Published Jan 24, 2012Aiming to make music that's as healing as their moniker implies, Sweden's First Aid Kit offer up indie-folk laced with country on their second full-length release, The Lion's Roar. Sisters Klara and Johanna Söderburg take their cues from folk harmony gurus the Fleet Foxes, where talent trumps image and vocal harmonies decorate the framework of every composition. Just as snow carries an indefinable scent, the music of First Aid Kit has that Scandinavian imprint you just can't put your finger on ― it somehow feels organic and eerily solemn, yet majestic. The Lion's Roar starts off with the sombre pounding of its title track, followed by an homage to country legend pairs Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris and Johnny Cash/June Carter on must-hear single "Emmylou." Even at their tenderest, such as "To a Poet" and "New Year's Eve," their ballads heave with quiet intensity, underscoring Klara's rich, sonorous timbre. Her resonant voice perfectly suits old-timey country and is wonderfully paired with slide guitar on "This Old Routine." Bright Eyes members Mike Mogis (producer) and Conor Oberst (who collaborates on "King of the World") help inject some playful, upbeat moments into the record as well.
As sisters, your voices blend beautifully. Is it just as harmonious when you write together?
Klara: Definitely, but it's not like we never disagree. In terms of harmony though, I usually sing lead because I'm the one that usually starts writing the song, so it's natural for me to be the first to sing them. Then, Johanna comes up with the harmonies. We usually go with the first harmony she comes up with; it always sounds best.
Johanna: And it's the same with the lyrics and the melodies too. Whatever we come up with first is what we end up going with. Whenever you think about what you're writing and analyze it, it just ruins the honesty and the creativity of it.
What about your collaboration during performances?
Klara: We're very in tune; we're very much in the same vibe. We don't even have to look at each other; we just know what we're going to do at the same time. And if we do argue on stage, people almost always think it's kind of funny.
Johanna: Yeah, we get to play on that and use it.
You've also had the opportunity to collaborate with the likes of Conor Oberst, Jack White and Lykke Li. What was that like?
Johanna: Great! Our first record was produced by our dad, so it was quite different working with another producer. We take it for granted how synchronized we are. It's really awesome when you find someone you're not related to and your voices fit perfectly.
Klara: The reason we wanted to work with someone else other than me, Johanna and dad [is that] we kind of felt, after the first record, that it was a bit limiting because we know each other so well. We have the same references and we wanted to have someone else who would see the music in a different way, who's not from the place we are and who could bring new elements to our music. Mike really did that while understanding exactly what we wanted.
Johanna: Yeah, still keeping the essence of First Aid Kit intact, just adding something new to the mix. And Mike understood how our voices are the most important instrument in our music and that they really needed to stand out or be in the center.
Klara: I think that's what Jack White did too; he brought out something in us we didn't think we had. It sounds very Jack White, but it sounds very First Aid Kit too.
What has been your career highlight so far?
Klara: When we performed for Patti Smith in Stockholm.
Johanna: She won the Polar Music Prize. They had different artists performing her songs for her at the awards ceremony. We got to do "Dancing Barefoot." It was very emotional for us to sing that song.
Klara: It is a song we had grown up with because our parents listened to her.
I saw the YouTube clip of how it brought her to tears.
Johanna: Yeah, I think that was a very emotional moment. To see her react like that was just beyond… We look up to her so much; it was magical.
Klara: Another amazing thing last year, apart from recording this record, was going on tour with Bright Eyes in September through the South [U.S.]. It has been our dream since I was 12. (Wichita)