Fan Interview: First Aid Kit | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Fan Interview: First Aid Kit

Johanna and Klara Söderberg Respond to Their Fans’ Questions

Jun 08, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

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Swedish sister alt-country/folk duo First Aid Kit (Johanna and Klara Söderberg) released a new album, Ruins, back in January via Columbia. The Söderberg sisters recently agreed to take part in our Fan Interview and we put out the call for questions. Fans were allowed to submit up to 10 questions and we received a ton of great suggestions. We picked the best ones and sent them over to the band and they graciously took the time to answer all of them in-depth.

Ruins is the band’s fourth album and the follow-up to 2014’s acclaimed Stay Gold. Tucker Martine (My Morning Jacket, Laura Veirs) produced the album in Portland, OR and the sessions also featured R.E.M.‘s Peter Buck, Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, and Midlake’s McKenzie Smith. The album includes “It’s a Shame”a video for the song was inspired by the Gwyneth Paltrow romantic comedy from 1998, Sliding Doors. The video for “Fireworks” featured the sisters attending, dancing, and performing at a 1980s prom, complete with big hairdos and vintage prom dresses. The band also just released the Live From the Rebel Hearts Club EP today. It features six tracks recorded live in the studio.

Read on as First Aid Kit give advice to a teenager, as well as discussing their tattoos, Twin Peaks, staying healthy on tour, an early bad review that really bothered them, things they’ve lost on tour, and much more.

Jonathan Koe from Brooklyn, New York:

To Johanna: what are some of Klara’s skills or personality traits that you wish you had?

Johanna Söderberg: Where do I begin? Her unique vocal tone. Her lyric writing skills. Sometimes it comes to her so effortlessly. She really has a unique way with words. I also envy her spontaneity and endless optimism.

To Klara: what are some of Johanna’s skills or personality traits that you wish you had?

Klara Söderberg: Johanna is very ambitious and an incredibly hard worker, which I admire so much. The way she can sing harmonies, I’m not at all at her level! She also has a great ability to put together little ideas and make them into fully formed songs. She can hear things much clearer than I can in our music and articulate how she wants it to sound, I wish I had that skill.

What are some of the items you guys have been saddest to lose on tour? What are some of your tour essentials?

Johanna: I’ve lost my iPad, Kindle, lots of pieces of clothing. I always loose at least one item per tour and I’m equally devastated every time. It gets very messy in the dressing rooms and hotel rooms, so no wonder things end up lost. Some of my tour essentials are a notebook, an e-book reader, dry shampoo, swimwear (I will never miss an opportunity to jump into a hot tub), yoga mat and nice PJs and slipper to wear in the tour bus.

Klara: Too many things to even say, I’m very scatterbrained. I constantly lose my phone charger. I’ve started bringing disposable cameras on the road, so now that’s a must! I love having all these physical memories to look at when I get home. Apart from that, my tour essentials are the same as Johanna’s.

How is working with Tucker Martine different from working with Mike Mogis? How do each of them bring out the different sides of First Aid Kit?

Johanna: First off we want to say they’re both excellent producers in their own rights. We loved working with both and we’re honored we got to make these records with them. I think it’s hard to say how exactly much they contributed to bringing out the different sides in us, because the fact that we wanted such different things from them dictated so much of the recording process and result.

With Tucker we asked for more of a session band live approach. A little more edge, a little rougher way of recording. We had tons of people coming in and out of the studio all the time. Tucker had a very collaborative and spontaneous approach to producing. The songs sort of formed in the moment, depending on what clicked and what didn’t. With Mike, we spent a lot more time alone with him in the studio working out things on our own. We came more prepared with fleshed out demos. We wanted a folkier more clean sound back then.

Bel Garza, age 17, from Seabrook, Texas:

Do you have any advice for someone moving far away from home for college? I will be moving from a small town in Texas to Portland, Oregon in the fall and I am so nervous!!!

Johanna: This is so exciting! It’s totally natural and good to be nervous, since this is such a big step in your life. You’ll probably have moments of self-doubt and loneliness. It’s going to be a little difficult at times, especially at the start. However, think of it as a chance to get to know yourself better, to challenge yourself, and to get out of your comfort zone. We spent six weeks in Portland, OR making our latest record and we can safely say it’s an amazing and very welcoming city. As long as you’re open to it being very different from Texas you’ll love it there, have so much fun and get to know tons of new people.

Nicolas Bresinsky from Portland, Maine:

If you did not have a career making music, what other jobs have you ever imagined yourself doing, or thought would be fun, or something you would be good at? Either in your wildest dreams, or in your most boring acceptance of something more quotidian?

Johanna: I think I’d make a good boss or manager. I like responsibility, being in charge and telling other people what to do. Haha. More likely if success with the band didn’t happen I’d probably have studied to be a therapist or dietitian. Honestly though, in my wildest dreams I would be a musician touring with my sister all around the world. It’s the ultimate.

Klara: I’ve imagined a lot of things! Writing has always been my favorite past time since I was a kid, so scriptwriting, writing poetry, short stories, anything like that I would love. I love acting, so that’d be something I’d greatly enjoy. I’d also love to work with dogs because they’re the best thing on the planet. Creativity is my main driving force in life and I already get to be creative every day, so I can’t complain.

Are also big Twin Peaks fans? From the looks of the “Fireworks” video, it sure seems like it, and I can hear a Badalamenti-inspired guitar in there as well. Assuming that you are, what can you tell us about the first time you saw Twin Peaks, and its appeal to you?

Johanna: You are so right! I am a big David Lynch and Twin Peaks fan. He was definitely a reference for the “Fireworks” video overall aesthetics as well as the electric guitar in that track. I think I was draw to Twin Peaks mostly because of the soundtrack. It’s magical—so haunting, nostalgic, and strange. I love the awkward interactions and surreal atmosphere in his films and shows.

Paige Bowers from Parker, Colorado:

I have always been wondering what the stories behind your guys’ tattoos are? I love them so much and they are beautiful but I just have always wanted to know their meaning!

Johanna: We have a lot of tattoos and honestly many of them don’t have a meaning. We just find them visually pleasing. We don’t think all tattoos have to have this deep meaning behind them, especially if it’s forced. Tattoos become special to you anyway, just by being there ingrained in your body for so long. They become reminders of the time when you got them inked. They’re time capsules.

Anyway, a few of our tattoos do have some special thoughts behind them. We both have arrows on our fingers, our mom has it as well. It’s a sisterhood and family symbol, standing for protection and always being there for each other. Klara also has a tattoo of a circle with an “I” inside it, that’s for our brother Isak because duh, he’s the best. The small waves on Klara’s arm are for Mom’s astrological sign, Aquarius. Klara also has a beautiful tattoo of our cat Nisse, who died a few years ago, on her arm.

Neil Moss from Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

I would like to know from Johanna what is the tattoo on her right upper arm. It looks like Totoro, but is it really a Totoro?

Johanna: Yes, it is indeed Totoro! I rarely show that tattoo since it’s pretty far up on my arm. I love Studio Ghibli and Totoro is my favorite character out of all of the Miyazaki creatures. I wish Totoro was real so I could hang out with him and lie on his big belly all day, haha.

Jessica L. Hall from Vermont:

When was the first time that someone you looked up to/respected said that they didn’t think that you were good enough to make it to the level that you are now and what got you beyond their opinion and to keep persevering?

Johanna: There was an article in The Guardian that I remember very well: It was written in a slightly condescending (and sexist?) way. We were just starting out and were still very sensitive to bad reviews. We took it badly and found it was very discouraging. Now it’s been 10 years and we’re still going, happy to prove that journalist wrong!

David Rockenback from Eagan, Minnesota:

I would like to know how Johanna and Klara eat healthy and deal with exhaustion while they are touring.

Johanna: We try to eat as healthy food as possible, but it’s such a challenge on the road. Sometimes there’s nothing but junk food available. Klara has diabetes and gluten intolerance, so she tries to eat low carb foods as much as she can. We’re currently trying the ketogenic diet and it works great for the both of us. We also try to exercise as much as we can, in the dressing rooms or hotel gyms, whenever the space and time allows for it.

If we have a day off we try to relax and not do too much. At first when you’re touring you’re just so excited to be in all these cool cities you’ve dreamt of traveling to for so long. So you go out hard and do touristy stuff on every day off. You end up exhausting yourself and having no energy left for the show the next day. We’ve learned that we often just need to stay in all day in the hotel room, order room service, and take care of ourselves. That’s the boring truth!

Jacob Krug from East Meadow, New York:

Are there any songs that have ended up on the cutting room floor off of Ruins, or any album, or did you go into the studio with just the 10 songs that ended up on the album?

Johanna: We’ve had roughly 12-13 songs for each record, with a few songs not ending up on the album. That was the case for both The Lion’s Roar and Stay Gold. We like albums that are short and effective, like classic vinyl records from the ‘60s and ‘70s. Most unused material we’ve released as B-sides or bonus tracks (“Brother,” “I Just Needed a Friend,” “Some Distant Memory,” “Marianne’s Son,” etc.).

For Ruins we had a total of 18 songs (!). We recorded all of them and picked out our favorites. It was very difficult to choose. In the end we decided to stick with songs that focused on the break up-theme, to keep the album focused. We are planning to release a few of the tracks that didn’t end up on Ruins some day. We can’t tell you more about that right now though…

Have there been any songs you’ve written that you may have grown tired of, similarly to Thom Yorke’s boredom, or hatred, of “Creep?”

Johanna: The sad truth is that we do get tired of our songs. It’s inevitable. First you record the song as a demo many times. Then you record it and listen to it over and over again in the studio. Lastly you perform it live at shows thousands and thousands of times. It gets tiresome. At home we wouldn’t ever put on The Lion’s Roar and listen to “Emmylou” for example. However, that being said, we actually never get tired of playing the songs during our tours. Seeing the crowd respond emotionally to a track is so powerful and the response is kind of different at every show. It’s fascinating. We don’t understand bands refusing to play their most popular songs just because they’re so tired of them. It’s rude and disrespectful to the crowd who paid to be there.

Any plans to release a live album from one of your shows? As a fan of your live show I would enjoy that.

Johanna: We record almost every concert. One day we’d love to release a live album with our favorite performances from all our tours. It’ll happen, just a matter of when at the moment.

When songs such as “A Long Time Ago,” “To a Poet,” and “Emmylou” have these composed arrangements, whether it’s the strings, or the pedal steel, how much is composed by yourselves? Or is it more from the work of the producer after you went in with the ideas and then they helped make it a reality? I ask this as someone who is trying compose my own songs and often struggle getting what I hear in my head out onto paper or recorded into a demo.

Johanna: It’s definitely a mix of our own ideas and the producer or arranger. Sometimes we have ideas for melodies in our head and will put them in the demos before going into the studio. We sometimes also simply sing them out loud in the studio and have the producer then arrange it for us. It’s a collaboration. On those three particular songs though most of the melodies in the arrangement were written by Nate Walcott. He’s a genius and is so good at bringing out the emotions in our songs. Much love and respect to him.

Molly Rushing from Memphis, Tennessee:

What phone apps are you into right now?

Johanna: I’m really into real estate apps. I’m a dreamer. I love fantasizing about a different life by looking at big houses and apartments in faraway cities. It’s a big guilty pleasure for me. In terms of games I’m obsessed with Ticket to Ride. Both the app and the actual physical board game. I can’t recommend it enough!

Klara: I’m definitely guilty of the real estate app obsession as well, it’s too much fun not to look! I’m really into Pinterest as well, I spend a lot of time collecting images of everything from interior decorating to new music video ideas.

Do you have any favorite podcasts at the moment?

Johanna: I love Dear Sugar. I’ve been going through a life crisis at the moment and this podcast has literally saved me. It’s been like a safety blanket for me. I feel like I learn so much about relationship and the big life questions by listening to it. I wish I could have a therapy session with Cheryl Strayed. I also really like Twenty Thousand Hertz, a podcast about sounds.

Klara: So, so many! I’ve been an avid listener of the Savage Lovecast for the past couple of years. Other favorites include WTF with Mac Maron, Off Camera with Sam Jones, You Made It Weird with Pete Holmes, Terrible, Thanks for Asking. I love listening to people’s life stories, it’s so fascinating.

Lilian Anaya from Mexico City, Mexico:

Where’s somewhere you’ve never played at but you’re dying to?

Johanna: We’ve always dreamt of playing Red Rocks because it looks like a dream. Playing outdoors in gorgeous nature always adds an extra dimension to the shows. So excited to get to play there with Ryan Adams in June. We’d love to one day play at Pappy + Harriets in Joshua Tree. We have some great memories from there when writing songs for Ruins so it would feel like going full circle. Also we’re really dying to play in South America. We’re trying to make it happen for next years, fingers crossed!

Can you elaborate more on why you chose Ruins as the title of your new album?

Klara: We felt Ruins fit the album really well, encapsulating the idea of these songs being things extracted from the ruins of a relationship. We think a ruin can be so many things, not just sad, but wistful and beautiful, too. It’s this thing that will always exist, something you have built out of your love, dreams, and fears throughout your time with this person. It’s hard to leave behind but it can in retrospect be a bittersweet thing in your life that taught you so many things about yourself.

Kenneth Falun from Sweden:

After watching this video on Facebook where you cover “When I Stop Dreaming” I wonder if you have any plans on making an acoustic album?

Klara: We don’t currently have any plans but we are definitely open to it. There are so many different kinds of records we want to make! We tend to let the songs dictate the sound on our records and so far we’ve loved experimenting with more of a band sound. There’s such a vulnerability and charm to really simple, bare bones arrangements so if we feel it fits our songs we’ll definitely go that route.

Cath Burrus from Brampton, England:

What’s your favorite dog? It’s gotta be a boxer.

Klara: We love all dogs! Boxers are adorable. I used to have a greyhound so they’ll always have a special place in my heart. Dogs are such wonderful creatures and there’s not really any breed we prefer more than any other.

If you could pick any artist to sing with who would it be and why?

Klara: I think it’s a tie between Gram Parsons and Leonard Cohen, both have inspired us immensely throughout the years. They both have such unique voices and to sing with them would be absolutely divine.

Ella Squire from Birmingham, England:

How do you both decide who sings each verse/harmony and split up the vocals for each track?

Klara: Dividing the vocals is something we sometimes discuss but usually it’s just something that comes about naturally when we’re writing the songs. Since I tend to start writing the songs I usually sing the lead and Johanna the harmony. It’s the way we’ve done it for so long it’s hard to get out of the habit but we’re both really open to experimenting. Throughout our records Johanna has sung more of the lead vocals, which I’m all for! I love singing harmonies.

Quinci Chapple from Cortland, New York:

I guess this question is kind of irrelevant, but I’m personally dying to know! It’s actually the same picture being used in the Under the Radar article this interview opportunity is in that I’m wondering about, I first saw the picture on your Twitter months ago. Your Utica Club t-shirt! Where did you get it and have you been to Utica, NY?! I am from Central New York and you’re my favorite band ever. I would think it’s the coolest thing in the world if you’ve visited here. Johanna wears it in some of the Live from the Rebel Hearts Club videos too. I freaked when I first saw it! Anyway, thanks for your time. Much love from CNY!

Johanna: This is so awesome. We got that vintage Utica Club t-shirt from a stylist when we were doing the photo shoot for Ruins in LA. I instantly loved it and asked if I could keep it. I didn’t know about the history of it, I just thought it looked amazing. I really want to go to Utica and try that beer out. It’s now on my to-do list, thank you!

Sergio Madera from Bogota, Colombia:

What’s the most popular sport in Sweden after soccer?

Johanna: Hahaha. Definitely hockey.

(Also read our recent print magazine interview with First Aid Kit on Ruins, as well as our Bucket List interview with them.)

First Aid Kit U.S. Tour Dates:

06/08 - Raleigh, NC - North Carolina Museum of Art*
06/09 - Manchester, TN - Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival
06/10 - St. Louis, MO - The Pageant*
06/12 - Kansas City, MO - The Truman*
06/13 - Omaha, NE - Sokol Auditorium*
06/14 - Morrison, CO - Red Rocks (w/ Ryan Adams)
09/06 - Portland, ME - State Theatre+
09/07 - Boston, MA - Blue Hills Bank Pavilion+
09/08 - Philadelphia, PA - The Fillmore Philadelphia+
09/10 - Washington D.C. - The Anthem+
09/11 - Brooklyn, NY - Brooklyn Steel+
09/14 - Asheville, NC - Highland Brewing Company+
09/17 - Houston, TX - White Oak Music Hall+
09/18 - Austin, TX - ACL Live at The Moody Theater+
09/19 - Dallas, TX - South Side Ballroom+
09/21-23 - Las Vegas, NV - Life is Beautiful Festival
09/21 - Albuquerque, NM - Sunshine Theater+
09/22 - Phoenix, AZ - The Pressroom
09/25 - San Diego, CA - Observatory North Park+
09/26 - Los Angeles, CA - Greek Theatre^
09/28 - San Francisco, CA - The Masonic^
10/01 - Seattle, WA - Paramount Theatre
10/02 - Vancouver, BC - Queen Elizabeth Theatre
10/03 - Portland, OR - Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall

*Jade Bird supporting
+Julia Jacklin supporting
^M. Ward supporting

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Mark Brislin
June 9th 2018

Hi. Hoping u might be able to add a tour date in the Cincinnati/Columbus, Ohio area for the Fall US tour. There are no dates near us in Spring either. Would be sad to have to wait for the next álbum to see u live. Thanks ????