The Long Talk

Lilou & John

The Long Talk

It’s all about aesthetics

“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.”

Les Morts Dansant

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.

American Slave Tunes

“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.”

Motörhead is poetry

“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.”

John writes the best poems

“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.”

Lilou is the honest voice

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’, she is the girl singing to an absent father, she is the narrator in ‘100 Faces’. Lilou is 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.”