As the band onstage New York's Mercury Lounge paused, a voice from the crowd called out, "We love you, Shout Out Louds!" Smiles dominoed across the five faces of the Swedish garage pop band, reeling from the buzz surrounding the recent release of their U.S. debut, Howl Howl Gaff Gaff. Singer and guitarist Adam Olenius, tuning his guitar, politely stepped to the mike and, with a faint Stockholm accent, said, "Thank you."
Once a little indie act playing Stockholm bars and clubs, the Shout Out Louds have become Sweden's hottest export since the Hives, signing with Capitol, playing the Coachella festival alongside the likes of Weezer and Coldplay, and opening for the Kings of Leon and the Secret Machines this summer.
The Shout Out Louds began as a musical hobby shared by Olenius and bassist Ted Malmros in 2001. "We had the same taste in music," Olenius, who grew up playing Beach Boys and Beatles tunes on his guitar, says of the initial collaboration. A week into the idea, their college buddies -- guitarist Carl von Arbin, drummer Eric Edman and the band's femme fatale Bebban Strenborg, who sings backing vocals while playing accordion, keyboards and tambourine -- joined the band. "We were all beginners," admits Olenius, whose sleepy-sad voice recalls both a young Jonathan Richman and the Cure's Robert Smith. "I'd been writing songs for a long time, but I had never really sung in front of the microphone, and Ted had never touched the bass before in his life." Olenius, then working as a graphic designer, had created a logo of two howling wolves, from which the group took its name. "It just fit with our music," says Olenius. "It's not a big, masculine shout -- it's more desperate, really."
By early 2003, the Shout Out Louds had put out their first release, the EP 100 Degrees. "We felt that we could do this," Olenius says of their earlier days. "The feedback was so good that we couldn't stop there." After touring Scandinavia in support of a local version of Howl Howl Gaff Gaff -- "gaff" being the Russian translation of "woof" -- the band recorded the EP Oh, Sweetheart. A combination of both releases became their debut for Capitol Records, a collection of deceptively up-tempo and melodic tunes.
"Some songs sound happy, but they are meant to be sad -- and the other way around," explains Olenius, who pens the group's tunes. The melancholic, Luna-esque "Go Sadness" is actually a cheerful song, in which Olenius sings, "The future is mine/I got the greatest dog/I love my brother." And the album's outrageously catchy single, "The Comeback," features the downer lyric, "I'm out of my mind/I'm about to crack." Similarly, "Very Loud," the album's power ballad, was inspired by "the times when you are out at nightclubs and realize who your friends and your enemies are." Shrugs, Olenius, "I like the contrast."
Although he admits indulging in a few wild after-parties while on tour with raucous Southern rockers the Kings of Leon, Olenius won't disclose the details. He will admit, however, that the whole experience was a little jarring for the newcomers. "It was a circus!" he says. "When you play thirty minutes after doors open, that can be tough. And the thing about touring the U.S. is, it's such a big country. You'll be big in Chicago, and then no one's heard about you in Boston."
The Shout Out Louds plan to tour until Christmas, when they will go back to Sweden to record Howl's follow-up. "This is just our first album," says Olenius. "There are going to be plenty more."