Eight years ago, Gothenburg-based band Terra released their first singles which quickly received critical acclaim from those who found them. Much has happened since those early releases, and Terra has grown to become one of Sweden’s largest and most beloved bands, all while maintaining their original identity and expression.
A few days ago, they released their third album, Livslinjen. The album was recorded in Gothenburg under the creative guidance of Jari Haapalainen (The Bear Quartet, Laakso, etc.) and is supported by a Swedish tour that ends at Pustervik in Gothenburg on December 27.
“It feels better than ever
to be Terra”
Mathias responds to my initial, quavering question about how the recent success has affected the band.
Alexander: “As we see it, we’ve grown slowly but steadily over a long period of time, and this is another step on that journey. It’s not like ‘Wow, the floodgates are breaking open’, just this continuous growth. But if you stop and reflect on it, it’s just amazing what happened. We’ve already sold out most of our upcoming tour dates.”
Karl: “We’ve never done a continuous tour before, it has always been one-off dates dependent on being booked when we release something. But this year, we wanted to tour with no breaks in between, and we’re quite stoked about it.”
I’ll quote Henrik Nyblom’s (famous Swedish comedian) on your critically acclaimed performance on Musikhjälpen 2022 (a charity event on Swedish national TV): ‘This is real music, not that Max Martin crap.’ How do you feel about that?
Karl: “That’s up to Henrik. I just assume that he’s referring to us doing rehearsal room music and that it’s somewhat unusual in public service contexts.”
But I think what he says sums up the perception I have of how people feel about you: It seems like people genuinely care about you.
Karl: “It’s hard to tell, but I agree with you. There has always been a very good connection between us and our listeners. My guess is that our music isn’t hidden under a thousand layers of production. It’s just not overproduced, Sure, it’s not a new concept but it works for us.
Also, I think music (sang) in Swedish creates a sense of intimacy. It could also be that us being labeled underdogs contributes to it. In this day and age, when curated playlists dominate and people are told what to listen to, it might be more joyful to listen to something people genuinely like.”
Alexander: “I think that compared to many big artists we’ve been very accessible. We’ve played in both small and large cities and different types of venues which brings us very close to the audience, both on stage and the gig. We always end up in the same places as everyone else after the concert, you know, just having a beer together and hanging out. It builds a sense of community where everyone feels like we’re doing this together.”
When I think about your fanbase, I imagine a large group of friends. Is that how you can see i
Karl: “Yes, it’s really not a starstruck situation. At the merchandise booth after a gig, it’s just as easy to be unpleasant as it is to be friendly, and that’s great, isn’t it?”
“Terra is something that comes
very naturally to us.”
One reason for being labeled underdogs could be that you’re not very active on social media which is something that is expected of almost all artists these days. Is it a deliberate move on your side?
Mathias: “We work hard on it all the time! It’s what we do all day, every day…”
Alexander: “The reason we’re using some platforms but not others is that we enjoy using certain platforms. So, for instance, we don’t care about TikTok because we hate it; we know that Instagram has worked well for us and put all our efforts into that.”
Mathias: “Exactly, being an underdog isn’t intentional on our part. It’s been brought about by others suggesting that we should be bigger than we are.”
Karl: “One of the few advantages of being in a band is that there’s a kind of internal process that’s ongoing all the time. We get together, write songs, and try out new things together. Petter might come to the rehearsal room with a new guitar sound he wants to try out and something develops from that.”
“Terra has never been a major ‘investment’ for us. It’s something that comes naturally, and the pace at which we work might give people the impression that we’re underdogs who don’t care.”
Could that approach contribute to some of your success?
Mathias: “We do this because we enjoy it and maybe that shines through in some way, like making us more transparent. It might be easier to like something that’s created out of joy rather than something that’s created as a targeted commercial product.”
Karl: “Another great thing about being in a band is that it’s more meaningful in the long run. It’s a lot easier to find motivation when you’re a group of people working on something together.”
Throughout your career, you’ve remained true to your band’s identity while constantly evolving and discovering new sounds. This is true for Livslinjen as well. How do you maintain that balance?
Petter: “It’s driven by the fact that we don’t want to do the same thing all over again. We want to work with different people, and when you do that a different side of you surfaces naturally. We’re not desperately chasing a new sound, but it’s good to work with different people to keep inspiration alive. A new process always leads to something new, but we don’t have a fixed recipe for making an album. If we had one, we might need to quit.”
Alexander: “We try to stay curious and look for new and interesting people to work with, but we don’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel every time. There’s both comfort in believing in what we’re doing and being excited about a new approach.”
Mathias: “Our creative process tends to have a mind of its own and we usually just go along with it. This album sounds a bit different from the others but it wasn’t a conscious decision. These songs came into being and they needed certain things, and they just worked in a certain way.”
“The email thread for the album
consists of nearly 1000 emails”
Karl: “A fun thing about making music is that every song or album has its own character based on what’s possible at the time. It could be about money but it’s usually about time. While doing our previous album, we had a lot of time preparing and working on demos. Livslinjen consists of more spur-of-the-moment decisions and gut feelings. So, the album turned out quite differently.”
“We also like to have a dedicated producer when making music, and this time Jari Haapalainen acted as the creative director. He had this idea about accentuating the rehearsal room atmosphere as much as possible. Not adding too much string orchestras and that stuff, but keeping it quite tight. When someone sees something like that in you and believes in it, it feels safe to listen to that.”
Petter: “It’s also very satisfying to listen to the recording and recognize our sound. We only hear ourselves in the rehearsal room, and to capture that feeling [and making it better] is very gratifying. It sums it up in a flattering way.”
Mathias: “It was very fortunate that we ended up with Jari. He’s not, he’s not afraid to turn up the noisy guitars to the point where it’s almost uncomfortable to listen to.”
How did you decide on Jari?
Karl: “We have listened to his previous work a lot, especially during high school. The Bear Quartet, his own band, was part of the indie cocktail we were exposed to when we started at Schillerska High School, and he’s naturally the kind of person I’ve always hoped to work with at some point. So when we needed someone to take on this job, I reached out to him.”
“We’ve only communicated through email throughout this whole process. He’s in Athens, but that hasn’t made him any less involved. The email thread for the album consists of nearly 1000 emails.”
So, you made an entire album together without speaking to each other?
Karl: “Yes! He recorded pieces in his studio and sent them to us.”
Mathias: “Even voice memos with suggestions for guitar parts based on what we sent initially. And so it continued, it went back and forth.”
Karl: “It’s quite incredible, really. He has shared input on most aspects, including lyrics.”
“But we’ve also worked with people here in Gothenburg. Alexander Bergil, who produced Jävla EP:n, has been very involved. We started the process by recording drums and song structures at his place. Then we recorded overdubs and guitars with Per Ståhlberg at Welfare Studios, and finally, we added vocals with Alexander again. And all this communication has always gone through Jari.”
“Getting this album together has been like coordinating
an apartment exchange between three people.”
Were there moments when the logistics felt impossible?
Alexander: “There’s always some point in the creative process where it feels that way. We’ve had a lot of luck too. But there’s always a time when you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing. Getting this album together has been a bit like coordinating an apartment exchange between three people – highly unlikely to work out, but somehow we made it.”
Karl: “Jari has managed to keep it together as the creative director. There has been a working method in place, and it worked out. The best part is that everyone we’ve worked with has been able to do what they do best.”
“We might not always had the best conditions for doing it, but it’s good to have to push yourself sometimes. We have a sort of ‘Do the best you can’ ethos in the band. When you do the best you can, you always feel satisfied with the end result. But with that said, doing the best you can sometimes sets the bar high.”
How high is Terra’s bar?
Karl: “You never know how an album will be received by your listeners, but we’ve really pushed ourselves to create the best possible album we can during out of the conditions we had. We’re firmly rooted in that, so even if someone else doesn’t like it, we still feel confident about what we’ve created.”
Now you’re heading out on a Swedish tour. Do you have any plans for what comes after that?
Karl: “About setting the bar high; we’ve decided that we’re going to do our best performances ever, so we’re fully focused on achieving that. In general, we’re known for not being very good at organizing these things, but now the stars are aligned for once and we want to make the most out of it. We’re also having discussions about not letting it take too long to start on the next album.”
Mathias: “We thought we’d process the trauma of this album a bit faster and return to the studio as soon as we can.”
Alexander: “And we need to cut down on the recovery period as it can become too long otherwise. You usually get quite exhausted after a recording period.”
Karl: “But at the moment there’s a lot of excitement in the band and we’ll try to capture that and take that energy and new song ideas into the studio in the spring.”
Photos: Björn Vallin