Band of the Day

2014.05.31

Johnossi

Colossal Swedish rock that examines themes of existential anxiety
Do you remember the time when I loved you way more than you could handle?
lyrics from Gone Forever

Always changing, always the same. That sentence tells a lot about Swedish rock duo Johnossi. And the truth behind it has never been more obvious than on their fourth album, Transitions. Johnossi’s clear-cut identity pervades the ten tracks. No other band sounds like Johnossi. At the same time there is nothing on Transitions that could have materialized on their earlier discs. The single Gone Forever shows which way the wind blows. Johnossi add keyboards into their soundscape. Johnossis first two albums gave the duo, John Engelbert (vocals, guitar) and Oskar “Ossi” Bonde (drums), a much-needed platform to stand on. They got a hardcore following. They had music journalists' attention. But even back then it was clear that John and Ossi only danced to their own tune. The debut, which just named Johnossi, and the sequel All They Ever Wanted are albums that shoots from the hip, but from completely different directions. The third album Mavericks and the hit single What's The Point gave the duo a major public breakthrough. On Mavericks you can actually hear how Johnossi develops with leaps and bounds. The subsequent tours gave John and Ossi the opportunity to do 120 sold out concerts which brought together about 375 000 fans. The guys effectively cemented their reputation as one of the best and most explosive live bands around. After this test of strength John Engelbert was hoping that the darkness that informed Mavericks would lighten, the burden would fall from his shoulders, that life would get a simpler structure. Mavericks was not only an artistic success, it was also an attempt by Engelbert to get out of a deep, personal slump. "In retrospect, I think I went through the start of some kind of spiritual awakening in 2009, an awakening that I in many ways am still going through. Suddenly you become aware of so much more. The anxiety you are carrying, the mystery of life, the passage of time and how it affects everything that happens and doesn’t happen around you." John continues: "For a long time I have had hard time coping with my existential anxiety. This is reflected in our music, of course. Many of our songs are about the confusing fact that we actually exist. To dig deep into the big, vast field of existential questions has worked well for us. It opens up a wider world than the one you can see with the naked eye. In a larger world, there is more to be inspired by." The process that in the end produces a new Johnossi song usually starts with John writing alone. Then Ossi gets to listen to the stuff he has created. It is usually bits and pieces at this stage. It’s fragments of melodies and choruses. Together the duo starts to pick up the pieces of the puzzle. Then they complete the songs in their rehearsal space. "We have always worked that way. But it happens every now and then that John brings something complete to the rehearsal space. For A Little While, from the new album, is one of those songs," says Ossi. In September 2012, it was time to enter the studio. They chose to be in ABBA-Benny Anderssons studio Rixmixningsverket in Stockholm. Together with producer and mixer Lasse Mårtén, who also worked with the band on the Mavericks album, they started to work. It was important to John and Ossi to have Lasse as a partner once again because they had decided to expand the sound palette and they trust his judgement. Johnossi invited Martin Hederos, known from The Soundtrack of Our Lives, to their rehearsals space to try to incorporate keyboards into their sound. The experiment ended successfully and Hederos joined them in the studio. You can also hear some strings on Transitions. When Johnossi will go on tour after album release they will for the first time be performing as a trio. Expanding with a keyboard player. The team behind the album was expanded even more with two world known producers, Björn Yttling (Lykke Li, Primal Scream, Shout Out Louds, etc.) and Pontus Winnberg (Miike Snow), who assumed the role as executive producers. Their function was to give Johnossi and the album making process an outside perspective, to bring new ideas and advice and also use their vast international experience. It was also an advantage that they hadn’t worked with Johnossi before, and that they had been involved in many diverse other projects. Both John and Ossi see it as a natural development to broaden the band's expression. They don’t have a book of rules. Johnossi has never been a conceptual band. The only reason that they started out as a duo was because it happened that way. Now it's time to move on, to try new ways. Johnossi is a band that refuses to stand still. The new album is called Transitions. Ossi explains: "We try to pick up on the things that happen in our lives right now and it is often in the transitions from one to the other, when you take something on and leave something behind, we feel that we grow as individuals and artists. Transitions is, as we see it, about us as a band. It tells about the journey we made since we started as young guys in our 20’s." The two guys that made their debut album eight years ago would not have been able to create Transitions. As their musical journey continues John and Ossi are constantly developing their friendship, because that’s how they started out. As friends. "To celebrate that we finished recording, we went to Peru and spent two weeks on a spiritually challenging retreat in the Amazon," says John. "It is important for us to do other things than just play music together. We are first and foremost tight pals," says Ossi. "Right now there is nothing else out there for us than Johnossi. We are always totally focused on what we are doing at the moment and we will continue so until it stops being fun. It's me and John against the world. At the moment we can’t see that there is an end to this."