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First Aid Kit

Extraordinary Measures

Jun 10, 2014 First Aid Kit Bookmark and Share

Somewhere, in an alternate dimension, there’s a very different version of First Aid Kit. Klara Söderberg and Johanna Söderberg recall a time shortly before they were known as Sweden’s folk darlings when wistful harmonies and acoustic guitar lines weren’t exactly their primary focus. Although that time in their life didn’t last long, had it endured we might be talking about First Aid Kit the punk band, or perhaps First Aid Kit the experimental rock outfit.

“We had a time when we were thirteen that we broke the rules,” Klara recalls, laughing. “I shaved my eyebrows and cut off my hair … I think everyone when they’re a teenager tries something and goes against the rules a little bit.”

Rebellion checked off their to-do list, by the time the Klara and Johanna were in the mid-teens they were already receiving international attention for their take of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” a cover that they uploaded to Youtube on a whim. Their resume over the next few years reads like the starry-eyed aspirations of an idealistic teenager. Extensive international touring. Duetting with childhood hero, Conor Oberst. Cutting a single for Jack White’s Third Man Records. Covering Patti Smith with the artist in the audience. Leaving David Letterman tongue-tied on national TV.

The clichéd phrase “wild ride” comes to mind. Johanna confirms that assessment, noting that it’s only been recently that the siblings have been able to really reflect on how unusual their lives have become.

“You have all these dreams, but you never actually think that they’ll come through,” she says. “And then they do and it’s like, ‘Well that was strange.’ Then have to get used to it. It’s your life. The thing with dreams coming true is that it’s never the way that you imagined them. You’ll always feel a little bit strange afterwards.”

Coming to terms with reality, and the fears that both success and failure can bring, is the central theme of Stay Gold. Awash with strings Omaha Symphony Orchestra and featuring the sisters’ crystalline croons, the album falls in line with First Aid Kit’s previous folk offerings, 2010’s The Big Black & The Blue and 2012’s The Lion’s Roar. But for the first time, song narratives are offered in the first person—the sisters longing to get away from it all by becoming a waitresses, experiencing panic attacks in hotel rooms while on the road, or recalling a broken romance.

“Honestly, it takes some bravery to do it that we may have lacked in the past,” says Klara of the perspective shift. “It’s the feeling that what’s going on in our lives is actually worth writing about. Or that anyone would actually would want to hear it or could understand it and see themselves in it. Our songs have always been personal, our songs have always meant a great deal to us.”

“Every time we finish a record or a song it’s like, ‘what are we going to write about now?’” Johanna adds. “We don’t walk around thinking, ‘Oh wow, we have so much to share with people.’ We’re as confused as the rest and we’re just trying to figure it out. Sometimes you try to do that by writing a song about it.”

It’s a struggle, both women say, that they’re determined to not let poison the present. After all, they’ve constantly aware that they’ve come a long way—and that not everyone is given the same opportunities that they’ve enjoyed. The title Stay Gold, notes Klara, is an extension of that ideology, a reminder to savor even the temporary things in life.

“We experience that a lot, where you look back and think, ‘Why didn’t I enjoy it while it lasted?’ she notes. “Just trying to live in the moment and not forget. It’s easy when you play shows every night to say, ‘Oh, whatever, it’s just another show.’ But we were playing last night and I was looking out at the crowd and thinking, ‘these people are here to see us! They know our songs by heart. Look at that girl, she’s singing along! Look at that girl, she’s singing along, and she’s so happy!’ That’s crazy. In general it’s too strange to understand. It’s almost too good. But sometimes we stand there on stage and you look someone in the eye and they look back at you, and you have this connection. Right in this moment we are in the same place. This person understands what I’m trying to say. It’s about capturing those magical moments.”



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