Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of Swedish pop/rock trio Peter Bjorn and John. And while the milestone is anything but lost on the threesome, they have a few things to finish before any real planning can begin.
That includes wrapping up the second leg of their Darker Days tour, which makes a final North American stop at The Irenic on Sunday before heading to Europe for festival dates.
The current stretch of live shows also finds Peter Morén, Björn Yttling and John Eriksson back to playing without any additional musicians.
It’s all part of a return to form for the band that really started with 2016’s Breakin’ Point. Produced in conjunction with A-listers Paul Epworth (U2, Coldplay), Greg Kurstin (Pink, Lady Gaga) and Emile Haynie (Bruno Mars, Lana Del Rey), the album was five years in the making.
Last October’s Darker Days was ultimately a reaction to that process, a stripped-down, back-to-basics approach cranked out by the band in less than half the time.
Now the trio is taking that philosophy to the stage as well. After having to re-learn old songs with additional players and most enjoying when just the three of them did the “rock set within the set” last time around, it was an obvious move to strip things down again.
For the time being, the old/new approach is here to stay. But that doesn’t mean they won’t try it with new producers again, either.
“I loved working with those guys on Breakin’ Point,” said Yttling from a recent tour stop in Philadelphia. “It just takes time. Their schedule is not the easiest. ‘Paul McCartney left this fruit bowl here. Bono wrote this note to look at or Adele is knocking at the door.’ It’s just a little tricky. I’m open to it. But we’ll see.”
What the band is sure of, however, is that things are easiest when just it’s just them on stage. They started as a group that liked to play off of one another and miss it when the option is not available.
“The three of us have played together for a long time,” Yttling said. “And when it’s just us, it’s a bit like figuring out ways to survive in the wilderness. But we like it. We can be free. We can do longer and more stupid guitar solos. It was nice to get the sounds out with a band on the road. But we feel like we should use our ability to improvise to our advantage.”
The trio’s latest offering, February’s three-song EPBJ, features tracks they wrote both before and during the recording of Darker Days, but weren’t finished until after it was out. Both collections were released on INGRID, the label they co-founded with fellow countrywoman Lykke Li and others.
While the melancholic lyrical themes that helped tie Darker Days together are still present on the new EP, the latter features far slower-paced songs. Yttling is still unsure if that trend will continue on the next release.
“I work more by starting ideas,” he said. “But I’m not putting them in the oven and finishing them off until I know what kind of dish we’re serving or what kind of party we’re going to. We’ll have to see when we have a few more songs.”
Until then, fans can count on plenty of more music, as well as some form of recognition from the band (however it may manifest) to honor their impending two-decade anniversary.
“It’ll be 20 years in 2020,” said Yttling. “But we’re getting into that nostalgia swamp. We have to find our way through, not get too deep and keep our head above the water. You don’t want to get eaten by a swamp. We’ll have to do it properly. But we’ve been the same lineup for 20 years. There aren’t that many bands that have done that.”
Peter Bjorn and John
When: 7:30 p.m. May 5
Where: The Irenic, 3090 Polk Ave., North Park