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Nordic Playlist #49 – First Aid Kit, Sweden

First Aid Kit

We're taking a look back over the events of 2014 with Johanna and Klara Söderberg - the sisters who, together, form one of the year's most integral duos, First Aid Kit!

Dec 2014
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It all began back in 2008, when the pair released a stunning cover version of Fleet Foxes’ ‘Tiger Mountain Peasant Song’ on YouTube, bringing the layered and intricate folk melodies of these Stockholm sisters to the attention of music fans around the world.

Their debut album The Big Black & The Blue followed in 2010 to widespread acclaim, before worldwide success and attention arrived in 2012 when the duo’s second album The Lion’s Roar topped the charts in their native Sweden, going on to sell more than a quarter of a million copies worldwide.

Johanna and Klara returned in the summer days of 2014 to unleash a third, and much anticipated new album upon the world – a record that arrived in the shape of the beautifully crafted, delicately laced Stay Gold. Extensive tours and a number of high profile festival and television appearances have taken place since the album’s release, and the pair are currently rounding off a tour before heading back to their native Stockholm to celebrate the Christmas season.

We are thrilled, proud and excited to present a brand new Nordic Playlist curated by First Aid Kit – so tune in now by pressing ‘play’ just above and hear the Nordic sounds that they highly recommend you check out!

You’ve had an extremely busy year with the album release and a huge tour – which was the most memorable place that you visited, and how did it feel to take the new songs on the road?

We’ve played so many memorable places this year, all around the world. However it was especially surreal playing at the Royal Albert Hall. We’d planned this show for more than a year, but we never thought we would sell out that gorgeous legendary venue! We were extremely nervous but the show felt surprisingly intimate for such a humungous room. Our family from Sweden had flown in for the show. It was a special night we shall never forget. A true highlight of our career.

Playing a show in Japan for the first time at Fuji Rock was also very cool. It’s just such a different vibe in Japan than anywhere else in the world and we loved it. We definitely (and literally) stood out in the crowd. People were so polite to us. Fans gave us gifts at the airport, even the journalists gave us gifts. We felt a little spoiled, haha.

Taking the news songs on the road with us was scary at first. You never know how people will react. Playing a song live means testing it and seeing if it works or not. We did a tour in the US before Stay Gold was even released, so no one had heard the songs before. Then as we grew more and more confident in playing the songs throughout the year and people knew the record, it became more fun and interactive. We’re having a blast on stage right now.

Stay Gold has been described as your most mature and imaginative album so far – what were your main ambitions when creating it? And after making three albums, what would you say the most important tips for surviving the studio are?

Whenever we create an record we just let the songs take us where we feel they want to go.

We felt like a lot of these songs called for bigger arrangements and a more dynamic and deep sonic landscape.

An ambition of ours with this record was to try out working with other outside musicians and layering in more instruments, while still keeping true to our motto of “keeping it simple” and having the vocals and lyrics in focus.

Stay Gold has been described as your most mature and imaginative album so far – what were your main ambitions when creating it? And after making three albums, what would you say the most important tips for surviving the studio are?

Whenever we create an record we just let the songs take us where we feel they want to go. We felt like a lot of these songs called for bigger arrangements and a more dynamic and deep sonic landscape. An ambition of ours with this record was to try out working with other outside musicians and layering in more instruments, while still keeping true to our motto of “keeping it simple” and having the vocals and lyrics in focus.

When we’re in the studio we try not to get too attached to the demos, because we know can never recreate them. We know that just because something sounds good in your head it might not sound good in reality. Like for example you say you want brass on a song but when it’s actually played it doesn’t work at all. You have to have a lot of patience and let the songs build slowly, while trying out all kinds of instruments and options. Sometimes the songs just shape up so differently from what you’d first imagined, this happens all the time.

What would you say was the most unexpected thing that happened for you both following the release of Stay Gold?

We didn’t know how the record would be received. It was tough to follow up The Lion’s Roar because it was a success both with critics and with the audience.

We felt a little pressure and writer’s block when making this record, to be honest. However, Stay Gold has been doing exceedingly well. This has given us both more confidence in what we do.

We’re fast approaching Christmas, and we’re starting to feel all festive – where will you be celebrating Christmas and do you have any special Christmas traditions?

We’ll be celebrating Christmas at home in Sweden. We go all out during Christmas! We have big epic family dinners, we make Christmas cards, sing carols, drink mulled wine (glögg) and make gingerbread houses. It’s the best season!

What is your all time favourite Christmas song?!

‘Blue Christmas’, as sung by Elvis Presley. It’s so bittersweet. We made a cover of the song back in 2008, it’s on Youtube. We’ve tried to write our own Christmas songs but it’s very difficult. The lyrics have to be just the right amount of cheesy and sentimental. We really want to make a Christmas album someday…

As we get to the end of the year, it’s a time to get reflective – so what would you say is the biggest lesson that 2014 taught you, and what will be your new year’s resolution for 2015?

Tricky question. I guess we’ll try to take it a little bit easier next year, to not rush and learn to say no. We’re just going to keep going with our gut feelings, because they’ve taken us to the right places, so far.

We’re all about mixtape here at the Nordic Playlist – so has anyone ever made a mixtape or playlist for you? If so, can you remember what your favorite track on it was?

Recently our dear friend and opener for our latest US tour, Samantha Crain, made us a mixtape and we discovered the beautiful song ‘Came So Easy’ by The Weather Station through that. Highly recommended!

Our uncle used to make a lot of mixtapes for us as well and he helped us discover Gram Parsons. That was a pretty big deal for us since he’s still one of our main musical influences.

Can you tell us about each of the tracks that you’ve used in your playlist today and why you selected them?

Tallest Man On Earth is one of our favourite Swedes and we’ve been fans for a long time. We feel like we’ve got a lo in common with him, because there aren’t that many other Swedes doing this Americana-inspired folk music.

His guitar playing and songwriting is out of this world. If you get a chance to see him live, do it. He’s quite the character on stage. ‘Pistol Dreams’ was one of the first songs we heard by him, and still is our favourite.

He came to our show Minneapolis recently and had a little jam session, it was so amazing!

Agnes Obel is an artist we kept seeing at all these festivals around Europe for years and we had no clue she was Danish! We though she was from Belgium or France. We love her latest record and this song ‘The Curse’. It’s so sinister and dark it just grabs you and puts you in a trance. I (Johanna) listened to it while walking home at night near the forest and I freaked out. It’s haunting.

We saw Susanne Sundfør perform live at by:larm in 2010 at the Nordic Music Prize Award Ceremony and were blown away. Her voice is so strong and just bends and changes along with her music. It takes unexpected turns and truly transports you to a new place.

Which artists from Sweden would you highly recommend we tune into? Any old and new favourites?

Apart from Tallest Man On Earth and Amason who are on our playlist, we really like a band called Dungen. Their music is super psychedelic and has seventies rock sound. We love the Third Man Blue Series 7” they made with Jack White. An old favourite is Anders F. Rönnblom and his first record Din Barndom Skall Aldrig Dö. It’s totally underrated. This record has the most sweet, nostalgic childhood feel and witty lyrics.

There are so many awesome female musicians in Sweden. Right when we started we felt like they took us under their wing and we’re a little bit like a family. We’re talking about Karin Dreijer from The Knife/Fever Ray, Ane Brun, Anna Ternheim, Nina Kinert, Anna Järvinen, Lykke Li, Robyn etc. It’s so empowering to hear this awesome, raw and powerful music coming from women in a very male dominated field. We love it!

And finally, what does the New Year have in store for you? What are you most looking forward to, and what can you reveal of your plans?

More touring is what’s on the schedule, for now at least. We’ll be doing a big UK tour in January, then a big Swedish tour in February and in March we’ll be in Australia. We’re really excited to go to all these places because we really feel the love from the crowds and we’ll be playing some of the most beautiful and biggest venues of our lives so far. It’s going to be a pretty busy year.

We can’t reveal too much of our plans, but we have some unreleased tracks we hope to get out there, as well as potential new music videos, collaborations… we’ll see! Just keep your eyes and ears open.

www.thisisfirstaidkit.com
www.facebook.com/firstaidkitofficial
www.twitter.com/FirstAidKitBand

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