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Peter, Bjorn, and John drummer John Eriksson

By Selena Fragassi 

There must be something in the Swedish water, or so thinks Peter, Bjorn, and John drummer John Eriksson as, together, we uncover a surprisingly fishy theme swimming through the band’s history, most notably at their very first gig aboard a boat. 

“There were only two people at the side of the stage, and they were just friends of ours,” Eriksson says in a thick, yet charming accent of the less than bon voyage. “We got paid in food with shrimp cocktail and toast. And during our set, I got seasick. We learned a lot from that, like you shouldn’t eat shrimp before a gig.” 

It’s late in the afternoon when we catch up over the phone, moments after the band arrives in New York for the start of their upcoming U.S. tour that includes a Rolling Stone party and a headlining gig at Coachella, proof of how far upstream the band has come since their modest beginnings. 

It all began ten years ago when Eriksson met vocalist/guitarist Peter Moren and bassist/keyboardist Bjorn Yttling at a cocktail party in Stockholm – a cocktail shrimp party, that is. 

“That’s where it began – at a great fish party,” says Eriksson of the unconventional, albeit fateful meeting of the power pop, new wave band. “It must be our thing, fish. I guess we’re just a ‘shellfish’ band. Maybe we should call our next record, Cocktail Shrimp.” 

In fact the band kept the punchline going with an all-instrumental record called Seaside Rock, which according to Eriksson was fittingly “about the sea and the Swedish environment by the water.” It fit perfectly in the middle of two major releases for the band, 2006’s Writer’s Block which made Peter, Bjorn, and John household names with the now-famous whistling creed, “Young Folks,” and this year’s heavily-anticipated follow-up Living Thing, a somewhat darker release whose first single, “Nothing to Worry About,” has already been living up to fans and critics expectations. 

“Maybe people expect us to feel the pressure with this album,” Eriksson says, “but we had pressure when we did our second album like seven years ago. Back then it was just the pressure of getting better. But the last three records we created out of joy and desperation. So now that people know us, it’s up to us to keep on doing good music.” 

So for this record, the band had a rule that everything goes in order to further open the doors to creativity, with one exception. “We said no whistling on this record. And no bongos either. But everything else was ok,” he jokes. “In the end, all 12 songs have something very special,” he continues, making a case that this new record can stand up to the success brought by “Young Folks,” which was named NME’s second best track of 2006 and featured guest vocalist Victoria Bergsman from The Concretes. “It’s always that mix between having a great song and the coincidence in what people feel like and what’s played on the radio.” 

In one major way, the band is sticking to its formula with a new crop of inventive music videos that follow the cartoon craze started by “Young Folks.” 

“For this record, we have fantastic videos with a more documentary style,” Eriksson says. “It’s a dance theme we start off with, a sort of lo-fi disco thing. For example, the song “Nothing to Worry About,” we have Japanese bikers doing a street dance. And the next video will have this Swedish Michael Jackson performing for us.” 

From Swedish Michael Jackson impersonators to Swedish up and comers like Lykke Li and even American mainstays like Kanye West, all three members of Peter, Bjorn and John have also been known in their downtime to collaborate with today’s biggest musicians, and after promoting Living Thing, Eriksson says the next partnership may just be presidential. 

“We just finished this album so we’re not thinking of other work right now, but when we do, maybe it will be a collaboration with Barack Obama. Some thrash metal,” jokes Eriksson. “He’s a good artist. Just look what’s he is doing in the world already.” 

Peter, Bjorn and John play Obama’s hometown Thursday, April 23 at Metro (3730 N. Clark Street) 


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