We Are Serenades frontmen Adam Olenius and Markus Krunegard might seem to be idiots. For some 15 years, Swedish songsmiths as gifted as these two have been in high demand. They could luxuriate in Stockholm — or Santa Monica or the Seychelles — and just pen an occasional lucrative hit for the latest boy band or “American Idol” winner. Instead, the duo spent Monday night at the Black Cat’s Backstage, playing for about 50 people.
Strangely, Olenius and Krunegard seemed happy to be there. It was the first night of the group’s first U.S. tour, and things went pretty well. The synth-based folk-pop of the pair’s debut album, “Criminal Heaven,” held up in the live performance, where the songs sounded slightly less tidy and a lot noisier. There was a live drummer, and in concert Krunegard and Olenius played only guitars (although the latter strummed his just part of the time). But two keyboard players still did much of the work, whether producing the synth-string flourishes of “Birds,” the group’s most disco-influenced number, or the jaunty riff of “You Make It Easy on Me.”
The two singer-songwriters seem musically omnivorous, with a taste for pop perennials. The 12-song set included a lonely-at-Christmas love song, “Come Home,” and an unembarrassed version of “Ride Like the Wind,” Christopher Cross’s 1980 schlock epic. A casual rendition of the latter is available on the We Are Serenades Web site, among other “musical postcards” to cities where the band has performed, or will soon. (For our town, the Swedes chose Magnetic Fields’ “Washington, D.C.” rather than, say, Fugazi’s “Repeater” — so maybe they aren’t all that omnivorous.)
Olenius and Krunegard mostly sang in unison, with the latter’s voice in a slightly higher register. Harmonies, like hooks, were left to the backing musicians. As vocalists, the Swedes aren’t quite choirboys, although they came close during the a cappella intro of “All the Words,” which coos that “you mean more than life to me.” It was one of several tunes in which the songwriting partners earnestly begged for approval. Maybe this need for affirmation explains why they’d rather be on the road than by the pool.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.