That my phone call interrupted Adam Olenius hard at work in the middle of an icy, Swedish afternoon is not surprising. It is an aptly titled album dubbed Work
, after all, that has he and his fellow band mates in Shout Out Louds mighty busy these days. When I ring him, the principal songwriter for the band, along with guitarist Carl von Arbin, is at home piecing together various elements of artwork for the Australian release of their new set of songs. Crackling across the phone line, Olenius sounds appropriately careful and deliberate when considering my trans-Atlantic inquiries. A few answers trail off into the fuzz, suggesting Work
- the album - might be a bit too fresh for many definitive, personal conclusions at this point. These things require time and reflection, after all. But what's clear is the mindset Work
- the process - represents amongst Olenius and his band mates; something satisfying, something deliberate, something that is certainly worth doing.
"It takes a few albums to get comfortable with what you're doing", explains Olenius; a somewhat surprising statement, considering just how effortless the band's previous two records sound on tape. Their out of the blue, '05 debut Howl Howl Gaff Gaff
, though somewhat understated, served as a nifty introduction to the band's infectious, Swedish guitar pop. The band would not disappoint with their follow-up, giving Our Ill Wills
an ultra-polished, if not somewhat dramatic sounding finish only two years later.
Their latest effort, though inspired by the best parts of their previous recordings, is in many ways a departure. In construct, the collection is something looser, with a lot less, musically speaking, occupying a lot more space. When asked Olenius seems open to declaring the album the result of breaking things down. "Deconstruction is a pretty good word...especially because this is our third record. When you have three records, you have two different sides of your musical career to look at. We looked back...and decided what we wanted to bring back from the first and second records."
That pairing of previous approaches helped to add something new to SOL's recorded library. Comprised of songs he penned and demoed while staying with his girlfriend in Melbourne Australia, and digitally shuffled back in forth between band members spread far and wide across the globe (Sweden, Los Angeles), the band eventually enlisted Phil Ek (Built to Spill, Fleet Foxes, Modest Mouse) to assist in knob turning, and reconvened in his Seattle recording studio to flesh out the album sometime last year. "We thought it would be nice to leave Stockholm. Otherwise you go out to the same bars and meet the same types of musicians...It's just a small city."
While working with the acclaimed producer/engineer, the band sought to hit a specific mark in the studio; one that was more powerful, and a bit more adventurous, despite their deconstructed approach. Listening to the results, listeners will find the band's aim true. As it cycles through, what's clear is just how much Work
is the product of the basic building blocks of rock and roll. Bass, drums, guitars, keys, vocal melodies, counter harmonies, and solid pop construction to boot; this is what SOL's latest body of work is rooted in. On tracks like "1999", "Play the Game", and the ever anthemic first single "Walls", the band churn thrilling crests and falls via minimalist versus of rhythm and voice, rich and texturized guitar transitions, and memorable, vocal driven choruses.
The result is an album [for the most part] free of unneeded accessories and flourishes (though, the woozy horns on that intersect "Fall Hard" are a nice touch)...an album where very little seems out of the band's reach...an album Olenius likens to "the Velvet Underground meets Fleetwood Mac". "We just needed more space. The other albums were sort of cramped. Sure, they were filled with a lot of good things, but they were quite dramatic with all those string orchestras and percussion."
As differences go, it's quite an about face in aesthetic, though probably not as important as the change in mental standing the album represents in the minds of its' creators. By title alone, Work
suggests the band's approach to music and the role it plays in their lives has matured. When asked, Olenius simply states, "It's quite a strong title that we really liked". But it's more than that, and a bit more coaxing reveals a band that now owns a very clear desire to acknowledge their career, as well as demand that others do the same. "It takes a few albums for people to understand that this is your work, and that this what you do."
How satisfying it must be then, some eight years later, for the band to arrive at this position. After all, in these times - hard times indeed - work is an increasingly sparse commodity. Though obviously deserving of their good fortune, SOLs are certainly lucky to call their passion their job...their career.
It's a reality that's not lost on Olenius. As we talk across all those miles of cabling, he seems grateful. He seems humble. He seems amazed. "We're doing a show in Williamsburg in a couple months. It's the first time we've ever sold out a show that far in advance. So we're really happy over here. It's just so weird being so far away and thinking about that."
Regardless, that fact alone suggests the acknowledgement SOLs so obviously crave has taken sturdy root over eight years of grinding. "I think listeners will recognize what we do, " a relaxed and easy tone now taking hold of his statements. "I always try to be like a fifteen year old when I make music...I try to continue to have that spark and that energy towards the music I love...When that disappears, we'll give up what we're doing". For now though, the work goes on. - David Pitz
is out now on Merge Records
. Check the band on tour later this spring.
Shout Out Louds on Tour:
03/01/10 - Music Hall Of Williamsburg - Brooklyn, NY
03/23/10 - Mau Club - Rostok, GERMANY
03/24/10 - Uebel & Gefhrlich - Hamburg, GERMANY
03/25/10 - Astra - Berlin, GERMANY
03/26/10 - Reithall - Dresden, GERMANY
03/27/10 - Backstag - Munich, GERMANY
03/28/10 - Mascotte - Zurich, SWITZERLAND
03/29/10 - Mousonturm - Frankfurt, GERMANY
03/30/10 - Burgerhaus Stollwerck - Cologne, GERMANY
03/31/10 - Wagenhallen - Stuttgart, GERMANY
04/01/10 - Rockhouse Salzburg - Salzburg, AUSTRIA
04/03/10 - Lille Vega - Copenhagen, DENMARK
04/14/10 - Parkteatret - Oslo, NORWAY
04/15/10 - Brew House - Goteborg, SWEDEN
04/16/10 - KB Halle - Malmo, SWEDEN
04/17/10 - Kagelbanan - Stockholm, SWEDEN
05/02/10 - 9:30 Club - Washington, DC
05/03/10 - First Unitarian Church - Philadelphia, PA
05/05/10 - Webster Hall - New York, NY
05/06/10 - Paradise Rock Club - Boston, MA
05/07/10 - Just For Laughs Cabaret - Montreal, QC, CANADA
05/08/10 - The Mod Club Theatre - Toronto, ON, CANADA
05/10/10 - Lincoln Hall - Chicago, IL
05/11/10 - Varsity Theater - Minneapolis, MN
05/14/10 - Commodore Ballroom - Vancouver, BC, CANADA
05/15/10 - Neumos - Seattle, WA
05/16/10 - Doug Fir Lounge - Portland, OR
05/18/10 - Great American Music Hall - San Francisco, CA
05/20/10 - House Of Blues - San Diego, CA
05/21/10 - El Rey Theatre - Los Angeles, CA
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CONCERT VIDEO: Shout Out Louds @ Spiegeltent
MP3:"Show Me Something New" - Work
Shout Out Louds on Myspace