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Shout Out Louds - A biography
"OPTICA," by Bebban Stenborg
Time is a complicated thing, I've always known that. And as "always" is a reference to time, and time is a relative concept, don't believe anything I say about it except this:
Ten years is a very long time, when you're young.
Back when we were 'four boys and one girl who play together in a band,' I don't know if any of us bothered to think much about where we would be ten years later. I know that if I did, it was in terms of how much longer I thought it would take for ten years to pass. There was a time when we were dragging our instruments along Camden Road on our way from the underground to our very first London show, stopping every other minute for me to catch up with the taller members of our unit, in the hopes of someone having miraculously come up with a painless way to lug an entire orchestra across town on foot. A man at a gas station shouted at us from across the road:
"Don't worry, in ten years you will think back at this moment and laugh!"
It was nice of him, and I think I might have held onto that one shout, not as words of solace or reassurance, but as an absolute truth. We have looked back and laughed at moments of almost picturesque struggle, many times, but that's not what I'm talking about. I just always knew that we would last through the years, and I pinned that certainty onto the man and what he said, as one does when one knows something one can't explain any better than that. What I didn't know back then, however, was that years travel by at the speed of light.
"Optica," our fourth album, was built on a foundation of those two basic and elusive ideas -- time and light. Time, because although we have been known to take our fair share of it between releases, this became the album where we made a conscious decision not to let time be anything but an anonymous passer-by. Seasons came and went while we plodded along in the studio, below ground, where the only references to time passing was whether the space heater was on or off and whether we felt hungry or not. All the while, we were discussing times long since past in lyrics and musical references, as well as the future, of music, of ourselves, and the world above us. 2013 is meant to be the year of our band's 10th anniversary. According to apocalyptic prophecies it is also meant to be the end of time -- lights out. During our time underground we have thoroughly discussed both possible scenarios. As far as light goes, it may seem excessive to proclaim its significance. But ask anyone living within or bordering on the Arctic circle and they will most likely have more to say about it than folks from other latitudes. We don't take it for granted. Actual doctors prescribe light to us as a cure for ailments and deficiencies. There are places you can go to receive synthetic sunlight for lack of the real thing during the long winter. When the light returns to our part of the world in the spring, the metamorphosis of our inhabitants is as shocking as it is endearing, year after year.
Over this past year, our band has constantly talked about light. For some of us it has had a lot to do with photography and visual ideas, everything from light design on stage to finding a shade of a color that says something beyond its name. For me it has been about how one can perceive a place or a person differently depending on the weather or what time of the day you encounter them, and about how I repeatedly chose to sit brick still in the sun on the curb rather than going for lunch with the others because of an absolute need I have to absorb things, like light, alone and consciously to function properly. Plus, Adam and I could not stop talking about meteors and comets. We named the album "Optica," after the science of light.
For "Optica," we took a sharp turn from the greyscale, indoor landscape of our previous album "Work" in pursuit of boldness, and brightness. We decided not to hold back, at all. In our eagerness to please no one but ourselves this time around, we decided to take on the challenge of producing our own music for the first time ever. Our close friend and sound aficionado of choice Johannes Berglund and his studio in Stockholm presented us with an ideal package for the endeavor. A secluded work space close to home but off the earth's surface, a more than generous timeline, and the patient and brilliant sixth member we needed to get through the whole thing safely. Together we made up a downstairs world of explosive colors, big, warm sounds and a very, very uninhibited work process. We never worried about following a clear path, trusting that the conscious decision not to worry would be enough to lead us right, and that right doesn't necessarily have to mean rational or even reasonable.
The songs came to present themselves to us bit by bit, through an endless, lighthearted series of erratic choices. A visit from a string quartet, followed by one from a brass section, followed by an urgent need for mental space, followed by an equally urgent lack of actual elbowroom, leading to a full day of synthesizer mayhem courtesy of Carl and Johannes, while Adam and I... well... talked about meteors and comets. We all set prestige and skillfulness aside in favor of experimentation and sheer gusto, and many work days turned into open mic nights. In all honesty, we made up, layered and disfigured so many sounds that by the time we were done playing no one had any idea who played what, where or when. Blessed be those who, when the time comes to discern piquant from monstrous and fearless from idiotic, have plenty of time.
As with the music, the lyrics on this album have presented themselves bit by bit. A song that started off as a love story ended up a eulogy, one that began as an intergalactic news report turned into a metaphorical fist fight, and ended up a love story. Still, there was something very deliberate about our choice of words this time around. Or maybe I just see it that way because I was more invested in the process than ever before, and it could be that even the most creative side of me can only take so much freedom. I am robotic and incorruptible in my quest to make lyrics comprehensible, if only to myself. Adam is the opposite, all heart. Together we write good and well, and this was the first time we took full advantage of that mostly fortunate combination.
We wrote about love of course, about things we've seen, dreamed and lived. And about time, in all tenses. Light. And then, as always, our ever-present motif of traveling. The places we've been, the ones we're dying to return to, and the ones we hope to see before we die. We made "Optica" in great anticipation of lugging our orchestra across the planet once more, and we can't wait to get out there.
And even if our 10th year as a band will bring the end of the world as we know it, we mean to face whatever lies ahead of us outside, in the light, in full color.
SHOUT OUT LOUDS:
Adam Olenius - lead vocals, guitars
Bebban Stenborg - keyboards, vocals
Carl von Arbin - guitars, vocals
Eric Edman - drums
Ted Malmros - bass, vocals