Getting up early. Commuting from the burbs. Accepting that the customer is always right. For most regular working stiffs, earning a paycheque amounts to little more than a daily exercise in regret and restraint. For Swedish indie-rock act Shout Out Louds, however, work means recording, touring, and forgoing footwear in interesting places.
“I'm walking around barefoot in a church in Philadelphia right now,” says Shout Out Louds lead singer Adam Olenius, on the phone from the band's second stop on its North American tour. “It's really, really warm here, so I'm wearing my Scandinavian winter boots.”
On the road in support of its third album, Work, Shout Out Louds were part of the long rise and fizzle of the Swedish indie invasion that saw the Cardigans, the Concretes, the Hives, and catchy whistle outfit Peter Bjorn and John gain ground in the U.S. and Canada. Now, nearly 10 years in, the band is still plugging away, and it's starting to pay off: its latest release has it selling out shows in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Los Angeles.
In reaction to an overproduced, over-thought sophomore effort, Our Ill Wills (2007), the band—comprising Olenius, Ted Malmros on bass and percussion, Carl von Arbin on guitar, Eric Edman on drums, and lone female member Bebban Stenborg on accordion, glockenspiel, Moog, and backing vocals—was eager to partner with a producer that could help it achieve a less-complicated sound reminiscent of its 2003 debut, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff.
The group settled on Seattle-based, second-generation Swedish-American producer Phil Ek, who's known for his work with the Shins and Fleet Foxes, and also for his unforgiving studio ethic. Shout Out Louds recorded 10 hours a day in a barn on a secluded 10-acre horse farm outside of Seattle, and drank Campari by night at a bar in Ballard, an old seafaring Scandinavian neighbourhood. It was a welcome reunion for the band, which had spent the previous six months enjoying some time apart.
“It was very nice to have everyone in one place,” says Olenius, who spent the hiatus writing songs for Work in Melbourne. “When we are usually recording, we have everyone coming in and out, and going out and coming back, and this time we were all in a really nice old stable that has been converted into a recording studio. Being so close to nature was really nice—we could sit outside for hours and drink wine and eat lunch.”
The result of all the eating, drinking, and fresh Pacific Northwest air, Work is a collection of stripped-down songs peppered with jangly guitars, catchy hooks, and dreamy, tone-perfect harmonies between Olenius and Stenborg. Conceived as a cross between Fleetwood Mac and the Velvet Underground, Shout Out Louds' third album was a hard slog through the relentless perfectionism of Ek, but don't assume that's the premise of the project's title.
“People got it all wrong with why the album is called Work,” says Olenius. “Work for us, well”¦ We love our work. Calling the record Work, for us, is very romantic because it's not a boring job.”
Shout Out Louds play the Commodore Ballroom on Friday (May 14).