Klara Söderberg (left) and Johanna Söderberg of First Aid Kit.

First Aid Kit

Back in the U.S.A.

Oct 01, 2013 Web Exclusive
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This week, Swedish duo First Aid Kit is making a brief return to the U.S. for select performances on both coasts, including a set on Sunday at the inaugural Way Over Yonder festival in Santa Monica. Sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg kick things off tonight by revisiting the Late Show with David Letterman, this time to perform front and center. In November 2011, they appeared on the show, singing backup for Lykke Li.

Way Over Yonder, presented by Newport Folk, will be headlined by Neko Case on Saturday (Oct. 5) and Conor Oberst on Sunday (Oct. 6). Other main stage acts include The Felice Brothers, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, Brett Dennen, Calexico, Justin Townes Earle, and Shovels & Rope, among others. A second stage at the pier's carousel will showcase solo acoustic sets from Jessica Pratt, Aaron Embry, Dave Simonett, Jenny O. and others.

Under the Radar spoke with Johanna and Klara Söderberg last week, while they were still in Stockholm, to ask them about their appearance at Way Over Yonder and how things are progressing on the follow-up to First Aid Kit's critically acclaimed 2012 LP, The Lion's Roar.    

Chris Tinkham (Under the Radar): Have you been to the Santa Monica Pier during any of your visits to Los Angeles?

Klara Söderberg: No, we never have, but we're really excited to play there. It looks beautiful. We're excited to get out of Stockholm 'cause it's getting really cold right now. Also, it sounds pretty amazing to get to go to such a beautiful place and play with some of our favorite musicians. It's a pretty great deal. 

Will you have a band with you for this show?

Klara: Yes, we'll have our drummer.

Johanna Söderberg: He's flying in from Sweden.

Klara: And we'll have—

Johanna: Mike Mogis.

Klara: He'll be playing pedal steel and mandolin and doing his magic, the way he does so beautifully.

I know that you'll be playing in San Francisco on Friday. Will you be able to check out Saturday's lineup at the pier, or will you still be in the Bay Area?

Johanna: We want to see Neko Case really badly. We're huge fans, and we've never seen her live.

Klara: Yeah, we hope we make it.

Cool. Have you heard her new album?

Johanna: Yes!

Klara: Yes, it's amazing!

You'll be sharing the bill with two artists that appeared on The Lion's Roar, Conor Oberst and The Felice Brothers. Can we expect some onstage collaboration?

Johanna: We'll see.

Klara: We'll see. Usually when we play together, that tends to happen, 'cause we love playing together. We'd love to, of course.  

Do you have any idea what we can expect from Conor's set?

Klara: Not really.

Johanna: We haven't talked to him about it.

Klara: It'll be amazing as always. I can promise that. I think he has The Felice Brothers as his backing band, which we've never seen.

Johanna: No.

Klara: So that's going to be fun and interesting.

Will you be playing any new songs?

Klara: Yeah, we're currently working on a new record.

Johanna: Demo-ing as we speak.

Klara: We just did some vocals on a song right now, so we're doing that and into the—

Johanna: new album mindset.

Klara: Yeah. So there'll definitely be some new songs. We can't really help it. Hopefully, people won't be too bored. But we'll be playing our old stuff too, of course.

Johanna: Yeah, a mix of the old and the new.

"Dark Twisted Road," that's a song that's been in your set this year?

Johanna: Yeah, we're actually calling it "Waitress Song."

Klara: Yeah, we still can't really decide. Well, I think we've decided now.

Johanna: We've decided now, but we've gone back and forth.

Klara: But that's the title, yes. We'll play that.

Have you been playing other new songs this year?

Klara: We'll play one more. It's called "Heaven Knows." Those are the two new songs that we've been playing live so far. And we'll see if we'll sneak in another one.

Are you still writing for the next record, or do you have the songs now?

Klara: I think we pretty much have the songs. We're demo-ing right now. We've built a studio in our parents' basement. So, we're doing demos right now, and then we're going to record it in a little while.

Didn't you already have a studio at the house?

Johanna: We recorded with a computer and a microphone in my bedroom. You could have a studio anywhere, but this is like, we made a big space for it.

Klara: Yeah, like a proper thing.

Johanna: You can fit in drums and everything, and record live. It's a new kind of setting. It feels more like a studio.

But that's for demo-ing and rehearsal, right? When it comes time to record the album, would you go somewhere else?

Johanna: Yes, we will go somewhere else but we cannot [laughs] announce that yet.

So, you have something planned but you just can't talk about it.

Klara: Yes.

Johanna: Yes.

I guess you can't talk about this either, but do you have a producer in mind?

Johanna: Yes. [Laughs] But we can't talk about it yet.

Klara: Sorry!

Johanna: [Laughs] We want to talk about it!

I understand. How about the songs? Are they getting more autobiographical, or do you still like to mix in fictional scenarios?

Klara: Well, I think they're probably more—

Johanna: —They are.

Klara: They are, yeah. But there's always an element of—

Johanna: —Fiction.

Klara: Yeah, I think so. It's not like everything in the songs has happened to us. But it's drawn from more of our own experiences, I think. I don't think we have a preference. It just happened to be what we were writing right now. And then maybe we'll write another song, and it'll be completely fictional. You never really know with these things.

Johanna: We just let things happen, unfold the way they do.

Klara: Yeah.

Are you recognizing any recurring themes in the new songs?

Johanna: Time.

Klara: Time is a thing I've realized.

Johanna: Nostalgia.

Klara: Yeah, definitely. And loss.

Johanna: Love.

Klara: Love. No, I don't know. I don't know if we spend a lot of time thinking about the future and worrying about the future more than other people, but I think it's something that definitely comes through a lot in our songs.

Johanna: The Lion's Roar was about that, and this record will also be about that.

Klara: Yeah, we tend to write more darker songs than happier ones, because— Well, why? I don't know. I don't really know, but it's the way it happens. I don't think we have anything to add to just write about yourself being happy. Right now that doesn't seem interesting. Maybe if we have a more unique way of writing about that, then maybe we'll do that. But right now it's still pretty dark. But we're happy people.

I know! That's what's funny.

Klara: Yeah, most of the time. We're doing all right.

When I read your social media accounts, it's just highlight after highlight. Either you're singing for Paul Simon [above], or Kim Gordon is tweeting about your mom. In the spring, did you just take some time off to chill out and reflect on all that's happened?

Klara: Yeah, and wrote stuff as well. There's not like a time off where we just sit and stare at the wall. It's always time off where we're writing. That's just the way we work.

Johanna: Yeah, it's been amazing. Obviously, it's been absolutely incredible. And I think that it's only now that we fully understand the scope of it.

Klara: I'm not sure that—

Johanna: —We still don't, but you sort of get another perspective when you have time off and rested a bit.

Have you thought about or tried to feature Johanna's voice more in the new songs?

Johanna: Yeah, I'm singing more on this record I hope.

Klara: What do you mean, "I hope"?

Johanna: We'll see. [Laughs]

Klara: Well, with this thing, I always feel bad about it.

Johanna: This is Klara speaking.

Klara: Because it's not like, "You can't sing this song!"

Johanna: And it's not like I'm not featured. I'm pretty much always singing; I'm just singing harmonies. So, I'm there. We're splitting 50/50. We're both singing all the time.

Klara: And Johanna sings harmonies so beautifully.

Johanna: I'm so accustomed to it that it's easier for me to do that.

Klara: And it's also because I tend to start writing the songs. It becomes this natural thing that I sing them. It's not like, "I want to sing all the songs!" It just ends up being, "Oh, well I'll sing this and then you'll sing the harmony for this." It's just the way it feels best, especially when we've been playing the songs like that for a long time.

Johanna: But then when we switch up, people don't even notice. They don't notice who sings the lead anyway because our voices meld together. I don't know how important it is, but of course I want to sing more, and hopefully we're working on it.

Klara: Yeah, hopefully. It sounds like I won't let you.

Johanna: It's hard to say right now because we've just done demos of some of the songs. It's hard to say how the record's gonna end up. I might sing it entirely and Klara won't even be on it.

Klara: Yeah, maybe I'll just quit the band. I'll start my rap thing that I've been dying to do all these years.

Johanna: Yo!

Klara: Yo! What's that? That sounded lame.

Is there any kind of timetable for the record?

Johanna: Yeah.

Klara: Yeah.

Klara: But we don't really want to say.

Johanna: We don't want to say. We hope to release it next year.

Are you both still living at home?

Klara: No.

Johanna: No. That's kind of the thing that we did. As soon as we stopped touring, we're like, "We gotta move out."

Klara: Yeah. We didn't have a reason to before, really, because we were just home from tours for like a week, and it just seemed silly to have—

Johanna: and pay rent for an apartment you're not even in.

Klara: But now we've had some time off. So we actually live together, but we live in an apartment that's in our town.

Johanna: In Stockholm, yeah.

But you're using the studio at your old home.

Johanna: Exactly.

Klara: So mom and pop still get to see us, 'cause we play every day.

Does your dad still play with you?

Klara: Yeah!

Johanna: Yes. Yeah, he's playing bass right now.

And you're going to be playing Radio City Music Hall as well.

Johanna: Yes.

Klara. That's crazy.

Have you been there before?

Johanna: No.

Klara: No, but we've heard so much.

Johanna: We've seen it.

Klara: I kinda don't want to read too much about it, 'cause I'll get nervous.

Johanna: You can read about it afterwards.

Klara: Yeah, I tend to do that. We recorded at Abbey Road, and obviously I knew it was The Beatles' studio and everything, which is amazing. But I didn't know that much. Afterwards, I sort of looked it up, and I was like, "Oh, my God! We played there?" I feel like it would be a bad thing if I was too nervous when I got there and felt all this pressure. So I feel the same with Radio City Music Hall. It's the kinda thing where we'll play, and it'll be great, but then afterwards I'll look it up, and I'll be like, "Whoa! I should have been way more nervous."

As I was catching up on you, reading your Facebook and Twitter, I thought to myself, "Man, what have they not done yet?" I guess you still haven't met Joni Mitchell, is that right?

Johanna: No.

Klara: I'm a little scared. She's so cool.

Have you spent any time in the Laurel Canyon area out here?

Klara: Only a little. We've been to Laurel Canyon, but not as much as we'd like.

So there is an inclination to explore that a little bit more?

Johanna: Yeah, of course.

Klara: It's one of the dreams, to live in either Laurel Canyon or Topanga Canyon. Yeah, that would be amazing.

Johanna: Have a tree house. [Laughs]

Klara: [Laughs]

For Radio City, you're playing with Rodriguez. He played a festival in Stockholm during the summer, right?

Johanna: He played in Stockholm and in Gothenburg, yeah. Way Out West, we saw him there. We saw the documentary, and I think the director of it is Swedish.

Klara: Yeah.

Johanna: Yeah, and it really moved us.

Klara: It's incredible, and those records are amazing. So we've been listening a lot to those.

Johanna: A new discovery.

Klara: Yeah, so it will be a real honor to play with him, for sure.

Did you get to meet him at that show?

Klara: No.

Johanna: No, we didn't.

But that seems likely with this one, right?

Johanna: We hope so.

Klara: Yeah, we'll see. You never really know. You don't want to intrude.

I was reading about how much you liked Searching for Sugar Man, and I was wondering if you've ever seen Be Here to Love Me.

Klara: I haven't actually. I know this is very bad, because we're both huge Townes Van Zandt fans. So we should have seen that a long time ago. We haven't, but it's on the list.

Johanna: Things to watch.

Klara: Along with Heartworn Highways. I've only seen the beginning of it, but I haven't seen the whole thing.

That was my next question, because there are a few clips from Heartworn Highways in Be Here to Love Me, and I thought, "They'd probably love these movies."

Klara: I know. I know we would. Thanks for the reminder.

Johanna: We'll be sure to do that on the way to the U.S.

Klara: Yeah.

facebook.com/firstaidkitofficial

twitter.com/firstaidkitband

thisisfirstaidkit.com

www.wayoveryonder.net

First Aid Kit tour dates:

Oct. 3             Big Sur, CA                       Henry Miller Library

Oct. 4             San Francisco, CA        Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Oct. 6             Los Angeles, CA             Way Over Yonder

Oct. 10           New York, NY                Radio City Music Hall*

* supporting Rodriguez



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