By John Lambert Pearson
Does life on the road effect the music of the constantly-touring Shout Out Louds? "I guess it does," says singer Adam Olenius. "You know, I think you're sorta living a different life on the road and you think about home and being away and returning and of course that effects you. You meet a lot of people. People that you meet and things that happen while you're traveling and things we do as a band become [what] I sing about. I'm not sure it's being at a certain place, it's just...being away, and trying to figure out your life." On the eve of the group's recent show at Great American Music Hall in support of their new album Work, I sat down and talked with Olenius about the pleasure and the work of being in a band.
SFBG Your existence as a band is constantly battled by traveling, you're always together, but you're also trying to remain individuals at the same time. I'm wondering if there's anything you do that helps you. Do you stay together, or do you do things by yourself?
AO It depends if you have friends or crew or other people coming along. On this tour we have Henrik [Jonzon] with us, an old childhood friend. I haven't had time to see him for awhile and now on the road we're catching up a lot. He's filling in for Ted [Malmros, on bass] who got a baby a few days ago.
SFBG I heard.
AO That's kinda why we took a break after the second [album; Our Ill Wills]. We felt that we should try and find ourselves a bit. It's not that we were tired of hanging out together. As you said, you're a band all the time, and people just need to sort of think about what they want.. We agree that we still want to be in a band, so it was great that everyone was on the same boat.
SFBG Do you think a fourth album is coming?
AO Absolutely. And I think it's gonna be coming sooner than the others. We have a lot of ideas, a lot of things we want to try -- to start doing things by ourselves, I think. I want the next one to be more… schizophrenic. I love [Work], but there's always a reaction to what you do.
SFBG People have said [Work] was quite a change from your previous work, but going back to some of your older work I can hear it in the older stuff. It's interesting that it took you quite a long time and two other albums to get to this sound that I heard a long time ago. I'm wondering if there's something that made you want to do that.
AO I think having two albums to look at while you're working on the third one you can see what you liked on every record. We went back to ideas and back to the way I felt about certain songs. People kept saying we found our sound – I don't think we found our sound, but we found ourselves.
SFBG I was thinking about your music in terms of an environment and a landscape. Our Ill Wills had a kind of maritime or nautical theme, and I was wondering if you thought Work had a specific place to which it belonged.
AO We wanted every song to be like a train – we talked about very straight roads, an escalating train. When we did the arrangements for the songs, they start slow and accelerate, and end in a bombastic way. That was something we didn't really plan, it just happened. I think [Work] belongs more in a factory, with those belts…
SFBG You talk about books and libraries a lot – are any of you big readers?
AO Bebban [Stenborg] and Carl [von Arbin] are I read a lot, but Bebban reads like 10 books a month. She is a good writer as well, she's writing short stories. Everything -- art and music and a lot of films – inspires us. Our songs, we can talk about them more [in those terms] as well.
SFBG Photography seems very important to you guys.
AO Yeah, it is because we also are very involved in all the artwork. and Carl was talking about how we took a lot of inspiration from Irving Penn and his photography on this record. The title came from many different ideas, but it has to do with Warhol's Factory, and how Lou Reed and John Cale did a song called “Work.”
SFBG So that's an example of where your ideas for the covers of your albums come from?
AO We've always been negative about showing ourselves too much, even though we have a lot of photography on the homepage. There isn't a typical band photo.
[Work] looks very nice when you have it, especially on vinyl. Very '70s, and because Irving Penn passed away last year, it was a tribute to him.
SFBG You have a lot of people that I love remixing your songs, like Kleerup and Russian Futurists and Studio. Is there anyone you're still looking to get?
AO Of course. I would love Daft Punk. There's some British guys doing one right now, Punks Jump Up.
SFBG They recently did a really good one for Lykke Li. What bands are you listening to right now?
AO I saw Caribou, I like that album. I haven't really been listening to new stuff, but I bought the new National record, and last year I liked Girls a lot.
I saw them in a small club in Stockholm about six months ago, I think they're really good. I've been listening to a lot of old stuff like Todd Rundgren and old early-'70s songwriter stuff.
SFBG Do you listen to a lot of Swedish music?
AO On tour we listen to a lot of Swedish bands. But we've listened to a lot of Fleetwood Mac on this tour – Rumours.
SFBG How would you describe your live show in comparison to your album?
AO It's more explosive. This record sounds better live, because we didn't have to change the songs to make live versions.
It took a couple months to find a live sound for the songs [on Our Ill Will].
SFBG What is the song "Time Left For Love" about?
AO It's a story. I remember writing the first sort of lines. It was a long time ago, when we recorded the first record. In Stockholm they have this truck that cleans the streets and it comes in the middle of the night, once a week -- especially in Stockholm, cause we use a lot of sand in winter to get the streets dry. A lot of things had changed in my life, and that truck, that sound, every night put me to sleep.
SFBG Do you have a favorite song from Work?
AO My favorite song to write was “Throwing Stones.” It's a song I started writing right before flying home from Melbourne, and I finished just 3 hours after I landed in Stockholm, so it's an important song for me. It has a freedom to it. I like “Walls,” too. That was the first song I wrote for the album. Bebban actually played that piano melody on glockenspiel -- I think the first time she played that was in Columbus, Ohio
I listened to the demo of “1999” recently, it's got a more electronic and sharp sound. I think I liked the demo version more. But I like how we do it, like “Hard Rain” from the second album, that [also] has that beat with rushed melodies on top
SFBG I think “Hard Rain” and “1999” are the two closest songs from your two albums.
AO Yeah, and that's why we made [“1999”] song number one, because it puts those two together, if you listen to our albums in a row. But who does that? Haha, I did that when I was fourteen with Guns 'n' Roses.
SFBG Are you close with any other bands in particular?
AO The Stockholm scene is tight, you know. We're good friends with the Concretes, and Peter, Björn and John. We spend a lot of time with Swedish ones. Lykke Li, she's a neighbor -- I mean when she's home. I can hear her when she's writing songs and she can probably hear mine, cause we don't have day jobs and you can hear through the walls