In the right hands, pop music is like a controlled substance, capable of infusing you with excitement and enthusiasm, momentarily shutting off that part of the brain preoccupied with workplace politics and the cost of living. There's no one recipe. Acts are always discovering new combinations and building on the contributions of their predecessors, much like The Shout Out Louds.
More than worthy of their exclamatory moniker (unlike those hand-clapping and yeah-saying fellows), the Swedish pop quintet distills a quarter-century of underground rock explorations into a powerful mood elevator. Stops are made at "jangly twee pop," "swooning chamber pop" and "pulsing post-punk," but it isn't so much the influences they stock as the unabashed heart-on-the-sleeve emotion and sonic warmth which combine like a bittersweet butterscotch candy. "I'm out of my mind, I'm about to crack, so let's call this 'the comeback,'" guitarist Adam Olenius aches on their infectious hit single, "The Comeback," sounding like The Wedding Present holding Saturday Looks Good to Me in a headlock while Robert Smith sings "Here Comes Your Man."
Like so many bands, from Wire to the Talking Heads to the Black Dice, at the group's core are former art school students (Olenius and guitarist Carl von Arbin) and their friends. Classically trained pianist Bebban Stenborg was recruited to play keyboards full-time by her childhood best friend, von Arbin, after the incipient quartet found the Moog becoming an instrumental element in their sound.
"When I joined the band I didn't even know we were ever going to play live. I was almost angry and upset," Stenborg recalls. "I thought it was just something fun to do instead of sitting and hanging out."
Indeed, this was initially what it was. There were no ambitions. Olenius wanted them to get away from being a band which he'd done in the past and do something more like friends collaborating on an art project. However, great music takes a life of its own, and between the release of their debut 4-song EP in the spring and their full-length that summer (Howl Howl Gaff Gaff), they were catapulted to prominence.
"We released the EP and it happened almost immediately," the blond keyboardist explains. "That fall we went to New York and London, but since then everything's been slowing down and we've been doing things more gradually, which I think is good for us."
It's been a whirlwind couple of years that've taken them around the world. This continues to delight and amaze Stenborg.
"This one time I stepped off the bus and was confronted with a huge parking lot and all these ghost trucks because it was late and no one was out. I was just standing there, barefoot in my pajamas, thinking, 'If I'd ever seen this image of myself as a kid, I would wonder what had happened in my life,'" she says. "`Yet` we feel the same as we did the first time we played. It's just that the world around us has changed."
The Shout Out Louds
with The Rosebuds, The Sun
9 pm Thursday, Dec. 1