Just got off the phone with Adam Olenius, the lovably warbly lead singer of that excellent Swedish band the Shout Out Louds. We talked a lot of garbage you don’t want to know about (though perhaps you do), but mostly about his band’s very fine new album on Merge called Our Ill Wills, the follow-up to their debut disc Howl Howl Gaff Gaff that had all the critics baying at the moon and furiously checking their Microsoft Word thesauruses for new and better ways to describe the resplendently . . . no, the gloriously fresh way these stylish young Swedes dish out such fist-pumpingly… make that raw-powered classic pop deliciously dolloped in memorable melody and sweet but never saccharine sincerity!
The new album was not just produced but artfully crafted by Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn & John, and it’s wonderful; every song’s a true big-beat beaut, it couldn’t have come at a better time, and the even better news is that the Shout Out Louds are bringing it all to vivid life live at the Detour Festival, so: Get there on time and have your faith in relevant and high-quality new music – and good hair – be renewed.
Now lend an ear as we discuss the loves, lives and musical intricacies of the Shout Out Louds…
LA WEEKLY: I was noticing that your second album, Our Ill Wills, came out three years after Howl Howl Gaff Gaff. Why so long? What’s been going on?ADAM: The album is different in the U.S. and Europe and Sweden — it’s a kind of compilation, with different release dates. The debut came out in Sweden in 2003, and in North America in 2005.
We actually talked just today about how much we toured, and how much we should break. Back home we worked a lot. We toured up till last year, and then we went straight into the studio. We even had some time off, too, but especially when we were playing those songs for such a long time, we really had to start working. So that’s why we decided to record it at home, and try to have a normal 9 to 5 job, try to live a normal life for once…
L.A. WEEKLY: What’s the songwriting process like? Do you write when you’re out on the road?ADAM: I write down sketches and some words here and there, but I can’t really finish a song; I can’t really work on it too much. Strange how when you get home, when you get a week off and you’re back in your apartment, everything really comes like a wave. It’s like you collect ideas when you travel, it’s like buying souvenirs, you know?
There were actually a few songs already written before we went on the road, and I wrote a lot in 2006, when we had a little time off between tours. Actually, that’s when Bjorn started working with us, he came in quite early and offered to produce us, and then started to record demos in early 2006. So we had that year to really work on the songs.
L.A. WEEKLY: How much of the songwriting is done individually, how much is collaborative?
ADAM: It depends on the song. If it needs that collective kind of unity, if it needs to have the whole band from the beginning – there’s always an idea of something that I bring to the rest, and we start working from that. Sometimes it does need to stay with me for a little bit longer, so I’m sure that I want to do the song, so it doesn’t get too… have too many ideas.
We do talk, and then argue and arrange everything together, and everyone brings their own idea, and the others bring melodies to the songs as well. It’s important that it’s got the same feeling as the night or moment I write it, and then it comes out on the record. It’s kind of a fight to keep it all along and all the way through rehearsal and then to the studio then live. But it’s working so far.
Shout Out Louds “Please Please Please” L.A. WEEKLY: What does the album title Our Ill Wills refer to? Do I detect a theme of sorts here?
ADAM: It’s just about, well, how songwriting and lyrics and music — I think at least good pop music today is just a sort of channel, a way to be honest and showing your inner side, let’s say. I’m really influenced by songwriters that are kind of cynical and mean, I guess. Also, the title refers to lots of secrets and things going on in private.
L.A. WEEKLY: A theme, Adam, a theme – we writers require them of our songwriters. Couldn’t we say this one’s roughly, er, well, the need for love, the search for it?
ADAM: When you do something creative or to create something, if it’s music or art or if it’s anything, it’s good not to have too much self-confidence. I have a struggle sometimes to deal with this, especially people I really like. I don’t know if this makes any sense, but it’s just like – I dunno, maybe I wasn’t really happy when I wrote that song. [laughs] I have more self-confidence now, but you meet people who are not very honest in this business.
I’m not really pessimistic at all, it’s just those moments…L.A. WEEKLY: You have this very resonant line in “Tonight I Have To Leave It”: “I just want to be bothered with real love.” I like that. You crave complexity in your human relations.
At any rate, Björn Yttling produced many of the songs on Howl Howl. How did you happen to work with him? Was he an old friend?
ADAM: When we started in Stockholm, it’s not too big a city, so you meet people at concerts and you go to the same places and same bars and…
We met at a festival, and he was playing keyboards in another band. We met very late at the bar and he just came up to me and really yelled at me and told me that he hated the production on our first EP, but that he really liked the songs. And I said, “So, if you can produce us for free, I’ll let you do it.” And he said yes. [laughs] Well, we gave him a few hundred bucks. But he produced an EP that came out in Sweden in 2004 called Oh, Sweetheart, and those songs were later put on the international version of Howl Howl. That collaboration worked so well, we kind of canceled the first idea for this record. We share the same ideas of arranging and also the focus on the rhythm. I mean, the record that came out last year, there’s a lot of rhythm and stuff, but we also were very interested in focusing more on drums and the rhythm.
L.A. WEEKLY: The sound he got for you is big and beautiful, it really jumps out of the speakers in a very widescreen kind of way.ADAM: Yeah, I think so, too. It’s more cinematic. We wanted to create more of an album this time, more like a scene. We took away the guitars a little bit and focused more on the pianos and drums and violins.
Shout Out Louds “Very Loud” L.A. WEEKLY: Your band presents a manifesto, almost, about pure, driving energy. When you formed the band, was that something you felt was maybe lacking in the rock scene?ADAM: There was a wave in Sweden five-six years ago when we started, there came up a lot of bands — I was kind of influenced by a few others back home that were being very honest and having a lot of energy, that weren’t really thinking about doing the right things, didn’t think about major labels and all that.
When we came up, it was a good time for indie labels, lots of indies popping up. The local scene helped a lot, I think. But there was something when we toured, we noticed that there were a lot of bands that didn’t have that much unity and energy. The only band I came across that really had that kind of collective feeling at all was Arcade Fire.
L.A. WEEKLY: In Sweden, though, you’ve got to admit that you had the Hives.ADAM: I really like that band. I wish sometimes I had that kind of… I guess I’m just too shy, but Pelle is a really good frontman. But they’re more like a rock & roll circus, like Gypsies, you know? [laughs]
L.A. WEEKLY: In the pure energy stakes, your band too is definitely a contender. But how do you keep it up night after night?ADAM: It’s all about coming to a new place. We’re doing southern Sweden right now, doing a big show tomorrow in our home town, Stockholm, so it’s going to be good to see our friends, and we’ll do a kind of double show, an early show and late show tomorrow.
So those are things to look forward to, but of course it’s tough, because we were home eight months, but still we worked very hard during that time and we do other things as well, in film and other things. So it’s like stimulation, it’s about trying to do something new all the time. That’s kind of a struggle, especially if you’re, like, curious people, and want to do different things.
It is kind of a weird situation you’re in. It’s very much up and down, and this can be quite . . . black sometimes… I think most of it is still okay. [laughs] No, it feels really good, and we’re starting a European tour on Monday, then we’ll be back for one day, then fly off to Los Angeles for the Detour Festival.
L.A. WEEKLY: You’ve been on tours with The Strokes, The Magic Numbers and Kings of Leon. Any stories of wild debauchery and youthful wrecklessness you’d care to divulge?ADAM: [laughs] Everything is a blur. What I remember most of those tours is, playing the big venues is great. Especially opening for those big bands, you get influenced a lot, and it might sound weird, but the thing we noticed is that it’s so important that you get energy out from other bands so you also have that energy. But some bands get too confident in their situation, let’s say, for them to be on the edge and to really have that energy. So you learn sometimes what to do and sometimes what not to do.
What I remember most is, when you meet people at venues and they take you to their house and you have like a party and meet the locals, or go bicycling in the middle of the night in Toronto, and those kind of moments. Meeting with people. And the bartender’s always nice, so they let you stay there for a while, don’t make you go home.
I dunno. It’s a blur, but I do remember it was good. Shout Out Louds play L.A. Weekly's Detour Festival on October 6 Shout Out Louds “The Comeback”