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Shout Out Louds

Jul 02, 2005 Web Exclusive
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How does a group of self-proclaimed DIY musicians from Sweden make it to Los Angeles and sign with a major record label? From talking to Adam Olenius, frontman for the Stockholm five-piece, Shout Out Louds, it is not as difficult as one might think.

“After touring Sweden, we did a couple shows in London and sold our records through Rough Trade,” says Olenius, fresh off his band’s second ever live television performance on The Late Show with David Letterman. “After that, a lot of venues in New York started to call us and ask us if we wanted to play. Then people came to our shows and it just happened. One day we were over in LA and the record company [Capitol] saw the show and liked it. So it went really fast.…We were booked at Coachella before we were even signed.”

Growing up in the suburbs of big-city Stockholm, Olenius was raised in a family where music was a means of communion. Rock and roll was always present, with his uncle bringing records to share, and his father spinning a diverse mix of classic rock and soul from Motown, Chicago, and Otis Redding to The Beatles. Olenius’ first musical memory: “When I was three years old, my dad played ‘Don’t Stop Me Now,’ by Queen.”

After playing in many small high school bands, Olenius started Shout Out Louds while studying graphic design at art school. Ditching his most recent musical outfit, which played what he describes as Lemonheads-like simple rock songs, Olenius hooked up with old friend Ted Malmros. Malmros introduced Olenius to American indie bands like Grandaddy, Pavement, and Dinosaur Jr. and, in turn, Olenius taught Malmros to play bass.

“The first time we rehearsed, I had to point out where to play,” says Olenius. “I knew guitar and could sing, but I never actually had sung in a microphone before. So we were all beginners. But that was really fun to start all over again and build songs from the beginning. It was more like an experiment.”

Soon Olenius and Malmros recruited a trio of old buddies for their band, some friends of 10 years and others from as far back as kindergarten. The first addition was guitarist Carl von Arbin, also an art-school classmate of Olenius’. Then came drummer and former bandmate Eric Edman, and later, keyboardist and classically trained pianist Bebban Stenborg.

The band’s international debut, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, plays like an energizing mix of the classics of Olenius’ youth and the American indie-pop introduced to him by Malmros. While the album is peppered with horns, harmonies, and the occasional banjo or violin, the song that serves as the best descriptor of the band’s sound is “Please Please Please,” a jangly guitar anthem with ultra-catchy chorus and vulnerable lyrics reminiscent of Bright Eyes wunderkind Conor Oberst.

Although Howl Howl has only been available internationally for a little over a month, a different version of the album saw Scandinavian release in 2003 through the one-man operation, Bud Fox Recordings. The newer international release culls six older songs and five newer recordings, running the gamut from “The Comeback,” the first song the band ever wrote, to “Seagull,” a repeating flute and guitar melody recorded just last year. According to Olenius, readying a worldwide debut came out of necessity more than anything.

“We recorded an EP last year and we have a lot of new songs, but we were doing a German tour and playing a lot of Sweden, so there was no time to really record new songs,” says Olenius. “I think we just wanted to release [the album] as soon as possible. Everything released in Sweden we wanted to have international, so it’s more like a real catalog. This is the debut for the whole world.”

“It’s fun when we play for a new audience,” says Olenius, describing what it is like to tour worldwide off an album, much of which is already two years old. “If we continued to play those songs in Sweden, we would probably die of boredom or something. But when you meet a new audience and they really like the songs…I give it six months.”
For all its entrepreneurial spirit, Olenius’ Shout Out Louds is also notoriously independent and diverse. The band members design their own CD release artwork, and create their own music videos, which at the time of this writing totals six. It begs the question, why would such an individualistic group of musicians sign their band to a major label powerhouse like Capitol?

“It was a little bit nervous in the beginning, because we wanted to be on a small label,” says Olenius. “But then we realized that we needed a bigger one because we’re from Sweden. We have to travel a lot and we need the tour support.”

“The major thing is just tours. Promoting [records], that’s always good. But I think that good music promotes itself. But we spent all the money that we earned off touring in Sweden to fly to New York and LA to do those shows in the beginning. So we need the support for the tours. And so far, we have done a lot of shows here, so it feels that it pays back in one way, you know.

“It was a big step for us,” adds Olenius. “Instead of working with one person, now we work with hundreds. You have to say focused and really try to fight for everything you do. They leave us alone when we do the records and everything. I hope that will stay that way.”


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