Peter Bjorn and John are a force onstage. Opening for Depeche Mode for their Sounds of the Universe Tour, they have spent the last seven weeks playing some of the biggest stadiums in the country. Interspersed with smaller venues and secret shows, they are blasting their way through new material from their latest album Living Thing (QRO review) and playing crowd favorites like "Young Folks" and "Objects of My Affection". Like a bat out of hell, Peter takes off running across The Bank Atlantic Center in Ft Lauderdale, FL dodging people and security guards and flying up three flights of stairs mid-song, showing an enthusiasm that the three-piece has become known for. Kicking and dancing their way through their short set, PB&J impressed the large crowd, leaving more then a few dancing in their own like. More than willing to meet & greet, the band offered to sign whatever offered and true to their word stayed after to meet the masses before heading off to a DJ set at Miami’s The White Room. QRO got a chance to chat with drummer John Eriksson mid-break about the tour, eating habits, and dance routine of Sweden’s hottest import.
QRO: So, how are you?
John Eriksson: Yeah I’m fine, in the beach hotel in Florida on a day off so it’s more than okay. It’s great, I saw a fish that looks like a sword.
QRO: Oh, a swordfish?
JE: Yeah I think it was, they are really small though, maybe it’s baby swordfish.
QRO: Right now you are opening for Depeche Mode, do you prefer the big stadium shows or the smaller club venues?
JE: It’s been a really special tour because, first of all, the arenas have been much more fun then we thought. Usually really good sound and also the reception from the Depeche audience has been really good so we have a really positive feeling about arenas. But at the same time, we’ve been doing really small secret shows at smaller rock clubs like the piano bar in New York. It’s a very interesting mix between the biggest and the smallest spaces and we like that so it’s been great.
QRO: So the crowds are treating you well?
I mean, we’ve had to stop people from dancing at some points. That’s a good sign.
QRO: I would say so. So you guys have been doing an amazing amount of traveling during shows? What’s keeping you awake?
JE: Well, we learn that you should eat, and regularly. You shouldn’t skip lunch or something. Then it starts going down. So luckily there is good catering at the tour so we’ve put on like 100 kilos each. Our parents won’t recognize us when we come home. (laughs)
QRO: Well, you’re a drummer, you should be working off the calories certainly.
JE: Yeah, I try to do that. We have actually started making some kind of exercise after the shows. At least me and Bjorn make like ten pushups and five crunches afterwards.
QRO: Speaking of exercise, there has been a lot of dancing in the videos of the new album. What’s with the dance theme?
JE: Sort of coincidence and also a good friend, or close family member suggested that early on that she thought the album sounded like some kind of dance and after the video we wanted to keep that making videos for low budget that also featured dancing. In the end there was a dance fight between a guy that looks like some kind of Bjorn and some guy looks like Peter and they’re fighting over a girl one that looks like me. It’s a nice video and that started it and then Andreas Nilsson, who directed the two videos we just talked about, also liked the dance theme but in another way.
QRO: Which one is your favorite video?
JE: Umm right now? I’d say the new one with the Michael Jackson guy from Sweden. Yeah, it’s really special. He was actually dancing in our only Swedish show this year at a festival outside. That was really good.
QRO: Was that before or after the video?
JE: That was after and also the video is really special because when we did the video, Michael Jackson was still alive so it’s a real coincidence that it is connecting to that. But now I like the vibe of that video.
QRO: It looked a bit like Flashdance.
JE: Yeah, that was what we liked also. A lot of videos from the ’80s had someone dancing in really cool clothes and just dancing in the background and we will try to keep on doing that more. I don’t know how many more videos we are going to do, but I think we are going to keep the dancing.
QRO: Are you guys going to dance in any of your videos?
JE: Ahhhh… no. We are quite quite good dancers in our own unique style, but I think we are going to save that for the next record. Then we’re going to show the world how good we are.
QRO: We certainly look forward to that. Have you thought about Saturday Night Live?
JE: I don’t think we’ve done that yet. No, we haven’t played that yet. We played Conan O’Brien. That was really nice and so it would be great to play SNL. I love that show. I hope someone there reads this interview.
QRO: Drew Barrymore was wearing a Peter Bjorn and John shirt while she was on the show last.
JE: Yeah, she was. We saw a picture of that. The thing is it’s really cool, we actually met her at a party in Austin once and she was really nice. Nice person, so even better. We will wear drew Barrymore t-shirts if we play that show.
QRO: So you would want to play that?
JE: That’s really cool and as long as we can play, because we’re not that good comedians. We did a standup thing at Union Hall (QRO venue review). They asked us before when we played the secret show at that venue. And before us was standup comedy night with four comedians. Really good ones and I don’t know why they asked us, they wanted us to do something standup comedian stylish. We said yes in a kind of drunken state and I still have nightmares from that (laughs) from that thing, We tried to do some kind of fake warmup soundcheck and no one understood the thing.
We had this feeling on stage, we are not comedians.
QRO: On long tours, how do you keep your equipment from being destroyed?
JE: Well… two keyboards and four samplers have been broken during the last year. They don’t make instruments like they used to, it’s too bad quality. So we have a lot of broken electronic instruments with us so we are thinking about instead of trashing a guitar on stage we might trash a sampler (laughs) maybe for Ft. Lauderdale maybe.
QRO: You’ve been everywhere, all over the world. Where is your favorite places to play?
JE: Well… I don’t know. Where people are into it. It’s been happening a lot in the U.S. We love playing almost everywhere we go in the United States. A really good reception. We sometimes feel like a miniature Beatles, people screaming. We had a really good experience in Poland this summer too. It was amazing. Five to seven thousand people just screaming and didn’t expect it because we’ve never been to Poland before. When you’re not prepared when you’re surprised by the way people respond to you, that is the most fun thing I think. So yeah, USA and Poland and also Ireland. That’s a good combination.
QRO: If you could put together anything what’s your dream tour?
JE: Our dream tour sometime in the future after our next record would be to just do really small rock clubs and in between do Red Rocks Pavilion in Colorado and Hollywood Bowl again cause those arenas were amazing. If we ever could do that would be amazing. But we like the small rock clubs, I mean the ones around 7-800 are amazing. As long as we have a good chef with us. (laughs)
QRO: People underestimate the value of a good meal.
JE: Yes, so we’re gonna fire all our other crew members and we’re just gonna have a chef and a personal trainer. That’s our new crew.
QRO: (laughs) Who is doing female vocals on "Young Folks" this tour?
JE: Peter is doing it with himself like an inner monologue, it works really well actually. Sometimes people in the audience fill in the blanks. We are in this program called Allsång på Skansen, the most popular summer tv show and it’s artists making people sing along at the animal farm in Stockholm. So we were dangerous with the audiences here in the U.S. so it’s like a Swedish tradition forcing upon the U.S. Sometimes it’s an old man 80 years old singing the duet with Peter. Check YouTube. I don’t know if it’s up there yet.
QRO: What’s the creepiest thing you’ve had happen out on the road this tour?
JE: Um creepiest… um. Yesterday, we heard that one of the chefs on the Depeche Mode crew was bitten by a big spider. That was the creepiest I think because I am kinda afraid of spiders.
QRO: Florida has a lot of spiders.
JE: Yeah what kind? Are there dangerous spiders?
QRO: Do you really want to know? (laughs)
JE: No, don’t tell me, be bit by something else. But the funny thing happened last week is that one of our moniter crew members went on tour with his goth band. And so all of the guys from the Depeche Mode crew has been playing bongos with us and every night he has been wearing different kind of wigs and strange outfits and his face has been one of the nicest things to happen on stage. Apart from Peter running out in the audience so far that the cops hate us. So nothing spectacular has happened, it’s been kinda mature. Mature tour I’d have to say.
QRO: Any crazy fan experiences?
JE: Umm… hmm… I think it was when we had to sign each of this person’s clothes. The cap, the tshirts, the pants. Both of his shoes. Both of his socks. Yeah it was a lot of stuff, it took like fifteen minutes.
It was crazy and I felt sorry for that person because it was very nice looking clothes and I hope we didn’t ruin it.
QRO: Did you check on eBay and see if it’s there?
JE: (laughs) Yeah maybe, they’re really expensive items.
QRO: Well, now they’re even more expensive that they have your signature.
JE: Yeah (laughs) good.
QRO: What is your preference, recording or playing live?
JE: If I have to choose, right now since we’ve been touring for seven weeks I’d have to say recording. You always miss what you don’t do so, yeah, I like that. We also do that lots on our own, I have my solo project and Peter has his solo project and Bjorn so we record as often as we can on our own and we might do that together starting in January. I think we are going to do our new record.
QRO: What are the names of each of your projects?
JE: Mine is called Hortlax Cobra, as the snake.
QRO: What does that sound like?
JE: I’m in the middle of making the third EP in the trilogy, so in each record it’s really different but it’s sort of a collage. Cut and paste music with all kinds of loves. It’s like a collage with or without beats. The first record is with drums and the second is without and the third is the collage.
Peter just made a solo record in Swedish. I’m looking very much forward to hear that. And Bjorn is producing a lot and also he has a jazz project called Yttling Jazz which is really nice I think. He is a great jazz pianist.
QRO: So you are going back in the studio in January! That’s really soon, when will we hear the next album?
JE: I think it’s going to be out the end of next summer or early autumn, but still our newest record Living Thing feels kind of new still so we are gonna keep on touring for that for half a year and maybe put out some more singles from that. Also, we have a remix version of that album coming out anyday now with hip hop artists making their interpretation of the songs and it’s going to be amazing.
QRO: Who is going to be collaborating for that album?
JE: Stuff from Wu Tang Clan is supposed to be on it and Talib Kweli and a producer called 88-Keys and a lot of amazing stuff so check it out.
QRO: Where are you going after this tour?
JE: We are actually going home on Saturday. So home and jetlag for a couple of days and then we’re going to Europe in October.
QRO: How do the European and American crowds differ?
JE: Well… speaking different in most of the European countries but that’s about it. And they might smell a bit better in the U.S. (laughs) I haven’t met a single person that hasn’t smelled good when we were signing records. So there is very good hygiene in the U.S. I think.
QRO: So round up the tour, what was your favorite thing overall?
JE: That would be I think the reception has been four times better then we expected so I think we felt the audience has been into our music, we’ve had a lot of good nights. And people coming out to see us afterwards. I think that’s the best thing because if that wouldn’t have happened it would have been seven horrible weeks but now it’s been seven weeks that’s been really amazing. It sounds like a mix between holiday and big arena tour. I think that’s been going so smoothly because we’ve never done a seven week tour before. I think that’s it.