Molosser chat about the passion and spontaneity behind their raw sound

Crafted from elemental tones, Swedish duo Molosser unpack their atmospheric journey into dark, acoustic alternative rock.

Molosser, the Swedish duo currently based in rural Uråsa, chat with Happy about the progressive influences that have crafted their independent tunes.

The duo, Tess and Jahn, speak with honesty and experience about the roots of their rock sound, coming from the release of their latest track, Ellesmere Island from their full-length album, Appear. Check out the chat below.


HAPPY: Hey Molosser! Whereabouts do you find yourselves today?

MOLOSSER: As almost always, we’re at our little farm in Uråsa, Sweden – that’s about 16,000 kilometres from Sydney as the crow flies (a very persistent crow, that is).

HAPPY: How did this project start? What is the meaning behind the name Molosser?

MOLOSSER: We both played in different bands in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, most of them pretty noisy and/or riff-based in one way or another. When we moved to the countryside, we started trying out new songs for what was originally meant to be a full band with electric guitars, bass and so on, but then we realised that the acoustic format gave us unique possibilities for sound and dynamics. So we went along that road instead.

Molosser is the Swedish name of a group of dog breeds, the same that’s called mastiffs in English. We used to have an American bulldog called Wilson who might have looked pretty intimidating but was actually the gentlest creature on Earth, and this combination of solid strength and sensitive beauty is something we aspire to express in our music, too.

HAPPY: Massive congrats on the release of Ellesmere Island, tell us a bit about the track.

MOLOSSER: The lyrics are about loss and finding a way back. As for the title, Ellesmere Island is number ten in the list of the world’s biggest islands, slightly smaller than Great Britain, but with a population of less than 200. The beautiful name seemed to fit the music, and also it’s as good a symbol of loneliness as any. We hope the people of Ellesmere Island don’t mind us borrowing the name.

HAPPY: Ellesmere Island kicks off with a 1 minute guitar intro. What inspired this creative choice? What made you put out a radio version of the track as well?

MOLOSSER: Actually, we didn’t think of it as a guitar intro, but as a first verse without vocals – when the vocals do come in it’s the start of the chorus. But that’s not really obvious to someone who listens to the track, and since some radio hosts had already started skipping the intros and cutting directly to the action on other songs we thought we might make it easier for them with a radio edit of this rather extreme example.

Also, it might be a smoother way into the Molosser sound for someone who hasn’t heard us before. And it’s still four minutes long, so… anyway, we like both versions, and there are single and video versions for both as well, so you can choose whichever you want. Or both.

HAPPY: The track comes from your debut album, Appear, what’s the tone for this collection of songs?

MOLOSSER: The goal for Appear was – or turned out to be – to paint a big picture with very small means. Or, in other words, try to make two acoustic guitars, drums and vocals sound like a full band, using multiple mics and creative panning – and some overdubs, but really not too many. Bit of a challenge, to say the least, but also a way to end up somewhere we wouldn’t have if we’d used more conventional instrumentation. The songs span a pretty wide range of styles, but the sound kind of unites them anyway. Also, it tends to help the creative process to work within certain limitations, even if it sometimes feels like you’re banging your head against a wall that you’ve put there yourself.

The overall tone is probably more on the darker side of the spectrum than yippy-yappy-happy, but we don’t do “hopeless” as much as “get down on the bottom and bounce up again”.

HAPPY: What does a typical songwriting process look like for you?

MOLOSSER: There is none. The songs have been born in such different ways. Sometimes one of us has just been playing around with a riff or bassline or something, and the other has insisted that it’s something to build a song around – that was the case with Ellesmere Island; Tess had been working with the riff for what became the verse for a while, Jahn heard it and we started working something out together. Tess had the lyrics lying around and they made a fit for the music, then she wrote the chorus and Jahn worked out the bassline to that.

Most often it’s that kind of collaboration – once or twice we’ve each been working independently with a riff, and then it’s turned out that something interesting happened when you slammed both of them together so that they play with and against each other. Or one of us makes a verse and the other one comes up with a chorus. We have the benefit of two rather different musical temperaments, so most times we can fill out each other’s ideas and create something neither of us has heard before. Tess writes the lyrics and creates the vocal melodies, and plays the drums, but everything is totally open for discussion. In the end, no one really knows who made this suggestion or had that idea. A very organic process, but one with a great deal of thought involved – there’s almost nothing in any given song that’s not been through a very thorough decision process where both of us are involved to the same degree.

HAPPY: Your music has been released under your own label Evil Ear, what’s it like making music independently? Would you recommend it to other artists?

MOLOSSER: What’s good with being independent is, of course, that you can have it all your own way. With Molosser we’ve had the chance to try out different ideas and re-recording the songs an absurd number of times, each better than the last one. Also, we have been able to work out an aesthetic that fits the music for videos, websites, record covers, and so on, and the creative process behind those things is fulfilling in its own way. But it also means that you have to try to market the stuff yourself, and that’s tough when you don’t have any backing, and it takes a lot of time and energy that you’d rather have used for making music. If we hadn’t done everything ourselves, we’d probably have three or four albums out by now. We really wouldn’t mind working with another label for coming releases, to be able to reach a bigger audience and get more time for music-making.

Would we recommend being independent? Well, if you’re trying to find your own sound, it’s probably a good thing. If you’re already working well inside of a specific genre it might make more sense to try to get help from the start – if that’s an option, that is.

HAPPY: The music video for Ellesmere Island was filmed at your own farmhouse… What was the reasoning behind that decision?

MOLOSSER: We have these big, old, quirky outbuildings on the farm that make for really interesting settings, so why not use them instead of standing in some parking garage or other? Also, since we make the videos – and everything else – ourselves, we have limited time for moving about. The music is inspired by the nature and countryside around us, so it makes sense to let it play a significant part in the videos, too. All of the videos are recorded on our ten acres of land or within ten minutes way from here by car. The water in Water My Way and Dive In floats right by our house. It’s an amazing spot on Earth, and we feel very privileged to live here.

HAPPY: What can we expect for the future of Molosser?

MOLOSSER: Right now we’re mixing and shooting video material for “barebones” versions of the songs from Appear – just the two guitars and vocals, recorded all at the same time, for a simpler, rougher sound. Also, several of the songs are in totally new arrangements – a bit like playing covers of our own tracks – and the guitar intros are not quite as long. We already have a few barebones videos out, but the new ones will have rather more interesting footage than just two people sitting around with guitars.

As soon as we’re done with that we’ll start cutting demos of all the new songs that have been piling up while working with the release of Appear. This time we’re aiming for a rather more straightforward sound. Also, we’re polishing our live set, with new and old Molosser songs as well as a few – perhaps – unlikely covers. Molosser-ized but not molested, we hope. So there’s a lot going on, and we look forward to releasing all the new stuff.

HAPPY: Cheers guys!

MOLOSSER: The same to you! Neither of us has ever been Down Under, but both have always been fascinated with your continent, not least the wildlife and the amazing scenery. Who knows, maybe we’ll hitch a ride with the next ABBA hologram tour and finally get to see it all for real!

Ellesmere Island is out now via Evil Ear Records.