TAS in Session: Shout Out Louds
Sweden's Shout Out Louds, who released their third album Work on Merge in late February, will be returning to the States this May to tour with Freelance Whales. The irreverent quintet - singer/songwriter Adam Olenius, keyboard/vocalist Bebban Stenborg, drummer Eric Edman, bassist Ted Malmros and guitarist Carl von Arbin - dropped by The Alternate Side's Studio's not long ago, spoke of day jobs, producer Phil Ek and their rumored demise as a band, and performed four songs from their latest release: "Walls," "Candle Burned Out," "Four By Four" and "Throwing Stones."
Malmros even made a mini-documentary about the band's recording process, a visual diary of their experience in the woods near Seattle.
Alisa Ali: To my ears, your new album Work is your best yet. It's stripped down and elegant. It's been three years since your last release. How would you describe the difference between this album and your last, TK?
Adam Olenius: The second one was a more dramatic record. We worked [and wrote] a lot in the studio and had more strings and percussion and sort of filled every hole with something. That was great. We really liked that, but we always want to do something different. So we decided to do a more stripped down record this time and focus on our own instruments and work with Phil, the producer we worked with in Seattle. He was working more in an old school way, everyone in the studio, having one take that we'd work from.
Alisa: So when you did the last record, you weren't all in the same studio?
Adam: No, we were in different studios in Stockholm. We sort of changed a lot.
Ted Malmros: There was a lot of editing involved. Editing different takes together, like good parts of different takes. Instead of editing, now we wanted to have room for more things, let things breathe and have more of an organic feel. You need to have these solid, good takes in the bottom.
Alisa: You still enjoy playing the older songs, yes?
Adam: Yes, absolutely. You're more excited to play the new songs and there are some old songs that we're really tired of playing and sort of take you back to a time [you don't want to remember]. But we've been on break for a while so we're excited. It's great to have three records and songs to choose from.
Alisa: Which songs are you sick of?
Ted: It kind of varies withing the band. Some people like some songs more. That's what's good about being five [people]. I'm kind of sick of "Please, Please, Please." We play that a lot, it's from the first record, but crowds like it and stuff, so it gives something back for sure.
Alisa: When was the last time you were here [in the US]?
Ted: Maybe two years ago?
Adam Yeah, we did a really weird show at Joe's Pub. We played two shows in one night. We dressed up in tuxedos and did ballroom versions of our own songs. I don't know if anyone got that whole thing (laughs) so now we're back to playing normal songs. We just wanted to do something different.
Alisa: Do you still bust out the tuxedos?
Bebban Stenborg: No, they were rentals.
Alisa: ["Four By Four"] feels as if it should be on a John Hughes soundtrack. Were you a fan?
Adam: Yes, but when did those films come out?
Bebban: We were too young.
Ted: By the time they came to Sweden, we were old.
Bebban: There weren't that many movies in those days. We were too young for "E.T." too.
Ted: We had one movie a year in Sweden (all laugh).
Bebban: On Christmas.
Alisa: You took a long break after the last album.
Adam: Six months. But it was six months without rehearsing or anything on the calendar. It was really good for us.
Ted: It was over a year touring.
Adam: No shows played for a year.
Alisa: But I'd figure you'd want to take a break after such vigorous work.
Bebban: You're the first one who has ever said that, actually. Everybody else was like, "we thought you were dead. We thought you weren't coming back." But it wasn't so long. We could have taken a longer break.
Ted: And you have to take it between records.
Alisa: There's this weird story about this break, though, that follows you guys. Did people think you started hating each other?
Adam: Yeah, there was nothing really special about it. We just ....
Bebban: We didn't have a big fight but people d seem to think we were considering breaking up, seriously, and that's not what happened.
Ted: But I do think that had we gone straight into the studio after that tour, I think ....
Adam: We maybe would have had a big fight.
Ted: We were just really tired. Not [of] being in the band, but being on the road all of the time. We really wanted to do more records.
Alisa: So it was more of a preventative measure - let's just stay healthy."
Ted:And in general whenever you say things like that, people want to create something. There is something in their minds that there was a big fight. People want drama. So let them have drama.
Alisa: Adam, you found yourself in Australia with your girlfriend.
Adam: It was nice to be really far away from the band and also from Sweden and Stockholm. A better perspective on what you want to do. I really like Melbourne. It's a great city. It's far away. I started writing songs while I was down there. I had a lot of time for myself there. The first couple of weeks I didn't do anything. I slept and walked around the city, but you get depressed not doing things. If I don't write ... I have to write all of the time to come up with ideas and stay creative. If you're a group, there's always the band everywhere you go. It's nice to be just yourself.
Bebban: But we still worked. It wasn't like a vacation. It wasn't like we rested for six months. We rested from the traveling and the commitments that involve five people. Group commitments that are harder to adjust to sometimes and it's nice not to rely on four other people for everyday things. Other than that, I don't think it was a vacation. I was in Los Angeles, but I still worked. We had other jobs too. We were working for money, separately.
Ted: I was baking.
Bebban: Ted was baking. Selling pastries. I was translating technical manuals. It is much more fun than it sounds. I'm embarrassed to say that I think it's fun. I love manuals. If they're well-written, you can fix anything with the manual. But a lot of them aren't. A lot of them are badly written and people get upset.
Alisa: Have you ever fixed anything based on a manual. What was the last thing you fixed?
Bebban: A bicycle. Everything was wrong so I took it apart.
Alisa: So Ted, you were a baker?
Ted: Yeah, I started selling pastries to this cafe and it went pretty well. Now they want more, but I got tired of it.
Alisa: Do you bake a lot for the band?
Ted: No. I cook for the band sometimes. No, I don't think it would be appreciated so much, baked goods?
Bebban: No, not baked. Bring food.
Alisa: Was it easy [during your hiatus] when you guys were emailing your ideas back and forth?
Adam: In the beginning.
Ted: Yeah, I don't think that would have worked out much longer. It wasn't really working out much longer.
Adam: Some songs were almost finished, but some were small ideas. Some songs they hated and some they liked and then we started writing them together in rehearsal when we got back in March.
Ted: It can be tricky talking about some things ... It becomes troublesome with the feedback for sure.
Alisa: You really got down to it when you got in the studio. Do you have your own studio?
Ted: It's a rehearsal space. It's very small.
Adam: It's in the middle of the city which is nice, but it's underneath a hotel so it's down in the basement. I think we can only rehearse for two or three hours and then the air sort of runs out.
Bebban: So there are a lot of Indiana Jones moments down there (all laugh).
Adam: We had to be more prepared this time before flying over to Seattle where we recorded the album because Phil couldn't fly over first to hear the songs and work on them together. So we worked a lot in that basement.
Alisa: Phil Ek, who produced your record, a big time producer who has worked with Band of Horses, The Shins, Fleet Foxes. Did you choose him?
Adam: Yeah! Absolutely. We heard good things about him, that he was a nice guy as well, from many people we met. We sent him three songs that we recorded in our rehearsal space and he emailed me right back and really liked the songs. Our people contacted his people and we flew over. He was more focused on us performing and finding that perfect take. We were in a small town outside Seattle called Wynville in an old stable, rebuilt as a studio in the 70s. He was involved with the arrangement, but us finding the perfect take and the sounds of each instrument.
Ted: He's a real band producer. He listens to everyone.
Adam: And very precise and picky (laughs). We had to do a lot of retakes.
Alisa: Any song in particular that he forced you to retake over and over.
Adam: "Walls." And "Too Late, Too Slow."
Ted: "Too Late, Too Slow" we tried so many times. And we had to rebuild the drums [for one take] as well. Because it has a funky beat.
Adam: Nothing was first take, that's for sure.
Ted: But he had a really good way of saying that too. Then you continue, think "that's a good one!" and he'd erase it straightaway and say [imitating Ek], "check your tuning, check your time, do it again." And we'd do it over and over. [We'd] look at him and go, "oh, he's deleting it!" But he was really good about it.
Adam: But you'd feel sometimes worthless. There were so many vocal takes on a few songs. And I listened to it and everyone would go, 'that sounds good!' And he'd go, "No, no, no." So I was a bit stressed out at the end and we had to fly back to Stockholm. So he spent an extra week or ten days in Stockholm. Worked a lot with the vocals and mixing.
Alisa: But do you feel that after that session you've changed as a band from working with him?
Ted: Yeah, I think so. You gain a lot of perspective and learn a lot of things. Absolutely. And just playing the songs that many times.
Bebban: But I think that time will tell, that depends on what happens with the next album. What kind of producer we end up with then.
Ted: And if we've learned anything.
Bebban: If we have learned any valuable lessons.
Adam: Or if it was a waste of time (laughs).
Bebban: We are who we are.
Shout Out Louds Spring Tour
02 May Washington, 9:30 Club
03 May Philadelphia, First Unitarian Church
05 May New York, Webster Hall
06 May Boston, Paradise
07 May Montreal, Cabaret Music Hall
08 May Toronto, Mod Club
10 May Chicago, Lincoln Hall
11 May Minneapolis, Varsity Theater
14 May Vancouver, Commodore Ballroom
15 May Seattle, Neumos
16 May Portland, Doug Fir
18 May San Francisco, Great American Music Hall
20 May Los Angeles, El Rey
21 May Los Angeles, El Rey (Sold Out!)
22 May San Diego, House of Blues
All dates are with Freelance Whales.