First Aid Kit: The Sisters Who Conquered Country

With appearances on talk shows around the world, since being recognised at school, the two girls from Stockholm have made it big, earning many (often famous) fans…

Xander Brett

Picked up at school in the late 2000s, Klara and Johanna Söderberg have travelled so far that, if their post-set blaring of Dancing Queen was meant as a hint, they now (quite rightly) see themselves as part of the enormous, firmly established Swedish singer-songwriting landscape. They’ve been on all the big European and American chat shows, picked up awards worldwide (including a Nordic Music Prize and four Swedish Grammis in one year), and even sung their 2012 hit Emmylou in front of Emmylou Harris herself. With fans in the UK who range from Jo Whiley to former prime minister David Cameron (so desperate to see them, he apparently snuck into a gig whilst still in office), they’ve toured the world several times over, and the fans have grown stuck and grown.

In the handily – if accidentally – created Lloyds Amphitheatre on Bristol’s Harbourside, those crowds pitched up as usual. Jammed full of a spectrum (no middle-age takeover here), the girls were back in southwest England after releasing a new single (Angel, from their upcoming album, details yet to be confirmed), and playing a packed Glastonbury on the Friday, before heading for a couple of gigs in Yorkshire. They were on their way back to Sweden, where they’re spending July, before packing their bags for an American tour with Lord Hurun in August. Apart from Johanna’s baby, now in tow, they’re just the same: young and free, living the same 22-year-old life… just ten years later… and, presumably, with at least another ten to go.

The sisters (whose father, Benkt, was a member of the relatively successful Lolita Pop band) first sung together using a skipping rope at home. Klara (the oldest by two years) wrote her first song aged 6, and by the time a guitar arrived, aged 12, she and Johanna were hooked: heading down to the Tunnelbana to perform, and uploading songs to MySpace. Their first ‘proper’ song, Tangerine, was sent to Radio P3 in 2007, where it was put on air immediately, and would become one of the station’s summer favourites. Their debut EP, produced by Bengt, was hastily compiled for release the following year, as the Swedish fanbase grew. But it was their cover of Tiger Mountain Peasant Song that saw the global break. Fleet Foxes praised them, they signed to Wichita Records. Klara left high school. Johanna never started. Bengt took leave from his teaching job to act as tour manager.

Now preparing, as mentioned, for the release of their sixth album (the last, in March 2021, was a recording of a live Leonard Cohen tribute), the band have a catalogue of well-known staples to tour on. No longer (though it does still have to come out, right at the end) do they exist on the 166-million-streamed My Silver Lining (from 2014’s signature Stay Gold). Nowadays, out too comes the equally popular Fireworks, and a brilliant, ultra-professional cover of Don Henley’s The Boys of Summer). The regular Swedish smatterings, and the incomprehensible names of their brand-new, jump-suited backing musicians, remind us that – though slotting firmly into the Ward Thomas/Shires/Wandering Hearts club – this a band with a foreign touch, and one who can, therefore, pull a crowd apart from the Bob Harris ‘English country’ regulars. Though Klara picked the name to represent what they wanted the music to be – a healing (and it is, generally, wholesome…) – that doesn’t stop them being punchy when needed. Now at the forefront of Sweden’s monumental music industry, they are (and, I might add, always have been) Swedish and proud. A national export… First Aid Kit: determined to keep on keeping on.

FIRST AID KIT played Bristol Sounds. Their single, Angel, is out now, with an album soon to follow.

Extracts of this article have also been published in Nordic Style Magazine.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s