Peter Bjorn and John Make It Big Peter Bjorn and John is a Swedish band that has broken into the American mainstream. They're most well known for their hit "Young Folks." The band discusses singing in English, and world touring.
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Peter Bjorn and John Make It Big

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Peter Bjorn and John Make It Big

Peter Bjorn and John Make It Big

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Peter Morén, Björn Yttling and John Eriksson are the membership of Peter, Bjorn and John. Now, they joined forces in 1999 and together have created a sound that's a bit '60s British pop, a bit '80s New Wave. So of course it's now called Swedish indie pop, now that the group is an international success.

The trio's third album, "Writer's Block," is most well known for the hit single, "Young Folks."

(Soundbite of song, "Young Folks")

PETER, BJORN AND JOHN (Band): (Singing) If I told you things that I did before, told you how I used to be, would you go out with someone like me? If you knew my story word for word, had all of my history, would you go out with someone like me?

SIMON: They performed at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas, and join us now. Peter Morén and Björn Yttling, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. PETER MORÉN (Vocalist, Guitarist, Peter, Bjorn and John): Thank you for having us.

Mr. BJÖRN YTTLING (Vocalist, Keyboardist, Peter, Bjorn and John): Thank you for having us.

SIMON: And may I ask, this music that we've listened to today, "Writer's Block," you recorded in English?

Mr. MORÉN: Yeah.

Mr. YTTLING: Yeah.

Mr. MORÉN: Of course, yeah.

SIMON: Is that just for the international market or...

Mr. MORÉN: No. It's because we always listen to English and British music, and it just feels natural. And also maybe it's easier to lay yourself bare if you have some layer between yourself and the audience, so you can be almost more personal because it's not your own language.


Mr. YTTLING: Yeah. I think so.

Mr. MORÉN: Yeah. You won't blush that easily. You know, if you say something. If you say I love you in Swedish, it's almost unbearable.

SIMON: Well, I won't ask you to say it. Could you bear to tell us what song on this recording might be a good example of that?

Mr. MORÉN: Yeah. Maybe like "Start to Melt" would be one of those.

SIMON: Let's listen to "Start to Melt."

(Soundbite of song, "Start to Melt")

PETER, BJORN AND JOHN: (Singing) I start to melt with your arms around my waist and your mouth (unintelligible)...

SIMON: I like this song, but I have to ask, it sounds like you're trying to sing in a Volvo assembly plant.

Mr. YTTLING: How could you hear that?

SIMON: Well, it's just particularly like this and it's...

Mr. YTTLING: We spend some money on that...

SIMON: Special effect.

Mr. YTTLING: ...going to the Volvo...

SIMON: But you would find it hard to sing those lyrics in Swedish just because they reveal so much.

Mr. YTTLING: They're a bit maybe naïve in a way, you know, that maybe I don't think - I've never ever written a song in Swedish. I really don't know but I guess I would...

Mr. MORÉN: I've written a couple in Swedish...

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. MORÉN: ...acutally when I was smaller, but I didn't take it any further.

SIMON: The basic question, is it harder to rhyme things in Swedish? Not that I know the language.

Mr. YTTLING: It's quite easy. But I don't know, we just don't like the sound of it. You know, it's like (Swedish spoken) it's not really cool.

SIMON: I find that very cool. Yeah. So you've been playing music since you were adolescents, it sounds like.

Mr. YTTLING: Yeah.

Mr. MORÉN: Since - I don't know, I've been playing music since I was seven, I guess. Started with some violin and then moved to the guitar. Yeah.

SIMON: What were your important musical influences when you were learning how to play and thinking about doing it yourself?

Mr. YTTLING: I think both of us listened to some Swedish rockabilly.

Mr. MORÉN: Yeah. The Scandinavian Elvis and Carl Perkins.

SIMON: Forgive me for not knowing the Scandinavian Carl Perkins and Elvis.

Mr. YTTLING: Yada Williams(ph)

Mr. MORÉN: Yada Williams, for example. The Boppers.

SIMON: I don't know that but it's my lost, I'm sure. More Swedish bands are becoming hits in the U.S. and Britain.

Mr. MORÉN: Yeah.

Mr. YTTLING: I guess so. Yeah.

SIMON: And the reason?

Mr. MORÉN: I don't know, good music and also because if you maybe take some German band or something, it's almost too foreign to bring into your culture, but we are so influenced by what you've been doing. Put something fresh upon it and maybe has a nice, lo-fi approach to recording, and that taken together might make it interesting.

(Soundbite of song, "The Chills")

SIMON: You include sounds in your music, like in the song "The Chills," the chuchuchu sound...

Mr. YTTLING: Yeah. Yeah.

(Soundbite of song "The Chills")

PETER, BJORN AND JOHN: (Singing) Your tongue is sharp, but I miss the taste of it.

SIMON: So the chuchuchu, is that a lot of reindeers shaking their bells?

Mr. MOREN: It's John. I think it's John.

SIMON: That's John Eriksson?

Mr. YTTLING: Yeah.

Mr. MOREN: Yeah. He's influenced by "Miami Vice" for some reason, but this is done by the mouth. Acoustic version.

SIMON: But John's the only one who can do it. Ch-ch-ch-ch.

Mr. YTTLING: Yeah. Maybe.

(Soundbite of song "The Chills")

SIMON: How do you decide who sings and who writes?

Mr. MOREN: We don't really decide. And we all write songs and then we get together and record them and arrange them together. And if someone has an idea for an instrument, we try to make that person play it even though he's not the best player on that particular instrument, which means that John always plays the drum, because we're too bad. But the guitars and base and pianos we swap around.

Whereas in the live situation it's more I play guitar, Björn plays bass, John plays drums. So it's more basic.

SIMON: What is going on tour like you for?

Mr. YTTLING: A lot of traveling and catching colds. And of course it's really fun to be on stage. But it's only like an hour and a half every day. So if we could extend that to maybe four hours would be better, but you spent more time in planes. But you know, I caught a cold in Japan, I got rid of it in L.A. But I love being on stage.

Mr. MORÉN: Yeah. The concerts are amazing, especially now when we sail out and people actually are into the music.

Mr. YTTLING: We sell out the show for this.

Mr. MORÉN: Yeah.

Mr. YTTLING: Yeah.

Mr. MORÉN: It's amazing.

SIMON: It's been awfully good to talk to both of you. Thank you very much.

Mr. MORÉN: Thank you very much.

Mr. YTTLING: Thanks.

SIMON: Peter Morén and Björn Yttling. Thank you very much, gentlemen.

Mr. YTTLING: Thank you.

Mr. MORÉN: Thank you so much.

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