Interview met First Aid Kit
Het was de vierde keer dat de dames van First Aid Kit in Nederland optraden, en de tweede keer dat ze in Paradiso optraden. Voor het optreden kregen we even de tijd om met Johanna en Klara te praten over het opnemen van het nieuwe album The Lion’s Roar en hun tour door Noord-Amerika.
Why are you called First Aid Kit?
Johanna: ‘When we started making music, Clara found it in an English dictionairy when she was twelve. We sort of stuck with it and kept using that name from then. For us it means that our music is some sort of consolation, it’s what helps us get through life. Music should be like a plaster for your soul, that’s really what we want our music to be.’
So you started of from a very young age. How was your first paid performance?
Johanna: ‘I can’t remember. Our first performance was in a library with just our friends and family. After that we formed as a band an it was the first time that I realized that this is what we wanted to do.’
What is it that attracts you in folk music?
Johanna: ‘It’s very simple and basic. The arrangements are very sparse, and the lyrics are very straightforward. It’s very honest and it touches you directly. And there’s also a lot of storytelling in it. We’ve always loved to sing together and to tell stories so this was natural music to us. There’s not much manufactured about it, it’s just straight from the heart.’
How did the cover you guys did from the Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song influence your fame?
Klara: ‘That was really the first time a lot of people heard about us. YouTube is such a powerful tool to spread music all over the world. It enabled us to play all over the world. It’s really a huge thing and we were very surprised that it went so fast.’
So from that moment on you got a lot of bookings outside Sweden?’
Klara: ‘Yeah, that was sort of how it started. But we were still in school so we couldn’t do that much at the time’
When did you write the song The Lion’s Roar and what is it about?
Klara: ‘That song was the first song we wrote for the record. We wrote it when we were on tour. We were driving throught the moors of Scotland, this dramatic landscape. It was inspiring driving through there, so we just started writing the song in the car.’
You have just returned from the North America Tour. How was that?
Klara: ‘We love playing in America. We feel very at home there, culturally. And our music is inspired by Americans. It was cool playing with McKinley and Bright Eyes. It’s going really well for them and it was interesting to follow them for so long.’
Is there any difference between an American public and a European public?
Klara: ‘I think Americans are a little lowder. Which can be both positive and negative.’ Johanna: ‘Yeah, they’re not afraid to show you what they think of your music. In here, people are more respectful for the artist. But it’s very different from show to show, there’s no way of saying which is better. You can have amazing shows anywhere and bad shows anywhere.’
What was your favorite experience about the tour?
Klara: ‘We had an amazing time when we were in Florida. It was very warm, it felt more like a holiday than an actual tour. We had a lot of time off, so we could spend a day at the beach and we went to Disneyworld.’
Johanna: ‘It’s nice when you have some time to actually check out the places you go to. But the best part about touring is always playing live and you see that people really know the songs, and they’re singing along. You get so much from that. It’s such a huge compliment to see people truly love the music.’
I saw that you did a cover of Fever Ray, I’m a huge Fever Ray fan. Why did you cover this? I can imagine that it’s a genre of music that’s quite distant from yours.
Johanna: ‘We’re very close friends to her and so we wanted to make a tribute to her. She meant a lot for our music, she released our first EP and so we just wanted to give something back. ‘When I Grow Up’ is one of our favorite songs she’s written. It’s interesting to take a completely different song and turn it into something that’s our style.’
Klara: ‘Something is really great about the Knife and Fever Ray. Down to core they’re just these great songs. Obviously there’s so much cool stuff happening but when you get down to it, they’re all just great, honest songs.’
Was it hard to convert that song into your own style?
Klara: ‘No, not at all. Just play it with a guitar and sing. That’s the approach we have, just to do it very simply.’
What has been the main inspiration for the album The Lion’s Roar?
Klara: ‘We’ve been touring a lot so it’s inspired by the expierences of that tour, the people we met, the new difficulties in life we had to face. We were really inspired by Joni Mitchell and Buffy Sainte-Marie. Those were our main inspirations.’
How does it differ from the last album?
Klara: ‘Obviously we’re older and we try to be more direct and personal. That’s been easier because we have more stuff to write about. Getting to perform in Omaha in this amazing studio was a really big deal for us, compared to recording at home in Johanna’s bedroom basically.’
Johanna: ‘It’s just a bigger, deeper sound. We feel like the songwriting has developed and also the arrangements have developed. Everything just stepped up. I’m not saying we were bad before but I feel like this is something that we really can stand for. We feel really good about it.’
Can you tell me something about the songwriting process, how does that work for you guys?
Klara: ‘The lyrics come first, and then the melody.’
Johanna: ‘It always starts with a line or a couple of lines. You don’t really don’t know how it happens, but suddenly you come up with something and you think: that’s good, I should write that down. Sometimes you just continue writing, it’s just this continuous flow of words and sometimes you have to work a little more, go back to stuff and work on it. There’s no method or something, you just have to let it happen. We don’t want to force our songs.
What has been your biggest challenge so far as a duo?
Klara: ‘We’re just so grateful that we get to this. There’s not a lot of negative things about it. It’s hard to be away from your family and friends all the time, but we get to travel around the world making music. I think it’s a strength we have as a duo, because there’s always someone to support you at all times. You don’t have to take all the responsibilities on your own. With all the pressure it’s good to have someone to take out on your anger.’
Can you tell me a cool story or a funny story of something that happened once while you were performing?
‘We only have one story. We played at this festival in Norway and our grandfather was there. He saw us for the first time and he’s a priest. We were performing a song called ‘Sailor Song’, a cheerful dancing song. All of the sudden a man stood in front of the stage, he was naked. He hopped on stage and started dancing behind us and there were no guards at that time so he just kept going the entires song. We didn’t stop, we kept going because we didn’t know what to do. We thought someone was going to take him off stage, but then he kept dancing for the entire song. Someone eventually came to take him off and we had to stop the song, but we just laughed together with the audience. Our brother was also at that show and he’s six. He asked if this always happens.’
Last question. What are your plans for the future?
‘For us releasing this record is really big. And there’s still places we want to go to, we’re going to Japan next week, which is really awesome. It’s something that we never thought we would do it. There’s just so many opportunities that show up. We never thought we would do this record with Bright Eyes. We got to perform for Patti Smith in Sweden and we recorded with Jack White from the White Stripes. We don’t really know what’s going to happen, we don’t have set goals. We just hope to continue to develop as musicians and that people will like our music for as long as we live.’