After “Young Folks” became an undisputed smash in 2006, it seemed you couldn’t turn around without running into Peter, Bjorn, or John. But since the Swedish trio released last year’s mostly instrumental Seaside Rock, they’ve managed to slide back under the radar. Their new effort, Living Thing, out next week, may change that. Vulture spoke with drummer John Eriksson about hit songs, playing with Kanye, and the possibility that the new Peter Bjorn and John album will be recorded on a crocodile farm.
Seaside Rock was a difficult album. Was that a conscious decision?
It kind of just happened. After we did it, then we stopped to think, that was actually a good thing. Just to get rid of that hit-band feeling, that feeling we’re a band that produces hits.
When you recorded “Young Folks,” did you know it was a hit?
No, I mean, we thought it was a good song. I think we noticed when we played the first CD-Rs that we burned at a small disco club in Stockholm. After like 30 seconds of the song, four or five people came up to us and asked, "What band is this?" And then we realized that the song was something. And after that, it’s just like a strange dream or something.
The song was everywhere. Did you get used to hearing it in random places?
I think it’s always kind of amusing. I just happened to see the end of a Danish dog show, and it had “Young Folks” when the dogs were jumping. It was really good.
You gave your single “Nothing to Worry About” to Kanye to premiere on his blog. What’s your relationship with him?
He did a mix tape where he used “Young Folks” in the background, and he didn’t ask us for permission. And we thought this time, let’s send him the single right away! He played in Sweden, he had a gig, and it happened that we played with him. It was pretty funny. We sent him the song and it was a good way to promote it, on his blog. We thought about sending it to the White House blog, but his blog is a bit better.
What’s it like interacting with him?
It was really, like, you and me. Most people who like music are normal people.
The video for “Nothing to Worry About,” with the Japanese street gang, is amazing. Please tell us that’s a real gang.
Yeah it is, actually. It’s not ironic or anything. It’s not like actors — they do it, like, that’s their thing. Andreas Nilsson, he makes all the videos for the Knife and a lot of other bands, he found that street gang in Tokyo when he was out walking. And it’s really good with the song, cause it’s like rockabilly. I can’t wait to meet them. Or not.
In some recent photos, we noticed you guys had mustaches. Those can be a pretty divisive. Has there been any strong feedback about the new facial hair?
Uh, we haven’t heard one thing about it. You’re the first one. I have no mustache, but Bjorn has a beard now, and Peter has a clean shave. No mustaches.
Any plans for the next record?
We have like three albums in our heads. The next album is going to be completely different.
I think it’s going to be recorded on a crocodile farm.