At the start of March, Sweden’s Shout Out Louds came over to the States, and singer/guitarist Adam Olenius took the time to talk to QRO. Over a beer and after their first proper live audience performance (QRO review) of material from their latest, Work (QRO review), Olenius discussed the new record, how Work is like Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, how it would have been like Guns ‘n’ Roses’ "Paradise City", the strangeness of the ‘third record’, the strangeness of foreign talk shows, the Stockholm music scene, loving not just America but Germany, Australia & even Brazil (though not U.K…), why bassist Ted Malmros won’t be on the next U.S. tour (it’s a good reason…), and much more…
QRO: It’s been a while since you guys have been in the States – why so long?
Adam Olenius: We did a longer tour here in September-October of 2007. Because we changed labels then, so we were here for a lot of one-off shows.
Last time, the album came out almost six months later over here than in Scandinavia. We’ve been striving, almost on every record, to come in later. This is the first time, except U.K., that we have the release on the same week. This feels really good.
We took a break for about seven months, without rehearsing or anything. We were hanging out. We really needed nothing in the schedule – to have a full schedule, it’s…
QRO: [In March & April], you [played] Europe, including a lot in your native Sweden – but also Germany. Is it natural for any Swedish band to play Germany a lot, or do you have a particularly strong following there?
AO: We do. A lot of Germans are really into Scandinavian music. I don’t know why – they just love the scene. They’re crazy for Scandinavian bands.
It’s very close to Scandinavia, so you can drive down there, through Denmark, or a ferry, or we’ll fly down if we have a tour bus.
It’s unlike the U.S., because it’s small, but the cities are like a million people, even the really small cities. They have a really good crowd – they’re really into it. Spend a lot of time there, because we work with a bigger label – they’re pulling us down… [chuckles]
QRO: Indeed, you [played] German-speaking Europe (Germany/Austria/Switzerland) well more than you [did] further west – just a single date each in London, Paris & Amsterdam…
AO: It’s weird right now, because, unfortunately, a lot of the small labels that we were on have been disappearing, because of the economy. That’s too bad. But we also have audience in those countries. So we try to do one-off shows.
We’re doing really small ones in Paris, Amsterdam, and U.K. We’re looking for a new place to release it in the U.K.
We don’t really have the time, because we’re going to be here, Australia, and in Germany.
QRO: I noticed that it comes out the same week in Australia.
AO: We have a really nice label down there.
I spent a lot of time down there. I was in Melbourne on my break, so was hanging out at that label. It’s a great scene down there as well.
QRO: When are you going down there?
AO: September, I think.
QRO: Oh, yeah, that’s there’s summer…
AO: No, that’s their winter?…
QRO: September, I guess is their spring? If it’s our fall, then I think it’s their spring?…
AO: I would like to go there in January, with all the big festivals (QRO Festival Guide Down Under).
So it’s going to be great, to go back to a city where I’ve spent so much time.
QRO: Will the May tour be your only other visit/tour of America this year?
AO: It depends if we get festivals.
The thing is, for us to do one-off festivals, it’s so expensive. So we have to stay and do club shows. It’s quite busy already for us in Europe, for the summer.
Our plan is to come back and do another tour. It depends how this goes, you know? If people want us back, we’ll come back.
It’s a different energy in the band.
Hopefully, our plan is to do another tour before Christmas, but it all depends.
QRO: You played Music Hall in Williamsburg (QRO venue review) for the March one-off, but when you come back on May 5th (QRO concert listing), you’re playing the bigger Webster Hall (QRO venue review). On the upcoming tour, do you know if you’re playing larger places?
AO: We got offered, in a few cities, to do big ones, but for a band traveling so far, it’s fun to do smaller, and have people who know you.
There’s a few cities we do really well in, in Canada, the El Rey [Theatre] in L.A., we booked two nights. But some venues are still the same.
QRO: Other cities don’t have as many venues as in New York…
AO: I think we’ve played the Boston Paradise around six or seven times…
QRO: For this one-off date, did you bring all of your equipment, or are you renting/borrowing some – Bebban [Stenborg, vocals/keys] said she had a new accordion…
AO: Yes, but she bought that here. It’s her third. We had one which was great, with a microphone on it, but we lost it in an airport. We were eating, and someone left it – we have so much carry-on, we’re like gypsies…
We bring more and more every time. We have to bring our own guitars, percussion and keyboards and stuff, but we have amps here that we own.
QRO: What’s it like, now that Work is out?
AO: It feels good. I’ve been quite nervous, this past month. I hate reviews, good or bad. It’s nice to have that thing out for folks, when you’re touring.
I would like to say that I don’t care about them, but, you know, you do. When you go through a paper, you don’t have time, you don’t read the text, you only read the numbers, "Okay, eight out of ten – maybe I’ll check into that."
It’s been good so far. We’re getting good reviews back home, and some really good ones over here. It is a record, I think, that takes a little bit more time than the others. A little bit more of a ‘survivor’. I hope…
QRO: How did making it compare with making your first two records, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff and Our Ill Wills (QRO review)?
AO: Just being away from Stockholm is a big step for us. You have to be more prepared, before flying home to Seattle.
Working with Phil Ek, it wasn’t really different, working with a non-Swede. It’s the same language. Of course, the vocabulary, you try to explain something, you’re talking about the same thing… It’s a musical vocabulary you have to know.
Almost for him, it was more that it sounded good for him, the sound and energy of the songs. Working with Björn [Yttling, of Peter Bjorn and John – QRO spotlight on], was more of a going into details. We had to be more prepared for this one.
A little bit heavier, as well. More guitars – that’s Phil’s way of doing it, and we wanted that sort of thing.
I think, having a break, we got more excited to perform. When writing, the arrangement, it was sort of a big train, starting slower, getting faster & faster. "Moon", and "Walls", that sort of… I think we reinvented rock ‘n’ roll for ourselves, a little bit. It’s a lot like The Modern Lovers, that scene, which I like more – I’m really more of a pop guy.
QRO: Why did you leave Stockholm to do it?
AO: We could have been anywhere, but Phil was on the list, and he gave us great feedback, straight away. I heard so many good things about him, from so different people. And he, more of an old school producer, the way he makes his albums. There are some great producers out there, of course, but the sound that we wanted now was that sort of the sound Phil was making. More of a ‘band’, old school…
We found really nice ones in Paris, outside of Paris, in France, in an island outside of Lille that was super, super nice. But it was so expensive, and he knew his way around Seattle. Better prices…
We just wanted to get away from Stockholm to isolate us for a while. Otherwise, people come by the studio, want to go out for a drink, or, "Oh, I have to go to the dentist…" We were locked inside the studio for ten hours a day.
QRO: Did you feel there was less pressure with this one, since it’s neither your debut nor your follow-up?
AO: It was, yeah. It’s also a strange situation now, to have your third record.
‘Cause your debut is your debut, that’s interesting, then there’s your follow-up. The third one, that’s sort of in the middle – it’s weird. It’s good for us, because we can look back and change what we like on the first and second one, which we did. We wanted more guitars on that.
For a band, you need to, I don’t know… push a little more, expand out a little bit more? I don’t know – the third one is a little weird. I don’t know…
QRO: There isn’t a term for it, like ‘debut’ or ‘follow-up’…
AO: We still feel like we’re a brand new band. We know the routine, and what we’re doing… We’re in puberty right now.
QRO: Bebban had her own lead song on Wills, "Blue Headlights", but none on Work, which seemed to feature you on lead vocals much more exclusively. Was there any reason behind that?
AO: There was no reason. She wasn’t really feeling it. At the time, we were focused on songs we had.
To be honest, I wanted her to sing more on this record – I wanted everyone to sing more on this record. He had to fly back home, from Stockholm, and time – I could always spend six more weeks in the studio. I maybe wanted to do it a little bit more like that, experiment with harmonies.
It’s a good feeling right now, because it’s fine. We don’t have to do it right now, because we’re going to release more records. Last record, we were like, ‘I don’t know if we’re going to do another one…’ We wanted to do another one, but it felt more comfortable this time.
QRO: You know [now] that you’re doing to release more records – when making your first, you don’t know if there’s going to be a second, and making your second, you don’t know if there’s going to be a third…
AO: Yeah. I think everyone in the band feels more comfortable with what we’re doing now, the situation we’re in.
QRO: And where did the go-go go?
AO: There was a song that we wanted one on, but it’s the same with Peter Bjorn and John – they couldn’t do more whistling…
There’s a time and place in life for everything – it might be back, you know?
QRO: It’s at least an easy thing to carry around. It’s not like putting an organ on one song…
AO: [laughs] It’s perfect for that.
We didn’t bring a new ‘tool’ for this one – maybe for the next one. I wanted actually a whistle, like Guns ‘n’ Roses have on "Paradise City" Maybe a whistle on the next one…
Shout Out Louds’ video for "Fall Hard":
QRO: How was making the video for "Fall Hard"?
AO: It was good. Ted and his brother [Tom Malmros] directed the video. It was filmed a little bit outside Stockholm, in a studio.
They just sort of interpret the song, and they wanted to capture spending one day only working on three minutes, all the preparation…
I sing about some old battles in Europe, old Europe, that upper class, northern, central Europe – it’s a weird era. There’s something romantic about upper class Europe, old ladies with dogs – decadent, in a way.
We did a lot of TV shows in Italy, France, and Germany, where you don’t understand a word. They just push you in, on stage, "Play", and, "Thank you". And you can stand in a room, and there’s twenty-five people with headsets on, and they talk about you – not in a bad way, but what are they going to do? And you’re getting ignored, because they don’t know English? I don’t know.
It’s a bizarre thing. Tom & Ted wanted to capture that thing.
QRO: Is that a real Swedish talk show, or at least real Swedish talk show host?
AO: I like that you can’t really tell if it’s real or not. I wanted to actually do it more real, even more bizarre.
No, he’s French, but he knows Swedish. He’s a chef, he cooks – but he looks like that. We’re so lucky that we found him.
QRO: What’s the Swedish music scene like, now a few years removed from the ‘Swedish invasion’ of the States?
AO: Still good. We were one of the bands that, in the beginning – the thing was, the whole thing was new: new labels, new bands. A little bit more exciting a few years ago, but still such a good quality.
The bands dare to sound… We switch genres a lot, so we have a lot of interesting. Pop is still big, but interesting.
Lately, I’d say that it got a little bit boring. I always talk about the Radio Dept., a really good band, they have a new album out [Clinging To a Scheme – QRO review] – that’s the only exciting thing right now, for me. I try to listen to a lot of Swedish music, singing in Swedish, as well.
But traveling and touring outside, it’s more common now to see your friend on posters over here. There’s more tying things in Sweden and in the U.S. than in the U.K. right now. There are a few bands I like in the U.K. right now – The xx (QRO live review) is really great.
QRO: Are people back home still unaware of the success abroad some local acts have had?
AO: Are they aware of that? Yeah.
We went outside of Sweden almost straight away.
I’m a little bit bored just talking about all the talk shows we’re doing over here, and what it’s like. Journalists outside Sweden focus more on the music, whereas back home they sort of just want to know, "Oh, can you tell me a story about the Kings of Leon (QRO album review) tour?…"
QRO: Have you received any state support from whatever government program supports Swedish alternative music artists? Is there a government program?
AO: There is. Back in the very early days, when we toured small cities in Sweden, the clubs can’t afford to bring bands in our genre, that more alternative scene, so they pay half, and the government pays half. The clubs get support from the government.
You can also apply for maybe a record, from a foundation, but that’s mostly for jazz music, or a little bit more experimental. They won’t give it to bands like us…
QRO: What new songs do you particularly like playing live?
AO: I really like playing "Walls", and that sort of different beat to it, sort of Springsteen (QRO live review)-ish song, more guitars, more upbeat.
Right now, I enjoy playing all of those, just as it’s at the beginning.
QRO: How much have you actually played the new songs in front of an audience?
AO: Last night was the first proper show.
We did one show in Berlin, before Christmas, but it was for press and for two hundred real hard-core fans. Yesterday was the first proper one. We’re starting a tour at the end of March; we’re doing a big German tour.
We’ve been rehearsing a lot back home. I enjoy doing them all.
We enjoy playing the old ones, too. We’re going to try doing some b-sides and that sort of stuff as well, for us – we need to have some fun as well.
QRO: Are there older songs you particularly like playing?
AO: It’s always fun to play "Very Loud". It’s a very old song, but it’s still a dynamic song, so it’s always fun to do that song.
One from the first record called "Seagull". I like those songs where I don’t have to sing too much. I can just play guitar. I like those crowd-inspired, where I can get some rest. I’m lazy…
That was one of the first songs that we did with Björn – the song that we decided to work with him. It was just a drumbeat and a melody, and I sent it to him, and over the phone, tried to explain how I wanted the song to be. I think we were both inspired by more of a house music, or electronics, how that plays out, more from that side, and that’s how some of the songs on the [Peter Bjorn and John] record Writer’s Block came out.
QRO: Are there any songs that you can’t play live, and/or just don’t play anymore?
AO: On this record, it’s not like that. We didn’t have to do much.
There is a song on the second one called "Normandie" that it took a long while to turn from – it was a song that we did only in the studio, and work with, so it took us to get into our bodies how to perform that one.
We play it, and it sounds good… but Erik [Edman, drums] doesn’t like to play it. Because he didn’t perform it in the studio – he’s a little bit childish… [chuckles]
QRO: On Work, you seem to take away some of the ‘bells & whistles’ – what was the thinking behind that?
AO: It was a bit more of a past example, just focus on our own instrument. We just wanted everything to come in clear, be more clear. I think just have a little bit more of a relaxed sound.
But I think it’s just doing something different on each record. Maybe the next one will go back to that again, who knows? I’ve already started writing a little bit.
It became a little dramatic and cinematic with that whole thing.
Oh, one thing that could be new, but it just came so low in the mix, was a steel ladder? Because we wanted that song "[Play the] Game" to sound more dance hall rhythm. Maybe I’ll do a remix myself, ‘cause I really want to hear that steel ladder. That’s the ‘new thing’…
Shout Out Louds playing "Tonight I Have To Leave It" – with go-go – live at Music Hall in Williamsburg on October 26th, 2007:
QRO: Are there any American cities you’re particularly looking forward to playing again on this tour?
AO: It will be really fun to go back to Seattle again, because we recorded there. Playing Neumo’s there should be fun. I really like Chicago.
Ted is not going to be with us – he’s becoming a dad.
QRO: Oh… So what are you doing for bass on the tour?
AO: We’re bringing an old friend; he’s in a band, a Swedish band (Nervous Nellie – QRO interview), to play bass.
So that’s going to be strange. Going to miss him a lot. It’s not a really big thing, but still. It’s gonna be like, whenever we want to go to dinner, it’s going to be, "Where’s Ted?" Every time I want to see Ted – we’re still so close.
QRO: When you’re playing, you look over…
AO: He’s got the beard, too. [laughs]
He’s actually going to stay with Ted a few weeks before the tour, get to know him.
QRO: He needs a ‘WWTD – What Would Ted Do?’ bracelet…
AO: He’s in a band that’s going to open for us in Germany called Nervous Nellie (QRO live review on that tour). He’s an old friend, so it’s going to be fun.
QRO: Will that be the first time you’ve toured without the same five people?
AO: Bebban’s been away for a few shows, Carl [von Arbin, guitar]… I’m the only one. Ted, as well, has never been away.
Erik had to go back, when we were on the U.S. tour, he had to fly back for his brother’s wedding, so we did two or three shows with a drum machine. We were supporting The Dears (QRO photos), I think – it wasn’t our headlining. Then it wouldn’t work, but if it’s only thirty minutes.
QRO: How do you fight ‘tour burnout’?
AO: I think get away from the city, when we have got some time off, and do different things.
Last tour, when we were in Louisiana, we went to this crocodile safari, a big swamp. Do something different; get away from black painted walls, the smell of old beer. Go to a museum, go do stuff.
And now, I think we’re going to try to plan the schedule a little bit better, so we have these two weeks off in between. Spend a lot of money on food…
QRO: Is the króna [Swedish currency] high or low vs. the dollar right now?
AO: It’s good for us, it’s fine.
But go out and have dinner in Sweden, buy alcohol, it’s expensive. So even if it was the same thing…
I was in a guitar shop, and the prices – especially here in the city, or if you’re in Nashville, you can but really good guitars. I’ve been buying a lot of guitars here, selling it back home sometimes.
Before Our Ill Wills came out, I was almost bankrupt. I had to sell my white Mustang – beautiful…
QRO: Do you have a favorite tour story?
AO: It’s hard, because everything’s great almost all the time. We’ve all had bad things, the bus breaking down, those sorts of things…
The tour in Brazil was really new to us, still so far away. We were playing this city, Belem, which is in north Brazil, an old harbor, more of an old colonial city. It’s really worn down now. It’s really, really cool.
We were the only international band, and the only English-singing band. There was this hysteria – people wanted my clothes, people wanted my hat. The crew was taking photos, there was ice cream, people were like, "Taste this! Eat that!"
We were the only band having a dressing room, ‘cause they wanted us to feel comfortable. It was in a container, where you’d have cold food?…
QRO: Like a walk-in freezer…
AO: Yeah. We were sitting there, and they almost locked us in there. "Don’t you want to be alone?" "No, we want to see…" It was weird. But it was the most exotic tour we did.
QRO: Isn’t the go-go Brazilian?
AO: It is. I think that whole sound, they liked that.
We talked a lot about that, the instrumentation, when we were down there. They’re such a proud people. And I love their music scene. They’ve also got great contemporary artists as well, but the seventies and sixties… They take so much pride. Really powerful.