-pop tunesmiths?
“Things have to be kept fresh. We try not to get caught in some boring thing.”
‘Writer’s Block’ is the band’s third collection of work, but the first available outside their homeland. Peter Moren, 30, is currently studying while planning his first solo album, 31-year-old John Eriksson has travelled round the world as a percussionist, and chief songwriter Bjorn Yttling (pronounced Ittling), also 31, is one of Sweden’s busiest producers and recently released an album with his jazz group Yttling Jazz.
All three members play a number of instruments in the studio, which not only demonstrates their all-round talent, but enforces one of the ‘rules’ the trio have while making music.
“We can all play different instruments to different standards, but it’s the person with the idea on that instrument who is one to play it in the studio,” explains Bjorn.
Music is normally supposed to bend rules, to rebel, but with Peter, Bjorn and John, strict guidelines enhance everything they do.
They don’t allow themselves to be in the studio for more than four hours at a time, while another code is to always try to capture the spontaneity of the first take. Surely something that’s easier said than done, but the three-piece do their best.
“We always like the sound of the first take,” admits Yttling, “But if it turns out badly we’ll try it again after a few weeks. Things have to be kept fresh. We try not to get caught in some boring thing. If after a few weeks it’s still not good enough for the record, we leave it.”
One more rule for the list is that only Peter, Bjorn and John should be allowed in the studio at any one time. However, anyone who has heard the band’s marvellous single ‘Young Folks’ will know there’s a beautiful female voice present. The rule-breaker in question is Victoria Bergsman, formerly of The Concretes.
“We all love her voice,” says Bjorn. “It wasn’t a hard decision to get her in, but it did feel a bit obvious because we know her so well from hanging round Stockholm. Then again, we wanted the best voice we could find, so we thought ‘Why not just ask her?’”
‘Up Against The Wall’ is another of ‘Writer’s Block’s standout tracks, and was written by John.
“We arranged it, as we always do before recording it. We tried to capture the live feel, but it wasn’t working, so we went to it though – we wanted it to be more dancey,” says Bjorn.
Anyone up on their 1980s New Zealand guitar pop might know of The Chills, the band who inspired the song of the same name here.
“It’s not about the band, though” says Yttling, eager to put the record straight. “We all love them, and the guitar part on the song sounds like one of their songs, ‘Pink Frost’. It’s just a coincidence, but we thought we’d name the song after them as homage.”