First Aid Kit on “Ruins”

Making an Emotional Connection

May 22, 2018 Issue #63 - Courtney Barnett Photography by Frida Marklund Bookmark and Share


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In case Mike Mogis happens to be reading this, the Söderberg sisters, Johanna and Klara, want you to know they "adore" you. It was simply time for something different.

Otherwise known as First Aid Kit, the Söderbergs partnered with producer Tucker Martine for the first time on their new album, Ruins, after working with Mogis on previous hit releases, The Lion's Roar and Stay Gold. Martine, who has produced albums for everyone from The Decemberists to Modest Mouse, was someone with whom the Söderbergs had wanted to work for some time.

"We'd actually met up with him before a couple times," said Johanna. "He was the first producer we really showed stuff after our first EP or our first record. He came out to our Portland show and we promised each other then that we'd make an album together. That was back around 2010, so it's been something we've been thinking about for a long time. It's finally nice to get the chance to work together."

First Aid Kit entered the studio for Ruins with more material yet less preparation than ever. There were more fully realized song ideas prior to recording, but Martine asked the sisters to come into the studio with only sparse arrangements. From there, an all-star band of Martine's friends helped flesh them out.

"Tucker asked us if it was okay if he formed a band to come in and play of his favorite musicians," says Klara. "We were like, 'Cool!' It sounded scary but also really cool to let someone else play on your songs. We had so many amazing people like Peter Buck from R.E.M. and Glenn Kochke from Wilco. So you end up saying, 'Yes, play what you want!' We had so much fun in the studio and it was all such a joyous experience."

Johanna references the "joy" and "fun" from the studio as necessary tools for the sadness within the actual songs. Ruins is titled appropriately, a collection of tracks written out of some darker, personal moments.

"This record is mostly about Klara, who was going through a lot of tough shit," says Johanna. "I think there is some pain and some openness that just wasn't there on our previous records. We needed this to be fun in the studio, because on these songs, we were pouring out our hearts as we were performing them."

Klara agrees when Johanna describes the new album as personal and painful, but she's quick to point to the upside of presenting such songs to the band's now-global audience.

"It's not that I would ever compare our album to Blue by Joni Mitchell, but there is some similar emotional vulnerability," says Klara. "That's why you love it so much because it's heartbreaking. You know she's been through all that shit and that's what makes it so special. That's why this album felt like it needed to be so personal. It's been wonderful, even after only putting out a few songs, to hear people's comments. It's beautiful when people understand what you put out there."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's Spring 2018 Issue (March/April/May 2018), which is out now. This is its debut online.]

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