After years of scattered texts and promises to record a full-length together as We Are Serenades, Adam Olenius and Markus Krunegård still looked forward to nights when they both happened to be back home, in Stockholm. “It was very easy to go home after a late night at a bar, to record and try out new things.” Olenius says, of its first few years of attempts to flesh out the duo’s debut Criminal Heaven.
The reason it took so long is because Olenius fronts the band Shout Out Louds and Krunegård Laasko, so it’s not like they’re slackers. They tried to write songs Criminal Heaven over the phone, while on tour and even before those nights out. Three years passed before they finally decided to put their debut Criminal Heaven to tape, now their best attempts to stray as far as possible from their founding songwriting and production methodology.
For an album that was years in the making, Hive was curious as to the biggest influences that seeped in. Here Olenius maps out five.
We wrote songs in between tours and made up some rules for the making of this record — like, we should always sing at the same time, almost as a manifesto. It makes it easy for us to be creative when you’re working within rules. With Shout Out Louds, we would always go into the studio and try to come up with new things, develop tons of ideas and choose after a while. So just doing the opposite, if you are a songwriter, is really good — to set up ideas and make decisions based on a theme or something. It’s like what M. Ward did with She & Him, side projects revolving around a theme or a new phase, whatever.
2. Traveling (as an adult)
I was writing songs as I was traveling back and forth to Melbourne in Australia, so there was a lot of leaving and coming back. When you’re home you want to go out, or at least be able to go to a place you’ll want to sing about. It’s escapism, absolutely. But then we would think about what happens back home where something changes and what changes when you get back. That’s the whole thing about growing up and being away, these simple things. So we wanted this album to be very romantic and to be very poetic, and we didn’t want to be too cynical.
3. Traveling (when you’re a kid)
Markus had just gotten back from Mexico, so we had talked about how we were traveling when we were kids. Lots of Swedish students go to study English when they’re younger; they might to England or the United States during summer vacation. We did that when we were kids. So parts of Criminal Heaven sort of bring in parts of that first meet-and-greet, when you meet someone and you know that you’ll probably never see each other again.
4. Gospel music
I don’t know much about the art and the scene itself. We know how it sounds, and so we were just inspired by the harmonies. In arrangements we wrote one verse, and we had a harmony on top of that verse, which later on became a second verse — so harmonies became choruses. (Pop songs, they don’t really have to have choruses.) There was actually a local church pretty close to our studio. We actually went down to the street a couple of times, just to see and listen to it. I don’t know if it became what we wanted for the record, but I think that sort of music is so timeless, whether you believe in its religion or not. The best example of that sort of sound is Suicide’s “Dream Baby Dream.” That’s probably the best example of key words just being used over and over again.
5. Bruce Springsteen’s Tunnel of Love
I discovered Springsteen quite late, maybe in the last five of six years. He doesn’t sound too tough, as he usually does on other records — focusing more on stuff that’s difficult to say. His other albums are about dreams and going somewhere and just wanting to run away to wherever, but on this album he had to write about the end and work it out. I like that a lot.
Criminal Heaven is out now on Cherry Tree/Interscope. Watch the video for “Birds” below: