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- Posted on Mar 15th 2010 3:55PM by Liz Raftery
On the heels of their debut album, 'The Big Black & the Blue,' which is out in May, Swedish sister duo Klara and Johanna Soderberg are getting ready to bring their folksy harmonies to America for the first time. Though only 17 and 19 respectively, Klara and Johanna have already attracted the attention of their compatriots the Knife, who signed First Aid Kit to their record label, Rabid Records, and released the duo's first EP in 2008. Spinner caught up with Klara to get her thoughts on what the rest of the year has in store for her and her sister, beginning with their appearance at SXSW.
Describe your sound to someone who's unfamiliar with your music.
Strong vocals. Harmonies, plenty of them. An acoustic guitar, some keyboards and occasionally a bit of drumming. Emotional and atmospheric. Storytelling. We aim for touching peoples' hearts, however cliche that might sound. We want to make people feel something. [Whether] it's a feeling of sadness or happiness doesn't really matter, as long as they feel something when listening to it.
When did you first begin playing music, and how did you decide to begin writing together?
The idea of making music was always in our heads since we were very young, but we thought of it more as a dream than a realistic goal. We have been singing since we were children. Our home was always filled with music. Our father would play the guitar while our mother would sing along to Patti Smith or Velvet Underground. We made songs too. I clearly remember practicing the choreography for my first song 'Femton mil i min Barbiebil,' which translates to "fifteen miles in my Barbie car," together with a friend of mine. When I was 12, I got my first guitar. Two years later, when I learned my first chords, I wrote my first song, and I recorded it and made a MySpace page. When I wrote my second song, Johanna joined in and sang some harmonies with me. We listened to it and we thought our voices together really added something to the music. When we uploaded demos on our MySpace page, we had no idea it would take us this far. We only did it for fun. It all went a lot faster than we expected.
Does the fact that you're sisters make it easier or more difficult to write and record together?
This is a tricky one to answer. Since I've never made music with anyone else but my sister, I couldn't say. But working with someone who you know so well makes it very easy for me. We don't have to talk too much about what we want to do musically. We don't have to compromise, but we are almost always on the same page.
Who does most of the writing, or is it split equally?
Since I started writing the first songs, it is naturally me who writes the most part of the songs. However, we have made songs completely together, and most of the songs I start writing we finish together.
Are your parents supportive of your musical career?
They couldn't be more supportive, and they're supportive in a good way. Our father, who has a lot of experience and knowledge of the music business, acts as a tour manager and sound technician. He also produced our album and our EP with us. Our mother also helps out from home. Our six-year-old brother is working on getting ready to play the drums with us as well (laughs). Family is very important.
How were you "discovered" by Rabid Records?
Our little brother went to the same kindergarten as Karin Dreijer from the Knifes' children. Our mother started talking about our musical project with Karin and asked her for advice. She liked our music and became a mentor for us. Eventually she decided that it would be best if we released our first record on her label. We're very grateful for what she has done for us.
Who are some of your musical influences?
There aren't many Swedish acts that are so obviously influenced by American music as we are, I believe. Tallest Man On Earth is the only one who comes to mind, and he is fabulous. I hope there will be more folky Swedish acts rising in the future. We mainly listen to American traditional folk and country music. We are as inspired by old stuff like the Carter Family, Bill Monroe and the Louvin Brothers as well as contemporary music like Bright Eyes, Joanna Newsom and Alela Diane. It was the music of Bright Eyes that initially opened the door to this American roots music. I think it was the sincerity of the music. It felt like they were singing and playing this music out of the sheer joy of it. The simplicity and honesty shook me and inspired me to make music of my own. We also love the British folk scene, with Laura Marling, Johnny Flynn and Emmy the Great, among others.
What's your musical guilty pleasure?
Lady Gaga. Enough said.
How did you come up with your band name?
When I was 12, I decided that if I was ever going to make music, I wanted to work under a pseudonym. I scanned through an English-Swedish dictionary and found the name First Aid Kit. When I started performing live with Johanna, we decided to stick with that name. For us, our band name means that our music is a sort of consolation, a comfort. Call it a plaster for the soul, if you like.
Are you excited about playing SXSW?
We are extremely excited to play at SXSW. This will be our first time at the festival, and also our first time ever in America. Playing in America has always been a big dream for us since we're in love with American music and culture. We're so happy about this!
What's in your festival survival kit?
The three most essential things to bring are a poncho, a pair of Wellington boots and an umbrella. Instruments can also be useful to bring if you play at a festival. And a First Aid Kit, of course. Bad joke. Sorry, couldn't resist.
Do you have any plans to tour America in 2010 besides SXSW?