Meet The Band Who Will Help You Get Over Your Fear Of Flying
Adam Olenius, the frontman for Shout Out Louds, has always had highly specific interests. Right now, it’s airplanes (everything from flight plans to frequent flyer miles). But as keyboardist Bebban Stenborg reveals shortly into our conversation, as a kid, Olenius was obsessed with decorating his bedroom.
“My mom told me the other day that, when I was a kid, I wanted a mirror, a pink couch, and a rope swing,” Olenius confirms, thickening the plot. “I wanted to be able to look at myself swinging. I remember every Christmas I wanted that.”
“The whole kit?” Stenborg asks in mock horror. “How old were you?”
“I don’t know,” he replies, smirking over his coffee cup. “Fifteen?”
As close as the members of Shout Out Louds obviously are (Olenius and Stenborg are joined by bandmates Eric Edman, Ted Malmros, and Carl von Arbin), the Swedish musicians have a habit of scattering across the globe between albums, which meant, before working on their fifth full-length Ease My Mind (out today), there was some much-needed bonding time. A false start in the writing process turned into a string of after-work beers. And decamping to Olenius’ countryside home (second properties are far more common in Sweden than America, he explains) turned into a much-needed working holiday. By Stenborg’s estimate, it was the most carefree they’ve ever felt while on duty. It was also the most productive. In a band first, the album was finished in only a few months.
It makes sense that the idea of human connections is stitched into Ease My Mind’s DNA. Leaning into the grand tradition of romantics (their first album, 2003’s Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, drew comparisons to The Cure), Shout Out Louds trade in thick layers of guitars, synths, and crescendo-intensive choruses—a widescreen sound that’s equal parts wistful and nostalgic. In the case of opening track “Jumbo Jet,” a single that chronicles Olenius’ fear of flying, there’s also a heavy helping of realism.
“It was a big thing when we started,” he admits. I really hated flying. And then we started flying a lot. Especially flying over the Pacific and the Atlantic. All these long flights—it was something that would occupy my mind a lot. I found these really good pills that I take. At the same time, the song is also about finding my wife… I remember sitting next to Eric, before I met her, and saying, ‘What if we find a partner on the other side of the world?’ It would be horrible and worth it. But now, I’m much better. Now I’ve got an app. I Google weather.”
Fictional characters also invited themselves to the party. Although they never met her, a woman who hosted the band during their first American tour has since become the stuff of Shout Out Louds legend. Her strange house full of semi-neglected pets. A fleet of Sky Mall-style gadgets. Rooms full of trinkets that appeared to belong to someone much younger. Her ghost—or rather the person who the band believes she might be—haunts “Porcelain,” an upbeat track with a dark message.
“We build this persona around this house,” explains Stenborg. “The whole theme of that song became about being in relationships that are dysfunctional. But not love relationships that you know will last and that you have to work on. Other relationships that you don’t have much trust in, or faith in, but still take up a lot of energy. It’s the type of relationship that people get tired of you talking about.”
But ultimately, as both Stenborg and Olenius reveal, writing and recording Ease My Mind was less about their personal pasts or the characters they created, and more about giving the band exactly what they need in a time of high anxiety. A chance to get together, make music, and forget the rest of the world. If they’re lucky, it’ll provide a similar respite for fans.
“Some of us in the band are more political than others, but we’re not a political band,” says Stenborg. “We don’t really have that much to offer in terms of political perspective on things. We don’t have a lot to add to the conversation in that sense. I think that we just decided what we can offer is a bit of a rest from worry. A shoulder to cry on… The world is so strange right now, and it has been for a while. We’ve been away from each other for four years. Everyone has been all over the world. Even since [our last album in] 2013, strange things have happened. Everywhere. Even in our little town. I think when we got together that’s what we were feeling. We needed to soothe ourselves.”