"We had to create our own light"

Swedish indie darlings Shout Out Louds recently released their fourth album "Optica" and performed live at this year's FM4 Frequency Festival, where we got the chance to talk to them about recent musical developments, the absence of daylight and the comfort of festival toilets.

Given the name "Optica", Shout Out Louds' fourth record is much about the presence and the absence of light, it inheres a new quality of colourfulness and tonal opulence.
fm5 took the chance to talk to band members Bebban Stenborg and Ted Malmros about change, futures plans and the temporary character of summer festivals.

This is now the fourth time that you are playing Frequency Festival and the tenth year as a band – has making music and playing live changed in any way for you?

Ted: Yeah, there are changes all the time, just as you change as people, ten years is a long time, we were then in our 20ies and are now in our 30ies and you as a person are changing all the time and every record we make we want to do in a different way, so change is good.

How would you describe the change, you did on the new album?

Bebban: Time was the big change, especially that we took so much time doing it because normally we have been kind of disciplined with rehearsing before recording, we usually have the songs almost completely finished. That is the way we normally do it, I think it’s kind of an old-fashioned way of doing things that we’ve been sticking to, at least with two of our albums and this time we wanted to be able to reinvent things in the studio, where we head more opportunities to try things, different sounds and that stuff, because practising space is very tiny, so if you just want to write a rock song, that is a good things, but if you want to be more innovative, we can’t to do so there. So that’s why we sometimes went a little overboard with using different sounds and we just took very long time, because we didn’t go there with just finished songs to record.

But isn’t it the same period between the releases as earlier? There have always been two to three years between the records and it’s the same period now between “Work” and “Optica”?

Ted: Yeah that’s true, but for example between the first two albums we have been touring all the time and it is true, that there is the same time period between the records as usually, but sometimes we tour more and sometimes we tour less, it is about how much breaks we have in that period. But it is not something very planned, it just happens.

Light in Scandinavia is a bit of a complicated relationship, I have been in Reykjavík for six months this year and when I went there in January it was about two or three hours sunlight a day and when I left in June, it was light all day. So I could imagine that light plays a very important role for people in Scandinavia. Might that be a reason for your album and the interest in optics?

Ted: Yeah, it definitely is. We have been in the studio for almost two years and it has no windows, so I think we had to kind of create our own light. And it also has to do with the fact that light and heat come at the same time. So in the wintertime, that is practically from the first of October to even April, it is very dark, it is very annoying too, I don’t really like that.
Bebban: Yeah and it’s especially getting harder at age, too.

But you could tour in winter and stay in Stockholm in summer?

Bebban: That would be a possibility, but then we couldn’t play any festivals and it’s much more fun, when it’s light and warm outside.
Ted: Usually when we tour in winter, at least in Europe, there is much of snow there as well, so winter is trouble everywhere.

When I’m listening to the new album, I sometimes come to think that your latest record is more adult than let’s say “Our Ill Wills” and maybe also even more mature than “Work”, it’s not that teenage hymns any more, more like a bit cooler, not that melancholic, do you agree?

Ted: Definitely. It went a bit the same way as we did as people and we just had more time lately to work on it, which I think affects the songs a little bit too, because when you do a song very quickly it almost by itself gets more roughly, so yes, we have aged ten years and yes…

Can you imagine that in ten years you are sitting here again and are playing Frequency Festival?

Bebban: Would be fun!
Ted: Yes, sure… But we’ll probably won’t be there with our eight album though, we won’t keep on doing things in the same tempo.
Bebban: We’re still not very slow, a record every two or three albums is still pretty fast
Ted: As we have to tour a year after the album, then write songs a year long, then wait some months until the album can be released, so you always “loose” some time in that process.
Bebban: But we sure will have more records released then, maybe five or six or maybe even eight.
Ted: Or maybe in ten years the business is all song-based, so about relasing single songs than full records?

Because you were talking about the period between finishing an album and releasing it. Can you describe the spirit of this period, what it is like for you, because you have finished everything, but can’t change anything essential any more and have to wait instead?

Ted: It is kind of weird, because we have finished it and passed it on, but then you start listening to it and start thinking what could have been changed or improved. But at the same time it is a very busy period, you have to do press photos and videos and tour plans.
Bebban: You kind of get a little impatient to get people to listen to it and at the point of time it reaches other people I am usually already a bit tired of it.

So is it also about getting annoyed with the business stuff?

Bebban: Yes, a bit. I personally would like to finish it, send it out to people the next day and then head for playing the music live. But this time it was a bit special, because we needed a lot of time to rehearse the songs. That was because we didn’t know who had played what, it was a complicated album to translate for a live set.

You did not have an idea how to translate the album into live spirit at the time you were developing the songs, but had to figure it out after finishing them?

Ted: Yeah it’s better to do it afterwards, because in the studio you just want to be creative and try everything.
Bebban: And that’s the difference between designing and rehearsing the songs, before we recorded the songs, as we did before. So we actually couldn’t play the songs.
Ted: You have to choose, what’s important and what’s not, because it’s always more than five scores on the record. So you have to decide, what’s the most important of them. Additionally, we are not the quickest rehearsers.

Have you ideas, how the next album could sound? I read that you describe "Optica" as "Disney on drugs"?

Ted: No, we haven’t really thought so much about it…
Bebban: No, we haven’t. But I have the feeling, that it would be kind of…
Ted: Less Disney?
Bebban: Rather less drugs. Or the other way round?

Do you maybe have ideas where to record the next album?

Ted: We try to record more by ourselves, last time we kind of produced it ourself, but we were in another studio. I don’t think we gonna go anywhere again.

The cellar was in Stockholm?

Ted: Yeah, it was kind of nice, too. When you travel all the other time, it’s quite nice to be at home while recording. I would say, we will be in Stockholm for the next album as well.

You are quite frequent visitors to this country, what brings us this honour? Can you describe the relationship to Austria?

Ted: We have a good booker first of all, he always wants us to come here…
Bebban: Because we always have a good time here, for some reason people keep inviting us back and we like to go where we invited. We always had really fun shows here. And also we like the food and the beer.

Oh yeah. Beer is much cheaper than in Sweden.

Bebban: It’s just really nice sitting outside and especially in summer I think Austria is really great. I am a big fan of the sea and water in general, and though Austria has none of that it is just really pretty. We were sitting outside yesterday for a while, before we played Poolbar Festival, and it just feels so good and convenient there, in the montainous area.

Will you watch any bands at the festival?

Bebban: We have to leave very early to catch our plane to Stockholm early in the morning, but I know that Adam wants to see Empire of the Sun. So maybe that will be the only one.

To end this, can you please name the best and the worst thing about a festival in general?

Bebban: I think the best thing about festivals is playing outdoors, because that’s especially for Scandinavian people very nice. There’s so much time every year, where we can’t do anything like that, so it comes to be a really big treat to be outside. The worst thing…
Ted: Toilets! Hygiene! And it’s difficult to rest in the middle of the noise. So that’s the worst, you never really feel comfortable at festivals. This one is okay, but sometimes you happen to be deep in the forests


Shout Out Louds live:

04.10. - Graz, ppc
05.10. - Linz, Posthof