Peter Bjorn and John (left to right)—John Eriksson, Peter Morén, and Bjorn Yttling.
Expanding spaces on Gimme Some
SWEDISH INDIE rock chameleons Peter Bjorn and John know a thing or two about change. For more than a decade, they’ve shown a knack for completely reinventing their sound, from the jangly garage pop of their 2004 breakthrough Falling Out to the densely processed electro textures of 2009’s Living Thing. Their latest outing, Gimme Some (StarTime International), finds the trio going back to a bare-bones, punk-meets-pop live setup—all of it colored by natural reverb, vintage analog effects, and a new set of ears at the controls.
“We wanted to try something less mystical, with just guitar, bass, drums, and vocals,” explains bassist Bjorn Yttling, who has been PB&J’s producer from day one. “So we had that in mind, but we also wanted to bring in somebody new to help us do it. We listened to a lot of American, English, and Swedish records, and the best drums we heard were on records produced by Per Sunding.”
Sunding has worked with a slew of Swedish and Danish artists over the years, including The Cardigans, Superheroes, Swan Lee, Bob Hund, and his own band, Eggstone. He’s also a co-founder and in-house producer at Tambourine Studios (www.tambourinestudios.com), which is outfitted with a late-’70s Neve 8068 console, a Pro Tools HD3 Accel rig with Apogee AD/DA-16X converters, and a large live room at its hub.
With its dry, deadened surfaces, the room presented the band with challenges as well as comforts. “Dig A Little Deeper” gets its echo-washed ’60s psych-pop sound largely from placing John Eriksson’s drums in the stone-tiled kitchen, and Peter Morén’s Vox AC30 guitar amp at the end of a long corridor, with just two Sennheiser 421 mics set up in each space to capture the source and the ambience. By contrast, the basic take of “Eyes” was tracked entirely in the live room, with Yttling playing one bass line on an old Kent guitar through an Electro-Harmonix Bass Microsynth, and overdubbing the sliding bass on a Fender Precision. Eriksson’s drums were miked with a matched pair over the top of the kit, creating the stereo illusion that you’re actually sitting in the drummer’s chair, while Morén’s vocals were run through an ancient Dynacord tape delay unit for a classic slapback echo effect. (Think John Lennon’s “Mind Games,” for starters.)
“We used that same delay on some parts for ‘Breaker Breaker,’” Sunding says, citing one of Gimme Some’s more overt punk-rock workouts. “The drums went through [Digidesign’s] Lo-Fi plug-in post-recording, just to add some of the grittiness that the bass and guitar were getting. But John is a really talented drummer, so I shouldn’t take too much credit. The whole thing is really in the way they play. Each song has a character in itself. You need to have a good performance— even if it’s with crap equipment—for those dynamics and nuances to come through.”