More about: First Aid Kit
Klara Soderberg was six years old when she wrote her first song. When she and her sister Johanna first began performing live under the name First Aid Kit, they had to fit it around their school holidays - and their first album was written when they were both teenagers.
Now though, as the sisters enter their 20s, the ‘child prodigy’ label is peeling off at the edges. Their insightful lyrics no longer seem as though they must have been stolen from the mouths of adults. Thankfully, their new album, Stay Gold, proves how seamlessly their precocious talent has evolved into something with true staying power.
It’s a richer, more orchestral offering than its two predecessors, and, cloaked with images of road trips and the Deep South, hangs together with a coherent self-assurance. Surprisingly though, First Aid Kit never planned any of this. “We didn’t really have a concept,” they tell us. “The songs just ended up calling for a big arrangement, and we brought in strings… But that wasn’t a conscious decision, it was just the way the record ended up turning out. The songs just needed that. We don’t really think of our records as having a concept.”
First Aid Kit live at Islington Assembly Hall. Photo: Richard Gray/Gigwise
It’s perhaps this effortless cohesion that has led to the album’s incredibly warm reception. When we speak to them sitting in a non descript Swedish hotel room, they’ve just played Green Man Festival - a set they describe as “probably our favourite festival show ever. It was magical.” Despite the album being newly released, people already sing along with enthusiasm. “People know the songs, and they’re excited about it, and that’s all we can ask for really.”
Amongst the lyrics crowds have been bellowing back includes the line: “I always thought that you’d be here / But shit gets fucked up, and people just disappear." It's the latest in the band's sideline in acerbic wit. ‘Hard Believer’, for example, from the band’s first album The Big Black & The Blue, is a fairly unflinching “no thank you” to religion. “Well I see you’ve got your bible,” they sing, wryly. “Your delusion imagery.”
"I had a friend who was very, very religious,” Klara explains of the song’s origins. “We just discussed religion a lot, and I wrote that song for him. You know, the older I get, I understand other people’s views more and more, but I still don’t believe you have to believe in something… not in that way at least.”
Listen to 'Master Pretender' below
“I don’t think we’re afraid to be a little bit political,” adds Johanna, though they insist their music doesn’t have any specific message. “I think a lot of artists are scared of that. We’re also not scared of calling ourselves feminists.”
Naturally enough there follows a conversation about encountering any sexism in the music industry. In fact, as it turns out, their issues are not with the industry, but with the media surrounding it. “We talked to Haim about this actually" says Klara. "We just said that we’re tired of being asked about 'What it’s like being a woman in a band?' Because we don’t feel like we should have to be champions for that.”
“We’re feminists,” Johannah reiterates, “but at the same time, we shouldn’t have to talk about it. It should just be natural that we’re doing music and that we’re women. Not, ‘Oh, so you’re girls doing music? How crazy!’ It shouldn’t even be brought up ideally.” Feeling slightly guilty for perpetuating this, we begin to offer our apologies. “No no no!” they interrupt. “We brought it up ourselves. But we shouldn’t have to be role models for all girls. It’s a lot of pressure.”
Then there’s the endless comparisons they are constantly fending off, most of which are irrelevant. “We always get compared to other women. Every female artist gets compared to Kate Bush. Anything a bit different from the mainstream, it’s like, ‘Kate Bush!’ You know, Kate Bush is amazing, but…”
One can’t help but feel that in a few years, it’ll be First Aid Kit whose name is being lazily attached to any up-and-coming female musicians. “Making an album,” they tell us, “is really special. Just creating your own little world. We hope that people will take the time out and step into that world for a little while.” If their music continues its trajectory of ever-growing depth and fullness, we have little doubt that people will be clamouring to step in.
As for their plans for the rest of the year? “Touring, touring, touring. Yeah, touring.” They pause. “Until we die.”
Below: 14 stunning photos of First Aid Kit at Islington Assembly Hall
More about: First Aid Kit