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Escape Velocity

A Stitch In Time: Swedish Folk Sisters First Aid Kit Interviewed
Charles Ubaghs , March 4th, 2009 10:04

Charles Ubaghs hooks up (not that way, he'd get arrested) with Fleet Foxes covering Swedes First Aid Kit to prove age ain't nothing but a number

TV 'talent' show rejects, Disney approved teen pop stars and bottom feeding indie types scrounging for column space; these are the things that make up the musical lives of many of today's teens. Some may worry about our children's musical futures, but for every Hannah Montana thrust in our faces, the fractious nature of the internet also brings to light young acts like Sweden's First Aid Kit.

Consisting of sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg, age 15 and 17 respectively, the band created a small stir in blog-land last year with their haunting (and arguably improved upon) rendition of Fleet Foxes' 'Tiger Mountain Peasant Song'.

Blessed with phenomenal voices and a hair-raising gift for harmony, the two teens are now heading out into the world with their own country-folk tunes and a barrage of influences that include the likes of Leonard Cohen and The Carter Family. With a debut EP already on its way via Wichita Recordings, the Söderberg sisters are certainly proving themselves to be a welcome riposte to anyone concerned about the impact of Lady Gaga on tomorrow's musicians.

When did the two of you discover you could sing?

We've always been singing and loved to do it since early childhood. We sort of figured it out when we performed at home for friends and family and they seemed to enjoy listening to it and be entertained by it.

When did you decide to form a band?

Klara started writing songs in the beginning of 2007 and later that year she got the offer from a friend to perform live. Johanna decided to join her on stage singing harmonies. We found that our voices created something special. It was at that point that we decided to make music together and perform our music live. Now Johanna is very much involved in the making of the music.

What drew you towards your current sound? What was the moment that made you decide, "Yes, harmony rich folk music is the way I want to go"?

We never really though of that, we just wanted to make the kind of music that we love ourselves. We guess it started with listening to Bright Eyes and then moving on to other similar music until we became familiar with the whole country and folk scene. The harmonies have developed gradually and it felt rather obvious to use them because of our inspiration from other country acts that rely heavily on harmonies, like The Louvin Brothers and The Carter Family.

Some would argue that you're playing a surprisingly mature sound for young women of your age. Even the lyrics encompass older themes. Are they simply fictional tales you've made up or things you've at the very least witnessed?

It's a mixture, a little of both. Most of our songs are fictional with some autobiographic touches here and there. We like to listen and to tell stories, and maybe we happen to have a good imagination and a good understanding of other people. We just want to be storytellers.

Due to your age, have people ever responded poorly to your lyrical content?

Yes, and not just the lyrics, but also that we make folk-oriented music. We don't think it is rare or odd; we have lots of friends with the same so called "mature" music taste. Still, lots of people are surprised by our music and sort of shy away because they don't know how to react to our "level of maturity". We also think that our gender plays a part in all of this. People think that we only pretended to like the music that we like, that young girls could only listen to Britney Spears because that's all that they're capable of comprehending. Every time we get this reaction it feels like a big punch in the face. Music means the world to us, and to hear someone say that we're not serious about it feels terrible. I mean, Bob Dylan was only twenty when he wrote 'Blowing in the Wind', hello?

Does being in a band with a sibling ever prove difficult? Sibling relationships in music have traditionally been fraught with tension and the occasional fight.

Nah, not really in our case. We're the best of friends and we allow ourselves to disagree. We always get our feelings out in the open and never have to do something just to please the other band member. That being said, we do have some intense quarrels now and then. But no matter how much we fight, we'll always be sisters and friends at the end of the day.

How exactly do you approach song writing and the creative process? Does one of you generally take the lead or do you equally share the tasks?

The song writing process differs from song to song. Usually Klara comes up with the initial song melody and then we work together from there. Some songs just "show up", they're just there, in your head, waiting to be sung. Others take their time.

Are you surprised by the places your Fleet Foxes cover has taken you so far?

Yes, we are definitely surprised. The cover was a very spontaneous thing. We just took a five minute walk into the forest with our cheap digital camera and had some fun. Then all of a sudden we got a great response from the band as well as other random people, which was just really surreal and flabbergasting.

Are you comfortable with the fact that a cover is many people's first introduction to First Aid Kit?

We don't really mind, as long as people listen to our own music as well. We absolutely adore Fleet Foxes and it's the best band to be associated with, but we don't want to be the Fleet Foxes-cover band or anything like that. The important thing is that people hear our songs and get something out of it, regardless of how they found out about us.

Are you parents supportive of all this music making and travelling the world?

Yeah, extremely supportive, in a good way. They always come along when we're playing gigs. They're not involved in writing the songs, but they help us with the sound, reply to emails, book flights etc. We need them. It's a family thing really.

What are three non-musical things that inspire you?

Films, books and The Sims.

Next up?

Our debut EP will be released in the world, followed by a little tour in Europe, including London as one of our destinations. We're currently recording our debut album on the weekends and school holidays. We're planning to release it in September. We're just so happy that we get the chance to make music, that's all.

First Aid Kit play the Scala in support of Peter, Bjorn & John tomorrow night, March 5th