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FILTER 46: Getting to Know: Serenades

By Mike Hilleary on December 22, 2011


FILTER 46: Getting to Know: Serenades

Sitting in his apartment in Stockholm, Adam Olenius is having trouble finding the right word in English to best describe the balancing act of taking on a musical side project. Even the results of an Internet search finds little in terms of a satisfactory suggestion. (“Damn Google translator,” he says with a sigh.)

“It’s [tough] because I like those bands that stay together forever and are almost like a religion,” says Olenius. “But bands can also get stuck. If you’re the lead songwriter, it’s really, really great to share your ideas with someone else or somewhere else.”

The opportunity to do something different, to bounce ideas off someone who wasn’t a longstanding fixture in his musical past is what largely brought the Shout Out Louds frontman to fellow Swedish musical artist Markus Krunegård (of Laakso). Meeting by chance while their respective bands were making a tour-traveling pit stop along the German autobahn, the two became close as they continued to run into one another at various Swedish festival and club performances. When their schedules would allow it, the two inevitably began working on demos together. “We were becoming friends,” says Krunegård. “I don’t know what people do when they become friends, whether they play badminton or drink beer. We both write music so it felt quite natural.”

Dubbing the project “Serenades,” the two eventually committed themselves to making a proper album last fall. The resulting full-length, entitled Criminal Heaven, swells with the kind of happy-go-lucky freedom typically reserved for kids prone to playing with make-believe friends. Taking cues from the likes of The Stone Roses and Panda Bear, the record layers itself in shimmering textures, dual vocal harmonies and lush, simplistic melodies. “We wanted to have a very playful sound,” says Olenius. “Very collage-inspired music.”

For roughly three months, the two artists recorded in a small studio just around the corner from where Olenius lives. At the onset, Olenius and Krunegård established a number of guidelines for the process. “It’s hard to get two lead singers to work together,” says Krunegård. “To have these egos together, you have to put up rules.”

Among their various policies, the duo promised one another that they would treat their time in the studio like a regular workday. No extracurricular work for the album could be conducted outside the studio. “It was good that we had a time limit each day,” says Krunegård. “It was a bit of a hurry every day, like, ‘Oh, shit, we have to do this choir part!’ It was good. You couldn’t think too much. You have to work off of instant feeling instead of analyzing things. I think that’s the problem with a lot of new music. Some people have no limit of time.” Structuring themselves in this way, the two were regularly writing and recording a single song in the course of a day.

Another rule was that they both were to sing in lead harmony all of the time (“[On] only one song we do the revolutionary thing where we sing on our own,” jokes Krunegård). Taking inspiration from religious hymns, Serenades songs were initially designed to follow the design of a spiritual mantra, repeating a single phrase or line with evolving changes in its delivery. Olenius and Krunegård eventually felt through the course of recording, however, that this kind of structure would alienate the majority of listeners, and began building off those beginning lines while maintaining the songs’ overall sense of positivity and joy.

With the record scheduled for release in the U.S. in the spring of 2012, Olenius ultimately believes that just as Serenades became a new outlet for two artists looking for something new, Criminal Heaven is itself about escape and getting away from the norm. “It’s sort of about just traveling far away,” he says. Krunegård, meanwhile, elaborates that activities can be a little limited in Sweden. “It’s cold and it’s dark. You either make a lot of kids or a lot of music.”     F

3 albums that inspired Serenades to make music

The first pop record I ever listened to. I actually listened to it a couple months ago and it’s still very good. All those long, extended mixes. And I’ve always liked George Michael. He was cool. ADAM OLENIUS



Fire of Love
Gun Club is still my favorite band. I love how Jeff Lee Pierce sings. MARKUS KRUNEGÅRD




The Stone Roses
I like the sweetness of the pop songs and how Ian Brown and John Squire did lots of harmonies together. There are some really, really good harmonies on that record. 

This article is from FILTER Issue 46