Okay, so that headline is a little deceiving. Peter Morén and John Eriksson didn’t actually pull a mutiny and can the third member of their band, Björn Yttling of Peter Björn and John. But Yttling sure likes to joke about it. The Swedish pop-rock trio’s fourth album, Gimme Some (out March 29), is the first not produced by Yttling, and when we asked him why he’d given up said duties, his simple response was, “I got sacked.” Sure you did, Björn.
A more likely answer is that the group was trying to veer away from the minimalist electro sound that has defined them — it should be familiar to fans of Lykke Li (Yttling is her producer) — towards a more classic rock sound like that found on their new single, the predictably catchy “Second Chance.” Here is Yttling on his band’s new sound, the pressures of equaling the success of their massive single, “Young Folks,” and why playing the keyboard sucks.
Where are you right now? I’m in Stockholm, I came back from Paris yesterday.
What were you doing there? Just rocking out for the kids.
Your album is already out in some parts of the world. Yeah, in cyber space.
Why didn’t you do the production on this album? First I got sacked, and then I quit.
I believe you. You know, I was like, if I’m going to get sacked, I’m quitting. That’s how it goes, you know? I got sacked, and Peter Bjorn and John produced, and then I quit because I didn’t want Peter Bjorn and John to produce us no more. So I quit, and then we got another guy, and I’m in between jobs right now.
What do you mean? I don’t know, I mean nothing.
Who sacked you? Uhhh, I guess PBJ sacked me, and then I sacked PBJ from producing myself. It’s very difficult.
But you are part of PBJ, so in a way, you sacked yourself. Yeah.
Do you feel that the last album was a little too production heavy, and that took precedence over the songwriting? No, we write the song first.
Are you a lot more tech savvy than the rest of the band? The electronic voice of the band? No, not at all. I like when stuff is broken and when it sounds weird. I don’t use any computers when I make music.
I read that Peter once said that, “Bjorn is the electro guy, Jon is hip-hop, and I’m the Leonard Cohen type.” Bullshit? I don’t know, maybe it was a couple years ago. I already own everything by Leonard Cohen. I don’t know if I’m that, but I like electro stuff. I love Daft Punk, but I couldn’t make techno music if my life depended on it. I don’t work that much with computers.
I think maybe you got that reputation because of the work you did with Lykke Li. Yeah, I mean I love Lykke Li, but it’s not electronic, it’s minimal. It’s like the blues for me, it’s Johnny Hooker, and you don’t fucking say Johnny Hooker is an electro guy. But maybe let’s say I’m the blues electro guy now.
This album has a more rock-oriented sound. Can you tell me the intention behind that? We wanted to make a trio format thing, like people would say like, Oh it’s so live, this album is so live. So on Living Thing, we made a lot of sounds that people wouldn’t mind where they came from, a lot of organic sounds like hitting bottles and stuff, but on this one people would just say, “This is guitar, bass, and drums.” If we did tricks, they’re not supposed to be heard on this one.
Were you worried about alienating fans who have come to expect certain things from you guys? I’m not really worried about alienating fans. Since we started, we only gained more fans.
Are these songs going to be more fun to play live? Yeah, playing keyboard live sucks. That’s the most boring thing you can do.
You play guitar, right? I play bass, but we had some keyboard live on the last tour, that’s just boring shit because it’s plastic fucking lego shit.
How did “Young Folks” change your career? Before “Young Folks,” we didn’t have a career.
Did you ever think that might happen with that song? Well, I didn’t. It’s like having a baby: You know how it’s done, but you never know how it really feels before you had it.
Did you feel pressure on Living Thing to equal that success? I guess there’s some pressure. I’m introducing an album that’s supposed to be equal success to the previous one. There’s always pressure from the label, and they always compete with the albums from the album before.
I imagine that was the case with Lykke Li. That’s always the case if you have something before, you know. You’ve got to sort of give them some good numbers, but I’m never really affected by it. We’re making albums for ourselves now.