There's nothing sweeter than being serenaded by Markus Krunegård and Shout Out Louds' Adam Olenius. Their indie-pop music is blissfully soothing. The duo's project, Serenades, is a compilation of musical and lyrical poetry that is layered in complexity. The songs often sound hymnal, and with their strings ensemble accompanied by choirboys on stage in Sweden, the band knows how to put on a dynamic performance. The band released their Come Home EP this month, featuring their single, "Oceans," and played their first US shows this week. They hope to make their US five-piece into their heavily populated string ensemble soon enough (file next to Arcade Fire). With their full-length album coming out next year in April, Serenades will be coming to visit the US more frequently—lucky us!
ILANA KAPLAN: How did you guys meet and decide to do this project?
ADAM OLENIUS: Well, the first time we met was at a gas station in Germany, when our other bands were on tour.
MARKUS KRUNEGÅRD: On the autobahn.
OLENIUS: Then we started to meet at festivals and clubs in Stockholm where most of the bands go. We started to become really good friends. We started to exchange ideas and started to hang out and write music.
KAPLAN: How is Serenades different than each of your respective projects?
KRUNEGÅRD: For me, first of all, this is in English, and what I've done that past two years was in Swedish. That was a big difference. And also lyric-wise, both of us, what we've done before, is really specifically about our experiences. Our lyrics were more poetic and more semantic. That's the big difference, I think. They came to us. We tried to create a new voice, steady beats and mantras, like repeating the same lyrics over and over.
KAPLAN: Who are your influences on this project?
OLENIUS: I don't know, really. Each song had a different influence. We were mostly influenced by working with each other. Markus had his own project, and I had Shout Out Louds. We had ideas that maybe we couldn't try with our own projects, but we had sort of an outlet now to try these ideas. I think just singing together and working a lot with harmonies. We had a lot of fun in the studio working with harmonies. That's a very new thing for us. That was the most important thing. And listening to bands like Panda Bear with a lot of layers on top of each other. Even Bruce Springsteen records, like Tunnel of Love. The sound on that record, we listened to. Everything from Kanye West, too.
KRUNEGÅRD: It was more details from other bands that we like, but I would say it was 98 percent feeling and 2 percent thinking. I do think that it's intuition and feeling, but where does inspiration come from?
KAPLAN: What's the meaning behind your single, "Oceans?"
KRUNEGÅRD: I don't know if there's a specific meaning. The bottom line is that best friends become strangers or something like that. You meet someone after you were best friends and you were together or married or whatever. It's always a strange situation when you had a deep relationship that you don't have anymore. I guess that was our starting point.
KAPLAN: Why did you choose the name Serenades for your project?
OLENIUS: The songs sound like serenades, almost like hymns. When we started writing songs, it was basically two or three words or a sentence that we sang over and over again and added harmonies. Sometimes it was a bit religious in a way, like the hymns you sing in church. In Sweden, you have to sing these songs in school that are very romantic, about mother nature and about history. It worked really well with how we sounded. We took that name straight away when we wrote our first song.
KRUNEGÅRD: If you come up with a band name that you think is taken or has to be taken already and it's not, then you should go for it.
KAPLAN: In the song "Come Home," you reference Christmas and the loneliness that comes with it. Why is that?
KRUNEGÅRD: I don't know. We started writing the song. It's more about longing, than particularly about Christmas. It was actually called "Come Snow" first. We took away the "Snow" and put in "Home" there instead to make it more general. We added the bells and everything, so I guess it's a really "Christmas-y" song now. We hope it to be evergreen.
KAPLAN: What bands have you played with? Are these shows your first?
OLENIUS: We have just done maybe ten shows in Sweden. We have not played that much with Serenades. We've played in LA twice this week and we're playing our first New York show tonight. So, we haven't really toured that much. We've just played with local bands were we go. In Sweden, we have our own shows. It's a little bit different because in Sweden, we have strings on stage and two guys, almost like choirboys on stage. It's almost like a big "Las Vegas" show in Sweden onstage, maybe not in the audience. We're a five-piece here in the US. Hopefully we can add some strings later on. It's sort of new. We're slowly building into our lives.
KAPLAN: Do you have an album coming out after this EP?
OLENIUS: In April. We're doing SXSW in March. Hopefully a longer tour around the album release. May, maybe?
KAPLAN: Who would you like to play with in the future? Who do you think you'd complement on stage?
KRUNEGÅRD: As Adam said, we constructed the album pretty much in the studio. The live thing is growing now. It's happening now. We don't know how it sounds before we start creating it. I don't know who would suit us. Maybe Arcade Fire, but that would be boring to have two big bands, though. I don't know.
OLENIUS: Grace Jones, perhaps. We would love to tour with Grace Jones.
KAPLAN: Adam, during your project now, are you on hiatus from Shout Out Louds?
OLENIUS: We're recording right now. I've actually been in the studio a lot this year. It's nice to have our time in the studio. The other guys are kind of on vacation right now. When I'm not doing Serenades, I'm in the studio recording with Shout Out Louds. I'm going to focus a lot on Serenades next year. The next Shout Out Louds record is going to come out about a year from now. We still exist, but it's really fun to do something different. Especially coming up with new and interesting songs that Markus and I developed.
SERENADES' COME HOME EP IS OUT NOW. THE DUO WILL PLAY TONIGHT AT MERCURY LOUNGE. FOR TICKETS AND MORE INFORMATION, CLICK HERE.