The last time Shout Out Louds played the at Great American Music Hall in San Francisco was three years ago, with 2010’s Work, released with SME Sweden. Now, with a new album, Optica — self-produced, with the help of Johannes Berglund — the band returned on the eve of their 10th anniversary to take the stage once more.
With Optica, Shout Out Louds seem to have turned inward for inspiration: back to Sweden and what their heritage means to them. Major influences were drawn from ABBA (“It’s very wrong, like you can’t (admit that) as a Swede,” laughs guitarist Carl von Arbin) as well as other musical groups such as the Chemical Brothers and Massive Attack. The importance of light was also a factor — the album was recorded almost entirely underground, and light was a key word for the album. “We talked about different ways of lights instead of music terms … This is a song like a sunset or a sunrise, the absence of light … Especially, you know, coming from Scandinavia, it is a delicacy … especially during winter,” says Adam Olenius, the band’s lead singer. With Optica, Shout Out Louds were looking to create, as Olenius explains, “something different than Work … more rhythmic and more playful … (we) just wanted to try everything.”
These influences exist too outside the songs of Optica, such as the band’s release of a single from Optica, “Blue Ice,” on a record literally made of ice, which melts after one play. Olenius elaborates, “I think nowadays, when it’s so easy to get your hands on music … we thought it was so nice to have to wait for six hours to freeze (it), you know, and it’s almost like when you were younger, when you took the subway into the city, bought a CD and went back on the subway, really longing to … hear the music when you got home.” Von Arbin adds, “And also, it kind of connects in a way, because we are from the ice, you know … there’s something poetic about that escapism in nature, how you can long for nature as well.” In the cover art of Optica, too, light is paramount: “We projected on this girl … the text is on her body, so we were like projecting light, like, you know, like touched by light in a way,” Olenius says.
Needless to say, however, not all influences were confined to their own experiences, as was noticeably the case with one of Optica’s tracks, “Hermila.” Olenius was reading about the drug war and the cartels in Mexico and came across the story of Hermila Garcia, a police chief killed less than two months after taking office because she spoke out against the cartels. “I just felt so inspired by that,” Olenius says. “It’s just like a really … sad thing but also how she was so brave for doing that, you know. So that’s why I wrote the song, but it’s on both sides: You hear it about the person following her and also (about) her.”
And just as light was a central theme in the creation of Optica itself, so it was in Shout Out Louds’ live performance of the album. The band toured with a “great light producer,” and the lighting was definitely a highlight of the show, featuring LED poles that flashed and beamed along with the music. The interaction between the larger theme of light that inspired the music and the music that influenced the LED lights on stage furthered the interaction between the band and the crowd, hyping up the audience and raising the energy in the venue, especially in songs like “Fall Hard” and “W.I.Y.F. (Dust Into Diamonds).” “It’s great when people really sing along and, you know, dance and everything,” says Olenius, describing the atmosphere the band likes to create at shows. “We should be like the (Pied Piper), yes!” Olenius’ advice to a Shout Out Louds concert-goer? “Don’t fall asleep!” Between Olenius’ strutting into the audience and parting the sea of people to create a runway, standing on top of the drum kit singing and grabbing a stage light and shining it into the darkness as the only source of light for the audience: Well, it makes it a bit hard to do just that a Shout Out Louds show.