By MIKE CHAIKEN
An indie band playing a college town.
It’s not the typical formula for a pop music love fest.
But when Peter Bjorn And John (a.k.a. Peter Morén, Björn Yttling, and John Eriksson) arrive at the College Street Music Hall in New Haven on Sept. 20, the indie band from Sweden (“Young Folks”)will be touring behind a new effort that explores the world of pop music.
The Observer caught up with John via email from Sweden.
Observer: I was reading about the new album “Breakin’ Point” and how you guys were influenced by pop music for this record. Pop music a lot of times has a bad rep from more “serious” music fans. First of all, since pop is a very broad term, for you, how would you define pop music?
John: Wow, haha, good question. Hmm… Pop is a melody with a tag line. Pop is recycled ecstasy, instant coffee, sweet breakfast cereals, ehh, maybe sunshine with a small dark cloud over it?
Pop is a handsome devil in 1,000,000 disguises but we would probably define pop as a song with a chorus.
Peter Bjorn and John are basically three very different guys who have a rock band together.
But, we all love the pop format and we get our kicks out of exploring different ways of putting a pop song together so for us, our definition of pop is most of all, our job.
O: As musicians and fans, what do you like about quality pop music?
J: A great pop song hits you like a sugar rush.
It makes you feel intoxicated and can make you think that you are in love or heartbroken.
It’s a sonic blockbuster in three and a half minutes.
As with restaurants, the best quality isn’t always on the main street.
For me, quality pop music is inventive and bold.
I love the word twist and a the greatest pop songs have a twist.
It could be an surprisingly cool title phrase, a freaky hook or an amazing, odd voice or melody.
Take (Miley Cyrus’s) “Wrecking Ball,” for instance. What a chorus! I almost started to laugh when I heard it the first time because the chorus was so amazing and over the top.
Great hit song with a bold arrangement.
O: What inspired you to take this direction for the new album?
J: We would normally define ourselves as an indie pop band.
But, this time we wanted to try to erase the word indie from ourselves.
We wanted to see how far we could drive our songs into the ultra pop ballpark.
After two years of working on the album, it struck us that we have made just another indie pop album, haha.
So we had to start over again.
O: How does this pop flavor turn up in the new music… and how did your assorted producers help you bring this idea to life?
Our reference of a great pop song is like “Sunday Morning” by Velvet Underground but we wanted to try to make a blockbuster and the only way to get close to something like that was to ask some of the sonic Steven Spielbergs of today.
We started working with Patrik Berger (songwriter for Robyn, Icona Pop, Charli XCX) and we spent a lot of time on the songwriting.
When we had like 80 percent of the songs done we brought in a chain gang of outside producers. Everyone was handpicked to the specific song to help us add that last extra finish that would erase all the indie from the songs.
O: Finally, since you are on tour, how are you going to incorporate the new material into your live set?
J: Seeing us live is the best way to experience PB&J. Someone said we are the best live band since the Ramones. I don’t know if that’s true but we can be pretty damn good. We mix stuff from all our records and you will probably hear “Young Folks,” a punk rock song, and a kraut jam mixed with the newest arena pop tunes.
And for the first time, we are bringing two extra musicians that makes it possible for us to arrange all the songs in a very expensive and luxurious way. So, if you want to taste the biggest and most delicious PBJ pop hamburger meal of your life, you’ve got to see us now.
Peter Bjorn and John perform at the College Street Music Hall, 238 College St. in New Haven on Tuesday, Sept. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20-$22.
For more information, go to CollegeStreetMusicHall.com or PeterBjornJohn.com