Interview: We Are Serenades

In my professional career, I don’t have the type of job that requires much travel. However, when I do have the chance to visit a city other than Columbus while on a trip, I try to find the cool club in town and catch a show. I’ve been lucky … in the past I’ve seen Zolof the Rock and Roll Destroyer in Orlando, Florida, Youth Group in Los Angeles, Kill Hannah in New York City, 500 Miles to Memphis and Warbringer in two separate trips to Des Moines, Iowa.

This week I’m heading to Philadelphia for a conference so I checked out Songkick.com to see who was playing. I came across a name that sounded familiar but that I didn’t (at the time), know anything about – We Are Serenades, a project featuring Shout Out Louds singer Adam Olenius and Laasko singer Markus Krunegård. The duo’s debut album, Criminal Heaven, came out just a few weeks ago.

Before checking them out at Johnny Brenda’s on Tuesday night, I sent Adam send questions via email. (If you’re a Donewaiting reader from Philly and are going to the show, let me know in the comments section).

I looked at the club listings in Philadelphia to see who was performing when I’ll be there. At first, I thought maybe it was a misprint and that We Are Scientists were performing. And then, there is also a new group called We Are Augustines. Have you encountered any confusion based on the name and were you aware of these two other bands with similar names?

We were first called just Serenades but we had to change it and added the “We Are” because it works well on stage. I was familiar with We Are Scientists but never thought about it in that way. It is strange with such an uncommon name like that.

It sounds like this collaboration was a long time in the making. Was there a certain point in time where the two of you said, “We really need to set some deadlines and get this done because if we don’t, it’ll be something that we talk about doing the rest of our lives but never complete”?

Exactly. We found some time in between touring and just set a deadline. SOL was having some time off so we just booked a small studio in Stockholm and started working. We found a swedish label that we liked but we never thought we would release it outside of Sweden. It’s like a big bonus.

I’m familiar with – and a fan of – Shout Out Louds but am not familiar with Laasko. In this digital era, it’s not that hard to find out about bands and even listen to music (which I plan to do ASAP). For the readers unfamiliar with Laasko, what story needs to be told and what are the essential songs that we should check out?

They have recorded 3 albums and started at the same time as Shout Out Louds. I remember listening to their first demo at a party back in the day. Their latest album “Mother, I’m a good looking” is a great album with my favorite song “Stay Tuned To My Love”.

This is a side project, correct? Would you have room in your life for 2 bands if We Are Serenades blow up and become a huge sensation or will this always be something you do for fun and only when you have time?

I try to see We Are Serenades as a new band and not as a side project. You just have to try to focus on one thing at a time I guess. But I will never leave Shout Out Louds and we are recording album number 4 as we speak. Shout Out Louds is the blood and We Are Serenades is the wine. Ha.

The orchestral elements of “Birds” completely blow me away! I was just a kid in the ‘70s, during the disco era, but there’s something that sounds very ELO and/or Bee Gees to me about the music. As you were constructing the song, did you build it off that orchestral sound or was it something you added after the basic structure was written to really bring it to life?

When I grew up my dad played a lot of ELO and Bee Gees at home so it’s always been there somewhere I guess. “Birds” had that big feeling since the start and it felt natural to add a lot of heavy strings and drums. We told the guy that wrote the string arrangement to make it sound like the tv show Dallas.

If “Birds” reminds me of music my parents listened to in the ‘70s, “Come Home” reminds me of the early ‘80s pop music that was my gateway into becoming a music fan. I don’t know how old you guys are, but what type of music would you say you were “raised” on?

Well, I was still a young kid during the 80s but my sister listened a lot to Wham and George Michael so you might say I was raised with that kind of sound. Both of us like the grand 80s sounds and when we came up with the theme for “Come Home” we both went the same direction. A little bit of Live Aid and little bit of “Tunnel Of Love”.

And THEN we roll into “Daydreaming” which reminds me of the music I was listening to the late ‘90s. How is it that you captured 3 decades of music within 3 consecutive songs??????

Ohh..you’re right. I don’t know. We played around so much in studio and decided to try all ideas and I guess all of our music backgrounds came alive. Since we don’t have a history (with We Are Serenades) it was an open field. Kids in a candy store!

I read that the two of you agreed to always sing together on the songs so that there would be an equal partnership throughout. What made you decide to bring in Bebban on “Daydreaming”? Whatever it was, it was absolutely a brilliant move – her voice lends itself so well to that song.

We felt we needed a third voice on the album and especially on “Daydreaming”. It sounded too Backstreet Boys…Bebban has got a very personal voice that helped the track a lot. Maybe she brought that 90s sound with her Mazzy Star kind of voice? And it was also good to have friends on the album. Ted (bassplayer in SOL) also made the video for “Come Home”.

Are you familiar with the Leeds band Hood? “Oceans” reminds me of music off their 2005 release, Outside Closer (which, incidentally, was my top pick for that year). The layering of voices, the music, the gospel-like feel – which I read is something you were going for – it all works so well together.

Nope. The only band from Leeds I know of is Sister Of Mercy.

Of the ten tracks, which was the first one written together and which was the most recent one finished? As it sounds like you took some time to get all the songs completed, when you listen to the first song you collaborated on and the last song, can you tell a difference in the songwriting? Do you feel like you’ve grown as a duo or do you write the same way together today that you did when this whole process started?

The first song we wrote was “You Make It Easy On Me” and the last one was “Miracles” (b-side on the Come Home Ep). I think in the end we dared to push the limitis a little bit. We got more comfortable working together but also more protective of our ideas. All the fights came in the end.
We weren’t as polite as we were in the begining.

Touring the U.S. is a pretty big gamble though I see you’re doing relatively limited dates. How important is it to get out and play these songs to people in a live setting? It seems like with your respective schedules, We Are Serenades could easily become a studio-only project (and maybe that’s the long-term plan).

We started pretty bold here in Sweden with 10 people on stage. 3 strings and 3 choir boys. But in the US we had to cut it down to a 5-piece. It actually works pretty good live. The sound is a little bit heavier. We will see where this year will take us. I kind of like bands or artists that just do albums without touring. You get more time to produce and write.

You’ve done some extensive touring in the U.S., not sure about Markus. What are your feelings about touring in the U.S.? Are the drives manageable? Are you able to find something worthwhile to eat in the cities you perform in? Does Shout Out Louds have a fanbase in any particular city that you’ll be visiting and, if so, are you anxious and excited to run into some old “friends”?

I love touring the US (if you have a bus). I did two van tours with SOL back in the day and that can be a bit rough on your health. A lot of gas station food etc. After 6 tours in the US you know a little bit of where to go and not to go. But this time we’re doing different venues so we’ll see. I know some good places in the cities we’re going to now so I’ll show Markus around. Last time we played Philadelphia we played the First Unitarian…there’s a great Japanese place up the street.

As I head into the show next week, what can I be expecting? Is it just the two of you performing or a full band? And, if it’s a full band, who are the other members joining you? Will the set consist of just the 10 songs (or a portion of those songs) from the CD or will you include unreleased We Are Serenades collaborations, Shout Out Loud songs, Laasko songs, covers?

It’s Markus and me and 3 other friends on stage. We will probably play the whole album and we’re doing a brilliant cover of Christopher Cross “Ride Like The Wind”. But no Laakso or Shout Out Louds covers, that would be weird.

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We Are Serenades will be doing a short run of tour dates in the U.S. Here’s the schedule:

5/7 – Washington D.C. – Black Cat
5/8 – Philadelphia, PA – Johnny Brenda’s
5/9 – NYC – Mercury Lounge
5/11 – Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory
5/12 – Boston, MA – TT The Bear’s
5/16 – Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle
5/17 – Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock Social Club
5/21 – Seattle, WA – The Crocodile
5/22 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
5/24 – San Francisco, CA – The Independent
5/25 – Los Angeles, CA – Bootleg Bar

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