Gallery is here. First Aid Kit photos here taken by Angel Ceballos in Seattle.
First Aid Kit
Interview by Alexander Laurence
First Aid Kit is a band of two swedish teenagers Klara Söderberg (17) and Johanna Söderberg (19). First Aid Kit have been gathering numerous fans worldwide since the release of their “Drunken Trees EP” in February 2009. Their first full length, “The Big Black and The Blue,” comes out this month in the USA. This release will be followed by their first tour of the States in June 2010.
They have played a few shows at SXSW. They have toured the UK and Sweden, but many of us discovered them a while ago on youtube. I am looking forward to their first show in Los Angeles. The reviews have been very positive about their first album. I got to talk to them before they embarked on their first American tour.
AL: How was your experience of SXSW?
First Aid Kit: It was pretty amazing for us to be there. We had never been to America before, so we were excited about that. It’s such a big event that it’s an honor to be part of that. It is a strange environment, but we knew it was a special place to be.
AL: How many shows did you play?
First Aid Kit: We played six shows that week. We played two at the Mohawk. That was our official gig. We played at some other bars. It was chaotic. It was weird, but fun.
AL: Do you just jump on stage and play?
First Aid Kit: We like to do a longer soundcheck. That was impossible there. It’s just the two of us, so it’s not that difficult. We were supposed to play upstairs at a bar. It didn’t work out so we played two songs at another part of the bar where there was an open spot. Another show was cancelled. Sometimes things are strange there and there’s no way of controlling it.
AL: You were supposed to play CMJ back in October 2009. What happened there?
First Aid Kit: We didn’t get our visas in time for the show. It is very difficult to get a work visa sometimes.
AL: Have you played in the UK?
First Aid Kit: Yeah. We have done two proper tours there. We love it. We miss England. We played with Slow Club and Fanfarlo. We did a double headline show with Fanfarlo. Then we did our own headline show. All the shows have been great and exciting. We love the UK audiences.
AL: There are some new bands like Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling in England? What do you think of that?
First Aid Kit: We are not from England and not a real part of that movement. But we feel that there is a big interest in folk music in England. Swedish folk music is very different. We are a like outsiders here in Sweden.
AL: How many videos have you done? I have seen a few where you are in the forest, and others like “Hard Believer” which are more proper videos.
First Aid Kit: We have done a few on our own with a digital camera, like the Fleet Foxes video. The others in the forest we just did ourselves. We just went out and played some cover songs. Then there are a few videos of us in the forest made by some other guys. They are professionals. It was in the same forest where we did the Fleet Foxes song. It’s about five minutes away from where we live. And then we made two more videos, like you said, which are standard videos. They are not live performances.
AL: I saw the covers of Fleet Foxes and Johnny Cash. Which other songs have you covered?
First Aid Kit: Johnny Cash was not our production. We were in Paris and this guy filmed it. We have done “Simple Man” by Graham Nash. There have been about five songs altogether.
AL: Did you find some of these records in your parent’s record collection?
First Aid Kit: No. They don’t really listen to folk music. They were more into rock.
AL: When you said “I like Bright Eyes or Graham Nash” what was your parents’ reaction?
First Aid Kit: A pleasant surprise. Prior to that we listened to more mainstream radio music. They were very happy that we discovered this. As a family we were into the songs on “O Brother, Where Art Thus?” We liked bluegrass.
AL: You had already started the band before you heard Fleet Foxes, am I right?
First Aid Kit: We had released out EP prior to hearing them and recording the cover. We changed the key of the song. Robin Pecknold is such a great guitarist. It was easier for me to play the song the way I played it. I think we left out a chord in the middle. We played with Robin in a festival in Holland. We were so excited to be there, I didn’t know what to do because we do the song in a different key. I am glad we got to do that. Fleet Foxes had seen our video right after we uploaded it.
AL: You have a brother too. Does everyone tour with you?
First Aid Kit: No. Just our father. Our mother and brother are very involved, but our father is the only one who tours with us. He is the only one we work with. It’s a family affair.
AL: The EP sounds a little different from the album. What was going on then?
First Aid Kit: We weren’t sure what we wanted to do. We were just playing around with it. It has a charm. It’s very playful. We are more mature on the album and we had listened to more music by then. We knew more what we wanted to do on the album than when we did the EP.
AL: When did you record the EP and the album?
First Aid Kit: The EP was recorded in 2007. The album started in December 2008 and ended in May 2009. We were still going to school, so we would record it on the weekends.
AL: Have you finished school yet?
First Aid Kit: Yes. Klara took two years off. Our father is a high school teacher. He knows what we are missing. In Sweden, if you miss school, you can always go to school later. It was a choice of whether you wanted to go to school, and do math, or be in a band, go on tour, and be in a studio. It wasn’t hard to make that decision.
AL: I met some Swedish bands, and they told me that the government gives you money to be in a band. Is that true?
First Aid Kit: It’s not exactly like that. The government does help you out but I don’t know if it has helped the music. I still have the opportunity to go back to school when I am thirty. Sweden has a lot of bands.
AL: Have you met a lot of other Swedish bands?
First Aid Kit: Yeah. You definitely feel part of a community. It’s like a big family that supports each other. It’s very encouraging that there are a bunch of Swedish bands out there who already have international careers.
AL: Are you in Stockholm?
First Aid Kit: Yeah.
AL: I noticed that in some of the early videos there is a lot of flannel shirts. But as you go along, there is less. Are you going to bring the flannel on this American tour?
First Aid Kit: I had a flannel period. Now I am trying to mix it up. I will be bringing one flannel shirt just in case. We don’t wear it too much anymore, but maybe when we get to Los Angeles, we will do so.
AL: When you get to Seattle are we going to do a photo session in the forest there?
First Aid Kit: Yeah!
AL: But I heard that Johanna is afraid of trees.
First Aid Kit: That’s scary. You really know me. It’s not all trees. I am scared of certain trees that have been cut a certain way. I am not afraid of the forest. I love the forest.
AL: I see that you did the Bandstand Busking thing. Have you done real busking in Sweden?
First Aid Kit: I did it once when I was 11 or 12. I wasn’t doing it for the money. I was just singing to see how people reacted. It was a great experience. You have hecklers standing there saying “You suck.” You have to take that in. If you are on a stage, there is a respect. But if you just on the street it’s like you are a nobody. Most people are nice.
AL: You play some rock clubs where people drink. Do you have hecklers there?
First Aid Kit: Oh yeah. We were singing “In The Morning” a capella, and some guy was yelling at us once. I told him to shut up and have some respect. You have to talk to them.
AL: You have to make sure you are not going on before some heavy rock outfit.
First Aid Kit: We have no control over those things. We play with a drummer now, so we have more volume. People tend to be quiet when we play.
AL: Do you like The Mighty Boosh?
First Aid Kit: We love that show. (Starts singing “The Soup Song”).
AL: Are there any bands that you like recently?
First Aid Kit: Well, I like Samantha Crain. I can’t believe that she is opening up for us, and I get to watch her every night. We like watching the support bands.
AL: What songs do you play now?
First Aid Kit: A few songs from the EP, a lot of songs from the album, a few covers, and maybe a new song.
AL: How many songs have you written?
First Aid Kit: Eighteen. Plus some new ones.
FIRST AID KIT will be playing their first Los Angeles show ever on June 1st, 2010 at the Bootleg Theater.