Tess and Jahn met in Gothenburg, where both played in loud , noisy outfits spanning from noise rock to free-form jazz. After relocating to a (very) small farm in Uråsa, Småland, they formed Molosser as a way of combining their urban influences with the more subtle goings-on and magic mysteries of the Swedish nature and countryside.
"The sound is so simple, how can it be so complicated?
This is Frustratingly Beautiful Music."
That is what Mustard Relics (USA) wrote about Molosser’s debut album Appear in 2021. Tess and Jahn in Molosser took the concept of an acoustic guitar duo to new places by tuning their instruments down to Drop C (a tuning more widely used by heavy metal guitarists) and shaping their music from interwoven basslines, riffs and melody lines rather than the usual strumming or fingerpicking. Add to this the strong yet intimate vocals of singer Tess, and you have three distinct voices making up a bubbling, dynamic soundscape.
Molosser’s current sound leans more towards dark Americana with strong influences of blues and jazz than the atmospheric alt-rock of Appear, but the seamless, dynamic interplay is still there, as well as subtle – and not so subtle – hints of riff-heavy music like grunge, stoner rock and post-punk. These influences give even slow and low-key songs an edge and a nerve that might not normally be associated with acoustic guitar music. They have also made idiosyncratic covers of both Soundgarden and AC/DC.
The duo started their path towards ever more stripped-down arrangements on the Barebones Sessions from early 2022 where they presented live versions of some of the songs from Appear. After this, Molosser actually recorded a whole album’s worth of new material in a somewhat more traditional vein, but before these new recordings had been mixed, Tess and Jahn had started a new project – Molosser Crude. Crude is just as loud and electric and noisy as Molosser is low-key and acoustic, and was originally just meant as a way to channel those sides of the duo’s musical energy, but Molosser Crude soon got a life of it’s own, and the two projects started cross-fertilizing each other. Thus, Molosser’s album recordings were scrapped when the songs kept growing in new directions, and they are currently being recorded again in their new versions.
Late 2022 and early 2023 have been mostly Molosser Crude, output-wise, but now both duos are thriving, gigging and recording. Visitors to Motala’s Bomber Fest in July 2023 will have the opportunity to hear both bands as they perform their radically different versions of the same songs, as well as some tracks that are unique for each duo. As yet.
The APPEAR story
- more about the album -
When Molosser started with their concept of two downtuned acoustic guitars, it was originally as a convenient way to make songs for what was supposed to be an electrical project. It soon turned out, though, that the tonal and dynamic spectrum offered by the acoustic instruments made way for a new way to use the riffs and licks. It also became obvious that there really wasn’t any need for a bass guitar, since the two guitars could share that role between them. Instead of using the acoustic guitars in the traditional way, by strumming or fingerpicking chords, Molosser build their music by weaving together riffs, basslines and melodies, at times in a way similar to how piano players use their left and right hands.
As this new way of making music started to find its feet, Tess went on with crafting lyrics and vocal melodies to fit the emerging songs, adding a third voice to the sound. An important aspect of Molosser’s music is that each of these voices – the two guitars and the vocals – tell their own story in an ongoing conversation with each other. You can enjoy the songs just like any other music, but to get the full experience you might want to pay attention to what’s going on behind and around the vocals.
When Tess and Jahn realized they had an interesting thing going with the acoustic guitars, they started recording the songs on a Zoom 16-track portastudio. It turned out that, using multiple microphones on each guitar, playing around with the panning for the different tracks and adding drums to the mix – Tess is an experienced drummer – it was possible to create a full, vivid tonal landscape without adding any more instruments. In the final production, there are a few overdubbed (acoustic) guitars, but mostly it is the minimalistic, dynamic interplay of the two original guitar takes that build the base of the music.
Molosser made extensive pre-production using the portastudio, so when they finally went into the studio to record the album, they had a pretty clear picture of what they were trying to achieve. It goes without saying that it’s a challenging prospect to make two acoustic guitars – that often don’t play more than one or two notes each – sound like a full band, but considering, we must say that it went pretty well in the end. The result is a unique sound that might take a little while to get used to, but when you do, you want to come back for more.
For those who are curious about how much of Appear that is pure playing power and how much is studio magic, it will be enlightening to listen to the Barebones series, where we seated Molosser in a cozy corner of Evil Ear Studio to record raw, gritty versions of the songs straight into the microphones, live without overdubs. These takes are certainly enjoyable in their own right and gives a hint of in which direction Molosser are moving now.
One thing that might set Molosser apart from many other examples of acoustic guitar music is that the vocals often have a nerve and intensity that you associate more with electric rock and a freedom of phrasing that’s inspired by jazz and soul. This is no wonder, since Tess and Jahn have a background more in these worlds than in folk, Americana or similar genres. Not to say that this is obvious at all times, but it makes it hard to put the duo squarely into any one genre.
If you bear this in mind, you’ll hopefully be ready to enter the word of Molosser and make yourself at home there!