The long talk
“It’s mandatory to sing in the shower or while heading down the freeway far beyond speed limit,” she says. The Lilou. I meet her and John over a cup of hot peppermint tea in their apartment in Borås. The rooms are sparcely decorated, but everything seems to be arranged like an art exhibition. “It’s all about aesthetics,” she remarks on my appreciation. “I never stop moving things around until they pop. The same goes for melody making or recording a song.”
“How I present myself has become equally essential. I used to feel uncomforable drawing attention to myself, but a couple of years ago I started to wear bindis and bright red lipstick, and nowadays I smile when people stare at my pink hair and smurf blue pantyhose. It’s not supposed to be perfect. It’s supposed to be me. Nothing else is good enough.”
John looks into the distant as he starts to speak. “I was just a kid when I heard Tony Clarkin’s ‘Les morts dansant'”, he says while pouring tons of honey into his tea. “And I was mesmerised by that cruel war song. I wanted to write that kind of lyrics.” He looks at his wife and smiles. “But it was Lilou who taught me how to look beyond what had already been written and write my own story. She made me think about originality.”
And his wife is nothing but originality. “If there ever was anything standardized about her,” John says, “it disappeared long time ago.” However, as unlikely as it may seem, she hasn’t always been that self-made centerfold primadonna who “cuts like a chainsaw” as John puts it. In fact, even though she loves to sing, Lilou did not think of a singing career until she met John.
“When I was younger I didn’t like to hear my own voice,” she remarks while offering me yet another buttered scone. “I thought it sounded too low pitched, but in recent years I kind of like it, it gives volume and depth to the songs I sing.”
“I used to think a song like ‘God’ would be too challenging for me, but nowadays I´m like an eager child constantly playing with new genres and techniques to expand my vocal range.”
“I have always sung a wide variety of songs,” she continues. “I have this thing for American slave tunes. I guess everyone around me knows I love ‘Wade in the water’,” she laughs. “And Swedish folk music. Write that as well, songs like ‘Liten Karin’ and ‘Vi sålde våra hemman’. They are timeless, stretching back through the ages.”
She leans back in the couch and offers me a scone before carrying on. “Those ancient folk melodies have passed through my vocal chords some ten thousand times since I was old enough to walk. Runs in my blood, girl and woman.”
“She was probably a seter girl in another life,” John says, “and I guess I must have been a soldier. I listen mainly to political punk rock, military marches and old war songs, ‘The haughs of Cromdale’ and such.” He fingers slowly on his iron wedding band as he speaks. “To me, cute lyrics with a fluffy tail is not worth reading or listening to.”
“Motörhead is poetry,” he states firmly. “I would honestly call them the greatest songwriters in modern rock music. Read ‘Capricorn’, ‘Orgasmatron’, or ‘War for war’ and you will see. They are just underestimated because they were a metal band and wrote about aspects of life most critics didn’t understand. The relentlessness of loss, pain and death.”
“My grandparents were murderers, that’s how I became a poetic freak, and I guess it’s reflected in what I like to read and write. Twisted Sister’s ‘The Beast’, The Waterboys ‘Red Army Blues’ and Ewan MacColl’s ‘The ballad of accounting’ are examples of songs that have transcended beyond the romantic and instead painted the world, not in the colors I wanted to see when I was younger, but the colors I feel are right,” he says, while his eyes wander towards the bowl of buttered scones.
“In a sense I think those songs represent everything we try to hide from ourselves. Calling death a thin veil between two worlds might have improved some of my poems, but I’ve seen people die and I know that veil isn’t just a veil but also the worst horror imaginable. It’s the personal holocaust. A sharp nail digging into the back of your heart. And Lilou is the only person I know who is strong enough to dive into that horror and sing while surrounded by total darkness.”
“You’re such a cutie,” Lilou says. “I just let the lyrics guide me.”
She has listened to many powerful voices throughout the years. Bill Withers’ “Ain’t no sunshine”, K.D. Lang’s version of “Hallelujah”, and Nina Simone singing “My baby just cares for me”, those are just some of her favorites. “But I have never wanted to sing like them, instead I have tried to refine my own voice. John writes the best poems I have ever read and it’s vital for me to do them justice.”
John chews on a hot scone before continuing. “Lilou is never on stage,” he says. “Therefore it’s easy to write for her. She is never the artist trying to please an audience. She is Lizabeth in ‘He Broke My Neck, Joséphine’. She is the grown up child looking back in ‘God’, singing to an absent father. She is the narrator in ‘100 Faces’, the honest voice most of us spend a lifetime trying to hide. She dives into it just like I do when I write it, and we both do it in a conscious way.”
It sounds almost like a fairytale. Her biography. Lilou grew up with an abusive father and an absent mother in a small village deep in the woods of Dalsland. Cut off from the rest of the world, as it seemed to her, she longed there would be something more to life than the geographical and mental isolation she experienced.
She recalls one of her first strong memories, a moment that changed her life: “I was just five years old when I said ‘no’ to him. I knew what he did was wrong. I don’t know where I got the strength from but somehow it made him scared enough to step back, maybe he thought I was going to talk. I have carried that voice within me all my life and it has only gotten stronger for every fight I have had to win. The girl from Antarctica, that is me.”
John encountered the impact of mental illness among his relatives at an early age. Aged five he had already survived weeks of solitary confinement and severe mock executions from his sadistic grandfather, Sture Lundström, dead in 2007. He witnessed two murders before the age of six, both carried out by his grandfather, something that he later has referred to as “the moment I died and someone else took my place.” It was these brutal events that laid the inspiration for songs such as When murder victims die and Petrodollar wars.
In 2012 after a complete mental breakdown he began to find a way out of “the worst hell someone could ever imagine” through therapy. “It’s all there in my lyrics,” he says, “like a map of my twisted life story. I used to think it was just too quirky but the more I write the more I realize that people actually recognize themselves.”
During John’s therapy, Lilou & John realized they shared a common interest in the obscure, dark and pain-ridden parts of human conscience. “We are perfect for each other,” John says, “we are basically two freaks who grew up in dysfunctional families and managed to escape our mental prisons. In later years we have realized we can combine our forces. I do the writing and she does the singing.”
They are perhaps best described as “rebels”, always moving outside of any box people like to drag them into. Dark ethno-rock, accoustic folk-pop or dirty punk rock, nothing is terra incognita and nothing is too controversial to convert into lyrics and melody.
Two year anniversary
Our first EP ”100 Faces” was released on August 27, 2016.
We were nobodies. Totally unknown to everyone, with an expressive graphic profile that scared the music industry and a sound that was so odd and new that people just didn’t know if we were serious or joking.
Today we are a household name among fans of counter culture, edgy art and political incorrectness. There is a new wave of ideas and expressions coming to life and we have found ourselves in the middle of what is happening.
We are listing the ten most memorable things from these last two years.
1. THE FANS
All the fans, podcasts, radio stations, blogs, news sites and news papers that have reviewed our music, played our music, bought our music or interviewed us. We say thanks to Motpol (SWE), Nya Tider (SWE), Emerging Indie Bands (UK), Granskning Sverige (SWE), Rosa Traktor (SWE), Feministinspektionen (SWE), Nyheter Idag (SWE), Middle Tennessee Music (USA), Djolo (FRA), Libsifigyelo (HUN), 888 (HUN), Punk Online (UK), Amerika (USA), Death Metal Underground (USA), Fria Tider (SWE), Broadtube Music Channel (MY), Ottic FM (GER), Ingrid & Conrad (SWE), Indie Air Radio (USA), Meadow Music (SWE), Radio Rock 105.6 (ITA), The Big Fat Indie Show (UK), Project Morpheus (SWE), Motgift (SWE), Radio Nordfront (SWE), Altnorden (SWE), Nordic Frontier (SWE), Svegot (SWE) and many more. You made this happen. Thank you!
The reception of “Free Woman” in Hungary. Thanks to Libsifigyelo.hu, Demokrata.hu, 888.hu and all other Hungarian news sites who wrote about the song we quickly received hundreds of new fans, lots of mails and tons of both love and tears of joy. The song has become a favorite track among many politically incorrect Hungarians and it is one of the most memorable events from 2018 for us. Even government officials from both Hungary and Poland have sent their thanks to us for recording the song!
3. NYHETER IDAG
Swedish news site Nyheter Idag with between 600,000 and 1,000,000 readers per month published an interview that pushed us even further to the front of the ongoing change in popular culture. It was the first time a big news site decided to show interest in a pop and rock band that had not already been made big by corporate media. A brave move and a great initiative showing that the news site is moving ahead of all others. As a result, a man actually came up to John a week ago at a conference and recognized him as ”The Teacher of politically incorrect pop”.
We became lifestyle editors on Amerika.org, one of the most interesting alternative news and opinion sites in the US. Tons of work to do but every new thing we head into is making the world a better place, eh? We launched the online art gallery Madame Revolutionary and The Poet, sold band merchandise on Redbubble and started a lifestyle blog called Café Guillotine. What else is there to do? Alexander the Great once asked a philosopher that question, and the philosopher said he just wanted to sit down and do nothing, which is why the philosopher never made it to Indus but died alone in a damp cave somewhere. ”I don’t ask for much” is a mantra for people without talent.
5. ALL CONTINENTS
We are officially known by at least one person on all continents! Fantastic! We have been reviewed by Djolo, a music site with links to Togo, West Africa, interviewed by Broadtube Music Channel from Malaysia, played by Alt Right Australia’s podcast, got a message from a young boy in Colombia who had purchased Dissidentica, once again reviewed by one of the world’s biggest indie music sites, Punk Online from the UK and Brett Stevens from Amerika also made an interview and introduced us further to the American public.
Lots of mails from people around the world. Americans asking for chords and inviting us to the US, Hungarians thanking us for recording ”Free Woman”, adult Swedish men crying like children because they had given up hope for Swedish popular culture before they heard us. All those things touch our hearts. People have also been asking where they can get a copy of our novel Eldbarn. We finally put ringtones for download on our website and it seems a bunch of people have started having Payback Day in their cell phone, just waiting for someone to call them on a university campus. Many new brilliant expressions to describe us too. From Death Metal Underground we heard ”two intense weirdos” and Midgård called us ”two crazy Swedes”. We were compared with Glen Danzig and The Clash, and Henrik Hanell from Svegot even made the mistake of thinking one of Laleh’s songs had been inspired by ”Soft Collision” from the last album Airing from Kolyma.
7. 150 000+ LISTENERS
Luigi Vespasiani from Italian Radio Rock 105.6, as well as Peter Hatton from English Big Fat Indie Show played our music and showed that even such an odd band as Lilou & John can be enjoyed by radio stations with 150,000+ listeners.
8. THE CREATIVE PROCESS
All those lazy weekends in the bath that ended up in a wild debate about song order on our next album or what to even call the damn thing, waking up 4 am in the morning with Lilou hanging over John like a hungry vampire, desperate to go out and film the video for ”Enemy of the Matrix” before the sun comes up, in mid december and freezing cold outside. All early mornings in the car a few minutes before work, listening to our songs to hear the slightest flaw that must be erased by the producer, all the days in the studio when Lilou sounded like mama bear growling to her pups after three hours of singing and John’s fingers aching like they had been trying to grip a steel wire attached to a sail at Cape Horn, and finally, all the wonderful people who have called us, mailed us, written about us, played us, spoken about us, and made people aware that music can be more than mainstream propaganda.
We published the novel Eldbarn (”Fire Child”) on Alterna Media in September 2017, and we received some really great reviews. We released Patriot Child on January 1, a Nerve War remix of ”Petrodollar Wars” during the spring, and our best album so far, Airing from Kolyma, on June 20. Many great things that has aroused lots of attention.
10. MUSIC VIDEOS
Lots and lots of music videos on YouTube with Payback Day hitting 20,000 views on YouTube a few weeks ago.
Let’s all rock the Gulag together before Christmas,
Lilou & John
One year anniversary
Thank you everyone who has followed us since the release of our first EP “100 Faces” in late August 2016. We send our gratitude to the podcasts, music blogs, newspapers, news sites and citizen journalist blogs that has supported us, such as Nya Tider, Motpol, Granskning Sverige, Emerging Indie Bands, Motgift, Middle Tennessee Music, Indie Air Radio, Ingrid & Conrad, Ottic FM, Amerika.org, Meadow Music, Radio Rock, Feministinspektionen, The Big Fat Indie Show and Project Morpheus. Radio stations with a total of 150,000+ daily listeners in for example the US, UK, Italy, Germany and even Brazil are playing our music!
Furthermore, on September 30 you are all welcome to Gothenburg Book Fair where dissident newspaper Nya Tider will release our debut novel “Eldbarn” (“Fire Child”).
Not bad for an indie band shunned by fake news media!
Since the release of our second album ”Dissidentica” we have been contacted by people from many countries who have been waiting for the next generation of rock, pop and folk bands to replace the shallow culture of today.
Our hit ”Payback Day” has gotten more than 14,000 views on YouTube in just a few months! Our dissident music blog Belzebubbles.com (soon on both Twitter and Gab), covering new great artists such as Rotten Copper, Nerve War and Bogme has gained momentum and we were interviewed by Brett Stevens from Amerika.org in late spring. We have launched a t-shirt site on Redbubble and we are working on getting new designs out.
And for everyone who want to hear more of our music, hopefully we will release a third studio album later this year. Just keep an eye out and together we will rock the Gulag by Christmas!
All the best!
Lilou & John