It was during a self-imposed hiatus in between their sophomore album and most recent effort, "Work," that the members of Sweden’s Shout Out Louds realized how much music and their band meant to them, according to singer and chief songwriter Adam Olenius.
But it wasn’t until they started recording the songs for "Work," which was released in February, and performing live again that they truly understood how much their music meant to others, said Olenius, who chatted with Blast while the band was in New York City for a record release show earlier this year.
"We had a â€¦ seven, eight month break without playing. And now when we’re back, you sort of realize that people have been missing us," Olenius said, sounding incredulous. "It was a turning point in the band, that we realized that this is really important, and â€¦ that this is not just important for us. It’s important for people to listen to us as well. It’s hard to realize that you have an audience."
Indeed, since forming in 2001, the group has cultivated a following that’s gradually expanded from their native Stockholm to the United States, and continues to grow.
Even the album’s title, "Work," refers to the evolution of Shout Out Louds from a hobby to something more.
"It’s a strong word that we really liked, and we thought about how we realized after about three records that this is really what we want to do," Olenius said. "This is something that we see as a very positive work. Not anything about a job. It’s more the time you put into a project to make something work. And we just realized that this is what we want to do and this is our work."
After their break, Olenius said, he and his bandmates â€” keyboard/vocalist Bebban Stenborg, drummer Eric Edman, bassist Ted Malmros and guitarist Carl von Arbin â€”returned to the studio feeling refreshed and ready to adopt a more back-to-basics approach.
"I think every time you (make a record), you always want to try to do something different," he explained. "We decided to just do more of an old-school record with just focus on our instruments and have â€¦ a more traditional sound.
The album stays true to the Shout Out Louds’ traditional blend of generally exuberant indie rock, with danceable pop songs like "Fall Hard" and the anthemic, piano-anchored single "Walls.
"We worked a lot in the studio with the second album (2007’s â€˜Our Ill Wills’), and then had time to sort of cut and paste and edit it and work with it," Olenius said. "This is a different sounding record. There’s less things happening. There’s more space and really more of a relaxed record. â€¦ It’s a bit different mood."
Despite all the bandmembers’ Swedish roots, all the songs are sung in more or less accent-free English, and have a distinct American indie rock/British New Wave sound. Olenius, for his part, said most of his musical influences come from abroad.
"My dad played a lot of Motown records (and) even Chicago or Queen, that sort of rock and roll music, when I was growing up," he recalled. "I do remember (knowing) I wanted to sort of do something with music when I stole a George Michael record from my sister. â€¦ But when I wanted to start a band, the way we are right now, was sort of listening to Stone Roses a lot, and even heavier things. For a few years, when I was a kid, I was a heavy metal fan."
"I don’t know if we have one band that we sort of look up to or (are) really influenced by," he added. "I don’t think there’s one band that I think everyone can agree on that we can hear in our music."
In fact, it wasn’t even music that brought the group together. They’ve all been friends since childhood in Sweden â€” something Olenius said can be seen as both a blessing and a curse.
"We’re all from the same school, so we know each other’s parents and all of that. It’s good. It’s easier to get over stuff," he said. "After almost eight years in the band, we realized that we have to listen more to each other and really talk about things. Sometimes, when you’re on the road â€¦ you have to be more careful with what you say. A big fight can really mess up things. Because, you know, we’re friends when we get home as well, (and) you don’t want to be alone when you get home, so you have to sort of nurture that relationship."
Having spent much of 2010 on the road already, the quintet has had plenty of time to practice their interpersonal skills. Though it may have only recently dawned on them that people besides themselves actually, you know, want to hear their music, Shout Out Louds seem more than happy to oblige.
"We’re lucky that we can sort of go everywhere," Olenius said. "Even though we’re not a big band or anything like that, we can still play for a few hundred here and there. And we try not to just focus on just playing (in America) and in Sweden. We do small shows in Italy for about 250 people and that sort of thing."
"We try to be everywhere and we like that."