Sweden bands can be an odd lot. The music they make is often fantastic, the lyrics are great, but getting them to discuss their art can be a bit tricky. Sometimes it’s the language barrier while other times they, well, just don’t want to be bothered having scribes inquire as to why they wrote that song. The Shout Out Louds’ lead singer Adam Olenius seems to fall somewhere between the two. But that slight hint of uneasiness isn’t shown on the fantastic new album Howl Howl Gaff Gaff. A performance at Coachella and more touring has only added to the luster this band is sure to carry this year.
“I’m surprised that we came this far,” Olenius says over the phone, deliberate and thoughtfully choosing his words. “I’m not surprised because I think we’re good.”
Good might be an understatement. The album was preceded by a three-song EP featuring “Very Loud”, a song that seemed to meld the best of Lou Reed and the Waterboys. But influences from other groups such as the Cure, the Killers, and the Strokes can be found on closer second and third listens.
The band released their full-length in Sweden in 2003, but the record is finally seeping into North America. Like most bands, they tire of the “this band is like that band and this band living together with another band across the street babysitting and playing the fiddle naked while watching Benson” sort of asinine descriptions.
“The only really thing I get tired of the comparisons between bands is when the press and the whole media get stuck on someone,” Olenius says. “There could be five different bands but the journalists might say they all sound the same or all have this New Wave, ‘80s sound. But all of those five bands have different feels and different sounds. I’m not getting annoyed by it, but I think it’s just sometimes the media is lazy.”
As for the album, songs like “Oh, Sweetheart” and “A Track and a Train” have a certain dreamy pop feel. Olenius however likes the closing track “Seagull” most.
“I wrote the melody and the lyrics on guitar and drums and then edited everything,” he says. “We recorded one snare and one guitar chord and then we made the lyrics. We put it together as if you were arranging a dance song. We made it in the studio and I had never worked that way before. It was like we were doing a remix of our own song. I really liked that.”
Then there are songs like the fast and poppy “100°”, which Olenius wrote when he was sick, describing the song as “a scrapbook diary of those two weeks.” But the toughest song the band completed was “Please Please Please”.
“We worked on that song quite a long time,” Olenius says. “We had different tempos. It was either too slow or too fast and then we came up with the shuffle feel to it. We tried a lot of different bass lines and worked with a lot of different lyrics. It turned out really, really good but took a while to arrange.”
The group previously staged a few shows in New York but set out on their first full-fledged tour earlier this year with headliners the Futureheads. Olenius says that initially he thought touring North America would be hard but was pleasantly surprised.
“I thought it would be less fun,” he says. “But it was especially professional in the U.S.—the clubs are very good and there are a lot of professional people working with you. It made it easy. Of course there are long drives, but we’re used to that in Sweden. We have done a lot of tours where we sleep on floors and the club owner’s apartment. And there was no PA system, we were doing all that. It was a big surprise for us.”
Olenius says he doesn’t find much time to write on the road and prefers to basically sit down and put paper to pen. He also says he finds it easier to write songs in English than in his mother tongue.
“I’m not nervous and I don’t put pressure on myself writing,” he says. “I want to write English songs. Sometimes I would like to do some songs in Swedish as well. But it’s very easy to write a bad lyric in Swedish.”
The Shout Out Louds play the songs live slightly different than the album versions. However, playing basically the same set isn’t a problem for the group. Olenius says a new audience is what makes the album’s British and North American release exciting.
“It still feels right to play those songs,” he says. “I guess if you were to ask me in six months I could be pretty tired of them. I’ve written so many new songs.”
And the new songs are sure to make the band and its new label Capitol very happy. Olenius says the group chose Capitol because of its rich history—home to the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Radiohead—among other reasons.
“We are on a very small label here in Scandinavia and we didn’t have the money to travel over there [in North America],” he says. We wanted to do more tours and we had to go with a bigger record label to have that kind of money to do things like that.”
The group will support the Dears on a month-long North American tour beginning May 24 in Los Angeles. From there the Shout Out Louds will return for touring in Europe and Britain with another possible North American tour later this year. Olenius says that the attention Swedish bands are now finally getting is overdue.
“It’s always been there,” he says. “There has to be one band that opens the door and I think the Hives did that a couple of years ago. So it’s easier for Swedish bands to get access now to other countries.
“There are so many good bands in Sweden, I hope we get a chance to show more of them.”