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First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Sunday 15th January, 2012 9:46PM

Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit have just released their sophomore album the Lion's Roar earlier this month and begin their year-long tour in support of the album early next year with a one-off Wellington show. UTR caught up with sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg about their latest efforts, how Bright Eyes inspired them to make music and why we should all stop multi-tasking all the time.

Hey guys, where in the world are you at the moment?

We’re in Tokyo.

Is it your first tour of Japan?

Well we’re actually just doing interviews in Japan, we’re not playing, but it’s our first time here. It’s really cool.

Are you looking forward to releasing your new album?

Oh yeah we’re super excited about this album.

Tell me a little bit about writing and recording it.

Yeah well, we recorded the album in May and the songs were written during the tour for our first album. It was quite exciting for us because we got to work with our dream producer Mike Mogis from Bright Eyes.

That’s awesome. When you were writing the songs was there anything you were trying to do musically or thematically?

I think we felt we wanted to make it more personal than our first record. I think we’d just experienced more so we had more to write about and we wanted it to be more direct, you know. Also with the arrangements we wanted them to be more dramatic and dynamic and create a bigger sound. We feel like we’ve recorded the album we’ve always wanted to make.

So tell me how the songwriting process goes down between the two of you.

Sure well it’s usually me - Clara - coming up with something like a line or something and then Johanna comes in and lets me know what she thinks. And then if it’s good we’ll continue and finish the song but it’s not like I do the lyrics and Johanna does the melody. We’re both pretty involved in the songwriting process as a whole.

Going back, how and why did First Aid Kit start and what drew you towards the sound you explore?

When I was travelling with Bright Eyes for the first time; that was the starting point. Through Bright Eyes I found other folk and country music. There’s so much good music out there and you can dig forever and find new things and old things all the time. Yeah, There's this Bright Eyes song we heard called ‘First Day of my life’ which is very personal and very touching and just simple; just him and the guitar. That was something we hadn’t really heard before because when you listen to the radio you just hear manufactured pop music, so we just felt we’d discovered something different and it inspired us to make music by ourselves. It was so simple we didn’t need a producer and could just start writing, and that’s what we did.

There does seem to be this honesty in your sound. Is that something that’s important to you guys?

Yeah thanks so much for that. I think honesty is really important; I wouldn’t want to do something that doesn’t seem real. It’s really important that it comes from the heart and it’s quite hard to speak your private thoughts but I think it should be an emotional that stems from you. I think you can tell someone who’s written a song where they don’t understand the emotion; it’s very important that it feels and is honest.

Tell me a little bit about calling your latest album the Lion’s Roar, it's a pretty epic title.

Yeah, there's very strong imagery when you hear the phrase, right? It was the title of the first song we wrote for the album and it was darker and deeper than what we’d done before which affected the entire album, but it’s also a way of saying that we’re louder. Not louder in a rock ‘n roll way – it’s not actually louder – but our emotions are more clearly expressed, and in that way we’re louder.

You guys are sisters. How intense is it working with a sibling on a creative project?

When we play live now we have a drummer so it’s two sisters and a drummer. But working together works for us. We’ve always been good friends and musically our vocals and the harmonies work so well because our voices are similar; it’s very easy for us to harmonize together and create something special and also we know each other so well and know our musical references that we can be honest with each other so when creating music; we don’t have to talk too much. If I feel like ‘oh no I don’t like that’ I’ll just say it, I’m not afraid to hurt Johanna’s feelings. I know what’s going to hurt her and I wouldn’t do that most of the time haha, but it totally works. When you’re travelling all around the world to have someone that you know and trust with you is really important.

Speaking of travelling all around the world, does it feel surreal doing these massive international tours. What would you say if you had to reflect on the last couple of years?

Like you say it’s really surreal just considering we’d never really travelled before we started making music; we never really went anywhere outside of Sweden. Now we’ve been to more places than other people have in a lifetime; we’ve been to 30-odd states in America - in a year! It’s kind of overwhelming, it’s like we’re living in a dream but we love this feeling and want to keep going. It’s really inspiring to see all these people and these new places and overall our experiences have been really good. It's astonishing how people all over the world are treating us so well; they’re so friendly and polite. It’s crazy that people in New Zealand have heard our songs and will share these stories with us. Of course you give a lot but you receive so much love and it’s super amazing.

You guys grew up in Sweden; I’m interested in how geographical location affects the sound people produce. Do you think being based there affected the sound you produced?

I think that where you’re from definitely has an impact on your sound. It seems like some music could only have been made in California for example. We grew up in this quiet calm area, five minutes from a city and one minute from the forest, so it’s a pretty good balance. Nature has a big role in our songs because we grew up around it and it had an impact on our life. There’s a sadness and darkness in our music that’s very Swedish; the Swedish melancholy. A lot of Swedish music is very dark because the winters are so brutal and so dark that it makes you depressed.

You’re in Japan now, where to next?

Well, we’re going home tomorrow and then we get some time off for Xmas and New Years and then we’re going to start touring in February. We're starting in Europe and then March is Australia and New Zealand and then April we’re going to the States and then in the summer we’re doing festivals. We’re just looking forward to sharing the album with the world.

If there was a couple of things you wanted audiences to take away from the new album, what would they be?,/p>

I don't know I think a lot of the songs are about communication and loneliness and how we put on this mask; we’re not really being honest with other people or ourselves. I think one thing that’s really important today with the internet is remembering to really communicate with people and be in the now. I think that’s one of the things we have. In the old days you would go into a record store and buy a vinyl carefully and you would go home and you would sit down and really listen to the entire record and today it’s everywhere and constant and you take it for granted. It’s important that you really sit down and soak in one thing at a time and focus on your family and your friends. I think that’s something that we realize when we travel. We miss them so much because they are the ones that are closest to us and they matter; so a lot of songs are about loneliness and about not communicating more with your friends; that’s our message right there!

So you obviously think it would be nice if we could take a step back from technology occasionally?

Yeah we write songs and when we play music it’s our way of living in the now; focusing on one thing. I think that’s so important to do. I find myself all the time doing multiple things. If I’m watching TV I need something in my hand; my laptop or my iPod and it’s so weird. Why can’t I just watch this one thing, why do I have to talk to someone at the same time, why do I have to read some stupid post on a blog, why can’t I just focus on one thing? We’re forgetting the importance of relaxing and being focused on one thing.

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