Last week, Swedish rock heavy-hitters Johnossi played at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen to a sold-out crowd, launching their new EP Air Is Free. It was a far more intimate affair than what they are used to, with crowds regularly topping 10,000 in Scandinavia, and it showed as they rocketed through a crowd-pleasing, career spanning performance. The duo were incredibly tight, showcasing their atmospheric and robust sound.
Support came from Charlie Straw, who managed to avoid the usual singer-songwriter tropes to form an interesting set that ebbed with potential from his soulful yet introspective style.
After the show we caught up with songwriter and frontman John Englebert and had a discussion covering Johnossi’s career and their place within the musical landscape in 2016
This was a British gig with a lot of Swedish people in the crowd, how did that feel?
I didn’t know the split of population in the crowd, but I assumed that there would be Swedish people and Germans, but I think there were a lot of British people as well!
Yeah for sure. How much of your influence is taken from British music?
Well, it’s inevitable as a rock band to be inspired by British music. I mean, rock music comes from Britain and America, pretty much. So of course there are tons of bands that come from Britain that we love.
Do you try and put a Swedish twist on your music?
No, I just try to do my thing, I don’t analyse what my thing is, I don’t care what my thing is, I just try to do it and it’s not for me to decide what it is. I don’t get any fulfilment by analysing myself. That would be like sucking my own dick.
In the UK I’d argue that rock music is very white, middle class, and a safe bet for festivals. Is that something that you consider when writing?
No. I love a lot of British bands, but I just think about the music. The legacy of a lot of major historical British rock bands, like The Rolling Stones or The Who, are the foundation of what rock and roll is based on. It’s not that I’m not a political person, I am, and I have my standing points and values as a human being, but I don’t search for subjects to write about like ‘here’s something that I’m angry about and want to write about’. I don’t do that; it’s just whatever comes.
With so many other artists making experimental and controversial albums, I hope it doesn’t sound rude to say that you fit quite comfortably within the brackets of rock music. Do you feel restrained? Do you feel that you push the boundaries enough?
I don’t feel restrained at all. But I have no idea if we are pushing the boundaries enough. Pushing the boundaries to what? That’s for others to decide. I’m trying to experience life just as everyone else; I’m trying to go through this experience as a living being. And I might say stuff that is completely wrong or false, and that’s part of being a human being. I don’t sit on the truth. A person who says that they sit on the truth and try to adapt that to a crowd of people, well I’m against that.
You’ve been on the scene for 10 years now, and with that in mind, is it reassuring to see this fan base come out and sing along to most of the songs?
We’ve been doing this for a long time but haven’t been in the UK that much and it’s fantastic, we are truly grateful and especially now, as this is the first time that we’ve taken a long break and we are glad to be back!
With the huge popularity of your music in Sweden comparatively, do you think there’s a sense of you being homespun heroes?
We just haven’t had a major world break. You only need one fucking song that really makes it and it’s pretty much done, in a good way!
Johnossi’s Air Is Free EP is out now via iTunes. Check out the video for the title track below!