Airing from Kolyma (EP, 2018)
Airing from Kolyma, Lilou & John’s sixth release and third EP, was recorded from April to May 2018 and was made to move away from the punk rock sound of Patriot Child to an acoustic sound reminding of Dissidentica but with more focus on pop melody and voice. Lilou & John let the backbeat guitar move to the background to put emphasis on vocals and lyrics. The idea of the album is to move beyond mainstream and present a new kind of guitar-based pop as well as presenting a few love songs for the outside-the-box music gourmet.
“Free Woman” is a song about the Hungarian Revolution against the Soviet Union in 1956, as well as an attempt to describe part of the story behind modern central European Conservatism in a few verses. The chorus ”I was a born a free woman” is intended to make the listener feel the conviction of the Cold war dissidents all over central Europe and how many often perceive history as a struggle for freedom from Imperial rule, such as Habsburg, Soviet and the EU. The ”camp fire” feel of the guitar is intended to symbolize the surge of popular Conservative sentiment in Hungary after enduring poverty, imprisonment, deportation and even the execution of family members before 1989. Lilou was inspired by ”Born in the USA” when she created the melody and wanted women to start thinking ”freedom is my birthright and nobody has the right to take that away from me, no matter what political color they have.”
“Revolutionary Road” is Lilou and John’s personal love story from their first date. They had already spoken six hours on the phone the day before and now John was driving 100 km to Lilou’s flat in Gothenburg. “I knew that whatever it took, no matter the cost, even if it killed me, I would have to let go of my lifelong fear of love and meet the woman with the dark alto voice. It was a hard road to drive away from my old life as a suicidal mess scared of intimacy and come out in the open. It took me years to be honest.” The chorus ”me ne frego” from the famous war poem by Gabriele d’Annunzio refers to this conviction to give everything he had for love or die trying. One reason for including the Fascist references was to annoy the thought police, he admits, but also to describe how a totalitarian ideology could attract so many individualists. ”The point was to take some of the symbols of Italian Fascism and transform them into something new, into a song about love and individual freedom that replaces the dream of national grandeur with the longing for self-realization instead of the opposite way round.”, John says.
“Dead Girl Walking” is a modern Guy Fawkes tale in combination with #120dB and #FreeTommy. The story spins around media and politics, asking the question of censorship and truth. “There is a tipping point in society and the song is trying to zoom in on that precise moment when public discontent might has been allowed to grow too big and people start acting violent for they see no other alternative, and the song is perhaps a warning to people”, John says. Originally, Lilou had an almost cynical voice when singing the song that changed into anger during the recording process, and the catchy melody and guitar were meant to give the tragic story a party wrapping that could emphasize the absurdity of the whole situation. ”The song deals with the logic of revolution and we try to explain why they happen”, she says. ”The murder at the end of the song is just our way to describe the growing public outrage. All politicians and journalists should listen to the song just to understand the other side of the story, like all our music, you can learn from it.”
“Soft Collision” is the story of two hearts melting together. It was originally based on an older love song and was slightly rewritten to match Lilou and John’s relationship of ups and downs. ”Love”, they say, ”is an adrenaline rush for the young, and a lifetime commitment for the old, but you have to work hard. Things don’t come easy.” Lilou says she sang in a way she had never sung before. ”It was like I was breathing the words, like I was breathing air from a cloud.”
“Alpha Dog” is a song about Capitalism and market economy, about personal freedom, about the beauty of industrial society, and about the choices that make up our lives. Ever since reading about Adam Smith’s “The Wealth of Nations” (John always reads the reviews for he is too lazy to read the whole book) he has wanted to write a song that celebrates secular egoism as a driving force in society, since ”without acceptance of egoism, Secularism and Capitalism people stop developing stuff and that makes people poor in the end.” Lilou says she was exhausted after the final recording. ”We had been doing the same song like ten times in the studio, there was always one tiny flaw somewhere, until we decided that this version just had to be good for my voice couldn’t take it anymore. It takes an awful lot of energy to sing and afterwards we had to rest for a while before we could move on. I want it to be perfect and it annoys me when something isn’t exactly the way I want it to be.”
Petrodollar Wars (single, 2018)
This single is a remix of the song “Petrodollar Wars” from Patriot Child made by American industry/EDM artist Nerve War. The result was an aggressive “anti-dance” production that matched very well what the duo wanted to achieve.
Patriot Child (EP, 2018)
Patriot Child is Lilou & John’s fourth release and second EP. The album was the result of Lilou’s wish to record a punk album and John’s wish to write about the upcoming protest movements around Europe and North America. According to John the album is a journey through “the fascinating mindset of radicals and revolutionaries.”
The album increase the band’s international fame and was reviewed by major indie site Punk Online who described it as “punk-art”. Another big music site, Death Metal Underground, called the band “nearly indescribable”, while Swedish Nya Tider wrote about “manic song” and “furious lyrics”. The vocal was also mentioned by KFJC 89.7 FM who called it “mesmerizing”, “fascinating in a harrowing manner” and concluded that “Lilou sings to defy both multinational corporations and conventional musical keys.” Motpol decided that the band was characterized by the ability to play with “perspectives and symbols and be one with them beyond good and evil,” Amerika compared the music to “an atmosphere of gritty, city-oriented noise” and Midgård simply referred to the band as “Two crazy Swedes.”
“Psychotic Snowflake Anthem” was originally written as a retrospective story about John’s experiences of psychotic paranoia during his university years. “The university is a universe of its own”, he says, “where the outside world seizes to exist and everything is translated into diagrams and theories that have strong similarity with psychosis.” Having been threatened by a group of skinheads at the time added to John’s paranoia. He wanted to describe the constant fear and shifting of emotions, the conspiratory thinking and nightmares about the world’s end. Lilou added her most harrowing voice to give life to the song and to put emphasis on the lack of control of the narrator. The riffing guitars were meant to symbolize the staggering mentality of someone who is pushing herself over the edge of insanity, where nothing is stable but pulsating with extreme intensity. Finally, the drums gave the song a different character than was intended, as the reggae-beat turned it into an even more weird mix.
“Petrodollar Wars” started out as a song about the My Lai massacre and was written late one night in 2017 and Lilou gave the text its characteristic primal energy just a few days later. During the autumn of 2017, as the Syrian civil war raged on and the interference of foreign powers became more and more obvious, the song title, originally “Purgatory”, was changed into “Petrodollar Wars” to make it match the revolutionary approach of the album. The song is a deep dive into the mental world of a mercenary made cynical by war and his attempt to distance himself from his own actions.
“Enemy of the Matrix” saw light early one morning when Lilou woke up in bed with a melody in her head. She used the cell phone to record the first epic words “I can see you, I can feel you, I can breath you mortalkind”. John wrote an entire song based on those words with the intention of exploring the mental landscape that created the old viking god Odin. Lilou and John wanted to describe the strong religious emotions that surrounded the worship and what he meant for the world view of that era.
“Generation Identitaire” was written after a reading of Markus Willinger’s poetic and furious manifesto “Generation Identity – a declaration of war against the 68ers”. Lilou gave the song a melody that turned it into a “pop song with rock guitars” according to John. Lilou wanted to “give the chorus a real punchline and to make the audience feel as if they are aboard an airplane lifting.” The chorus synth pad had the same function and the song was long intended as the centerpiece of the album. The story is a way to understand the emotional landscape of that book.
“Patriot Child” was called “The Making of a Skin” before the name was changed to the title it has today. John wrote the song to describe his own childhood fury and is basically a new version of the old father-and-mother killing story. The idea was to describe the huge anger that turned boys in the 1980s into skinheads and that made them direct their anger against what they perceived as a petty-bourgeoisie society that gave them nothing but trouble and a place at the bottom of society. The song was re-written on several occasions to pinpoint the rejection of middle class values by the revolutionary wing of the modern far right in an attempt to describe the emotional core of the meme culture.
Eldbarn (novel, 2017)
Lilou & John released their debut novel “Eldbarn” (“Fire Child”) in September 2017 on the Gothenburg Book Fair. The novel is a dark story about child abuse, trust and revenge and was described by journalist Perra Winberg as “a modern viking tale”. The book, written in Swedish, can be ordered from AlternaMedia.
Du gamla du fria (single, 2017)
This single release was recorded as a children’s version of the Swedish National anthem for podcast Ingrid & Conrad. Two new verses were added to the song that describes the classical concept of oppression and revolution. The only place to download to the song (for free) is on Bandcamp.
The single was never released more than on BandCamp, and the band decided that, being a children’s song, it didn’t represent the band well enough to go beyond that.
Up to this day, “Du gamla du fria” remains the only song in Swedish by Lilou & John as the band prefer to stay “in a big market rather than a small market”.
Dissidentica (album, 2017)
Dissidentica was the band’s second album and originated in a conflict with Swedish Radio who had refused to let the duo perform because of an article John had written that criticized identity politics. The album was therefore created in defense of free speech and was well received as a whole new approach to music. Before recording the album Lilou and John argued about the number of songs they should include. Lilou wanted to stick with five while John wanted to record a full album. Afterwards, John has admitted that he “perhaps should have listened to her, for it kind of went too fast and we didn’t have the time to make everything perfect.”
Citizen journalist blogger Projekt Morpheus compared the duo with Nina Simone and Buffy Sainte-Marie, while Motpol and Fria Tider wrote about the contrast between the pop melodies, the backbeat guitar, Lilou’s voice and the dark and tragic lyrics. African world music site Djolo on the other hand described the band as “sound UFOs”.
“Via Dolorosa” was written as a lament for a woman going through a painful divorce and the original name of the song was “End of a Marriage.” The melody and the music video was intentionally made in stark contrast with the lyrics to create an ambiguous song of mixed emotions. The song was made to highlight the complexity of love and loneliness.
“The Girl from Antarctica” describes the torment of a girl suffering from child sex abuse and the confrontation with her parents. The song delivered the message that victims can choose to walk away from the perpetrators as adults. The song is based on Lilou’s experience as a child and she added the sad chorus to express her own emotions. The language is more direct than in most other of the band’s songs and that is intended to reflect the abused child within a woman delivering a straightforward message without poetry but only made up of honesty.
“Next Year in Jerusalem” is one of the band’s most famous songs and dives into the mythology of Israel’s early history, the 2000 year long Jewish diaspora and the dreams of Theodor Herzl. The song remains one of Lilou & John’s personal favorites despite it being less than two minutes long. “The beautiful lyrics and the catchy guitars combined into something I had never heard before so when I started singing it was just like floating 2000 metres above the ground” according to Lilou.
“Solferino” is one of the duo’s least known songs but still another one of their favorites. The setting is the battle of Solferino in 1859, during the War of Italian independence, “Risorgimento”, and was written to honor the memory of Henri Dunant who founded the Red Cross after that battle. The chorus tells of a woman lamenting her dying brother on the battlefield and the verses consist of him trying to comfort her, saying that death is more than we know. But words cannot comfort her. She is still alone when the morning is dawning on the fields of Solferino.
“Bataclan” dives into the mental constitution of an Islamic terrorist and his view of “the West”. Much of the skeleton comes from Sayyid Qutb’s understanding of American society and the teaching of the Muslim Brotherhood that saw “the West” as infested by crime, degeneration, blasphemy and selfishness. The song title comes from the massacre at the Bataclan theatre in Paris in 2015 and the song was made both “to remember the victims of this pointless mass murder that so many seem to be willing to forget”, John says, but also to explain why these attacks happen. “As always, we write the songs to teach people something. Walk in these shoes for a while and try to understand what you see.”
“9/11” is a journey from the gas chambers of World War II, to the concentration camps of Siberia and the terrorist attack at World Trade Center on 11 September 2001. The backbeat guitar was used to create an catchy wrapping for the tragic text. The chorus was originally intended as a lament but Lilou’s voice turned it into a more powerful accusation against anyone who hides behind ideology to commit murder. It is in a way an attempt to understand a moralizing humanist attitude that – as sympathetic as it may seem – in some cases can prevent deeper understanding of the ideas behind genocide.
“Spirit of America” originated as a poem John wrote as a post on the social network Gab, and quickly developed into a song. The chorus was intended to make the listener think of the migrant ships coming to New York harbor in the 19th century and the text deals with John’s perception of the complexity of the American Conservative Christian heritage and the concept of USA being “The promised land”.
“Payback Day” is the band’s signature song, and is by far the most popular song made by the duo. The song has aroused controversy due to its strong support for individual freedom and it is an attempt to describe the radicalization process among Libertarians, Conservatives and Nationalists that came out in the open after Donald Trump became American president in 2016. The song was also written as the band’s only real protest song as it criticizes the widespread misuse of derogatory vocabulary to dehumanize people.
100 Faces (EP, 2016)
100 Faces was Lilou & John’s first album and everything was made in a haphazard manner. Lilou got a cold a week before recording, John hadn’t practiced playing to a metronome and none of them had ever visited a recording studio. The end result was however an EP that stretched beyond mainstream pop and marked the beginning of a new kind of music.
Swedish indie site Meadow Music was “hypnotised” by Lilou’s vocals and Emerging Indie Bands wrote the vocals “chill the marrow-bone”. The band was praised for its new sound but the sound was also said to be “too outside of the box” and some indie sites turned the band down simply because it was too unorthodox.
“He Broke my Neck, Joséphine” started out as one of Lilou’s vivid dreams one night, and the characters from the dream, the young girls Elizabeth and Joséphine, were immortalized the day after. The song marked the start of the band’s concept of being “outside the box” with a combination of operesque vocals, pop background and dark lyrics. The song was also one of the first where Lilou was in complete charge of the melody and John wrote the entire text. The song is something as odd as an attempt to describe the thoughts going through the head of a ghost who is mourning her love.
“Six Year Farewell” was written in self-retrospect and the idea of the song was to show the extreme tragedy of running away from emotions and traumatic events. The original idea was that John would do the singing, but considering John’s lack of vocal talent – and Lilou’s abundance thereof – the duo decided it was best that John concentrated on the lyrics and the guitar.
“100 Faces” came to life under one single afternoon and tells the story of commercialism and surrogate meaning. It deals with the conflict within the individual trying to be herself and at the same time trying to fit in. After John had written the lyrics, the duo sat down together and Lilou created a melody while John was strumming four chords repeatedly.
“God” was originally called “Song to My Father” and describes a child growing up with an absent father, believing that in a world of absolute darkness there must also be an absolute light. The song deals with the desperate need for a father figure for protection, support, identity and meaning.
“When Murder Victims Die” was inspired by the lyrics of Motörhead and Lilou’s Tim Burtonesque melody gave the song a new dimension. The da-da-da chorus was furthermore created to transform the dark song into a burlesque. The song is based on John’s early childhood memories and the text could perhaps explain why he has “an interest in odd people who see the devil in the shadows and god in the ray of light”.