I probably said that before at some point on this page or in my weekly mailout but the music you experience from age 15 to 25 is probably the most important one in everybody’s life. It clashes with the time you shape your personality and seek for your place in this weird thing called adulthood and music can be a strong ally here. Every song is connected with memories, good and bad ones, and if you are a dedicated music lover like me you instantly remember the moments you listen to certain tracks for the first time. As you can see, I’m getting a bit nostalgic here but that seems appropriate considering the occasion we’re about to talk.
I’m not even trying to hide the fact that I got a special connection to the musical work of Swedish songwriter Rasmus Kellerman and his band Tiger Lou. I got all the albums, tattooed one of his lyrics on my arm and once travelled to Stockholm only to see one of his shows. And we featured him countless times on NBHAP before, talking about comebacks, solo adventures, reflecting on his debut album and other moments in his discography – well, you get the idea and it’s probably due to the fact that this music came to me during that important period in life, leaving an unquenchable mark on me. Kellerman’s 2003 debut EP Trouble & Desire played a crucial part here. The moody guitars of Sam As In Samantha still give me goosebumps right from the moment Kellerman starts singing ‘Leaving for work Monday morning / It is time for a new dawning’. I actually can’t recall how I got introduced to the world of Tiger Lou but I’m pretty sure it was 2005’s The Loyal album although I quickly downloaded Trouble & Desire shortly afterwards.
Sixteen years after its initial release Tiger Lou are re-releasing this selection of songs along with additional tracks as Trouble & Desire & B-Sides via Startracks, the label on which Kellerman has been releasing his music ever since. It was actually the idea of label boss Fredrik Holmgren to re-release this EP and Rasmus agreed. ‘To this day I have never heard any of my albums on vinyl,’ he says, ‘so it might be time to buy a deck finally.’ It’s been one and a half years since Rasmus and I last exchanged words via E-Mail and it’s been a difficult period in his life. He and his wife Andrea (who also releases music under the alias Firefox AK) got divorced one year ago. The couple got two kids but Rasmus said the split of the two was amicable. He started a new job, moved into a new apartment and set his priorities straight as he explains to me:
‘My focus these past years have been family-oriented, making sure the kids understand that life has it’s ups and downs, no matter what you do, and that what’s important is getting through it all with a smile on your face.’
In those troubled times music has been a pleasurable pastime he explains but with no real purpose or goal in mind. ‘It’s nice like that,’ confirms the songwriter. And revisiting the past appears to be a helpful way of getting back into the creative aspects of music-making. So, let’s do the time travel thing right here and return to 2003 when MySpace was on the rise and physical releases where still a thing and Tiger Lou wasn’t a full band yet. Kellerman already released music under his alias Araki which was more instrumental and abstract. Tiger Lou was the anti-thesis of that as he explains: ‘Guitar and voice, personal lyrics, no fucking 8 minutes of chopped beats and loops.’ Holmgren signed him to Startracks pretty quickly and urged the songwriter to get a full band. ‘And quite frankly I was bored doing all these shows by myself, so I said yes.’ And the people he asked back then are still Tiger Lou to this day although it took him a while to gather them all.
‘Mathias was the first person I approached, but he was just about to move to Gothenburg. I met Pontus through a mutual friend and he had played with Erik in a bunch of bands. Around the first The Loyal-tour, Mathias moved back to Stockholm and joined us, so around 2005.’ During those times the setup has always been one of duality. Rasmus got to make the records exactly as he wanted, and once they were finished him and the band re-arranged and re-wrote together in rehearsals. ‘On tour, we’re just like any other band, except we never fight,’ he confirms. ‘Over the years the influence of the other dudes have grown more and more important to me, so for the next album, we’re contemplating doing it real old school … together in a room.’
Never get stuck
The four tracks of Trouble & Desire aged pretty well, I must say. Sam As In Samantha still got that gloomy notion that makes it a perfect tune for nocturnal walks in the dark while Nova Lee sounds like a great night out with your best mates (and the tempting girl that also plays a crucial part). When I Was A Kid spreads joyful optimism while the closing title-track delivers that wonderful Tiger Lou melancholia that is probably still my favourite side of Kellerman’s work to this day. It’s a quick rollercoaster ride through various emotions and the messages behind it remain timeless credos for the artist today.
‘I don’t want to get stuck, but right now I really don’t mind it. A lot of my time is spent looking at the world through the eyes of my children, and they fucking think everything is amazing! We only have a few years of watching them grow up, and I don’t want to bother with career-stuff, album releases and tours and never being home. I love my new job, and they give me all the freedom I require to not feel ‘stuck’, the rest is just confetti.’
It’s not automatically about overcoming your fears; it’s about learning to live with them. That’s another important lesson he gave me a few years back. If you cannot cast out the demons, just greet them with your middle finger or give them a hug occasionally. ‘I love the songs for what they represent, not for what they sound like,’ Rasmus tells me. ‘And also, it would be really depressing if I felt the same way now, as when I was 22!’ If getting older has one benefit it’s probably this one, right?
Apart from the EP the release also features four hard-to-get B-Sides from the singles of his first two albums. They are pretty great tunes and I think Love That Sound and Pilots would have also perfectly fit on the band’s The Loyal album. When asked about that Rasmus actually can’t recall why they didn’t make the final cut in the first place. ‘We made The Loyal really quickly, most of the songs were written in the studio, some were written and recorded in one day. So at one point we just said ‘stop’ and I kept the half finished ones for later.’ As a special fan service this new release also features two previously unreleased tracks from that era. The uplifting A Room With A View was originally the original fifth song recorded for the Trouble & Desire EP. ‘I took it off at the very end, not really sure why,’ confesses the Swede, ‘Maybe it was too cheerful, too E.M. Foster or just didn’t fit.’
The powerful Not Dead Anymore is the other ‘new’ track on this release and it’s a special one for the songwriter. ‘I first recorded it during the Is My Head Still On sessions. It sounded exactly like Placebo, or trying to anyways! So I left it off, but it lingered on for some reason.’ When the band recorded The Loyal one year later he returned to the song, slowed it down and made it a little gentler. ‘But it still didn’t feel right so it passed into the realms of the long lost and forgotten,’ Rasmus says. ‘Now, I love them both for what they represent. Just like all the other songs of mine, in the weird motley of personalities they are.’
Especially Not Dead Anymore (which we’re exclusively debuting right here) could indeed also come from the band’s most current record, 2016’s The Wound Dresser. Placing it right at the end of this compilation is also a positive future-focussed thing because despite all the nostalgia and everything that connected me and Tiger Lou’s music over the past fifteen years it’s not just about looking back. Especially not for the bandleader.
‘I don’t dwell on the past, I really never do. The journey is amazing, no matter what happens, and because of how its parts add up in the end. So, just enjoy it.’
Focus on the future
39-year old Rasmus Kellerman doesn’t look back in anger on the things that happened and he doesn’t regret the path his 23-year old self took back then. After almost two decades of making music he knows a thing or two about his own weaknesses and strengths. And that’s why he knows by now that he can’t force inspiration and the entire songwriting process. ‘For long stretches of time, I don’t write at all, which makes it really hard to start again,’ he explains. Right now finishing songs is quite tricky for him but he knows that this will eventually change again. He remembers a weird moment of inspiration from a few months ago:
‘I was in our jam space, and wrote this great riff, and all of a sudden started singing in Swedish. Like, proper fucking Swedish, man! For the first time in my life. And I felt something so strong, and real and true so I just went with it. Within a few weeks I had like seven new songs, all of them with Swedish lyrics! I ended up playing a few solo shows here in Sweden, but that was it. Inspiration is a strange process, but without it, I just wanna smoke weed and watch sci-fi movies.’
So, while we probably never get to see that Swedish Rasmus Kellerman record, we’ll definitely get a new Tiger Lou album somewhere in the future. The question is just when and that’s something he obviously can’t answer right now, especially with the current writing issues and… well, plenty of other private things to handle. The band just played Startrack’s 25th anniversary party and it was a blast. In the end he sums it up in the following words:
‘I still love making music, and will continue to do so, in which ever way possible. Sometimes that means listening to nothing but new music for six months, or playing little tiny loops with endless overdubs of crappy licks, or watching That Pedal Show every Friday night, or trying to figure out if you should have a dual-mono or stereo or wet/dry or wet/dry/wet rig. The human mind is strange and wonderful.’
I don’t know if the quoting of the song Trouble & Desire here is a coincidence but it’s a fitting summery of it all. Tiger Lou are indeed not dead anymore and hopefully not too long in the future we’ll get new material to by these lovely guys in their forties. It might never be the same feeling again like when you were twenty-one but the challenge lies within finding the right balance between acceptance, empathy and also excitement. If you are still looking for existential old-fashioned indie-rock anthems with a dark Scandinavian undertone to soundtrack your life, perhaps right now might be the right time for this release and Tiger Lou might be the fitting band.
Trouble & Desire & B-Sides will be released digitally and on vinyl on May 31 via Startracks. Order your copy right here.
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