Latitude: First Aid Kit on Sweden’s musical revival, gluten free pizza and their third album, Stay Gold

19:07 08 June 2014

Klara Soderberg (left) and her older sister Johanna

Klara Soderberg (left) and her older sister Johanna

Archant

First Aid Kit join Robynn and Lykke Li to help form an impressive Swedish contingent at Latitude this year, we caught up with Johanna and Klara Soderberg ahead of their third appearance at the festival.

How long have you been performing together and when did you know you had what it took to be successful?

We have always been singing since we were children, the interest for music was always there. Our home was always filled with lots of good records. We started performing and writing songs as First Aid Kit in 2007, at the age of 14 and 16. We had no idea we would ever be successful or if we had what it took, but we quit school and started touring full time two years later. Gradually the crowds have grown bigger and bigger. It’s been an amazing journey.

How would you describe your music?

It’s folk, country and americana inspired pop music. The fact that we’re two sisters singing harmonies is definitely pretty important. It’s atmospheric, haunting, emotional and filled with storytelling elements. We strive for honesty - three chords and the truth.

How often do you argue and fall out?

We do argue everyday. It’s a natural thing when you’re sisters. Being on tour is a pretty intense experience so of course we get tired of each other occasionally. When you’re stressed out it’s sometimes easiest to take your anger out on the person next to you who you know well. However, it’s never a big issue for us. We usually just fight about small things like what to wear on stage or who get’s the last (gluten free) pizza slice. We forgive each other very quickly.

One of the most noticeable things about your music is your harmonies, is this something you’ve developed growing up together or do you find it just as easy to harmonise with other people?

It’s something we’ve developed through growing up. We barely have to think at all when we harmonise with each other, it’s so natural to us. Whatever we come up with harmony-wise the first time we write a song is usually what we end up going with on the album too. For us it’s probably the easiest part of our job. We love harmonising with other people too, for example we sing on Conor Oberst’s new record. But it’s definitely much harder to sing with someone else. You don’t know how they phrase things so you always have to be on your guard.

You seemed to shoot to fame after your Fleet Foxes cover (Tiger Mountain Peasant Song), what was that like? Are they one of your influences?

It was so amazing. We just went out into the forest outside of our house in Stockholm and shot our cover of Tiger Mountain for fun with a simple digital camera, one take. We didn’t think a single person would ever watch it. Shortly after we uploaded it on Youtube we sent it to the band and the next day they wrote back to us saying they loved it. We were completely overjoyed. The video got so many views after that. We’ll forever be grateful for it, the song really did a lot for us. We are huge Fleet Foxes fans, both their records have had a strong influence on our music. Robin Pecknold has such a spectacular voice and writes classic songs.

Who else have you been influenced by?

Our major influences in contemporary music are Bright Eyes, Joanna Newsom, Fleet Foxes and Gillian Welch. If we listen to older music it would be Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Simon & Garfunkel and Joni Mitchell, among others. We could literally go on forever with listing our influences, but these are the main ones.

Swedish artists are incredibly popular at the moment, why do you think that is?

We have no idea why so many Swedish bands are popular. Perhaps it’s because we inspire each other. We’re a pretty small country so you quickly get to know a lot of people in the music community. Seeing other bands being successful internationally is very exciting and makes you think you might have a go at it as well.

Your new album is released in the UK on June 9, how have you changed since the Lion’s Roar and what’s the reception been like for the new single?

We’ve become a lot more confident on stage and with our songwriting. We toured non-stop for two years with The Lion’s Roar so we got pretty comfortable and we probably became better musicians as well. The new album has bigger arrangements than the previous two. Some of the songs sound quite epic and orchestral, which is a new thing for us. We brought in local string and woodwind players to join us in the studio. It was something we definitely wanted to do because a lot of the songs we wrote called for that kind of a sound. It’s always a little bit scary putting out new music because you never know the what the reaction will be, but the reception for My Silver Lining has been fantastic thus far. We are thrilled to release the full album soon.

You’ve played a lot of festivals in the UK, what has the reception been like from British fans?

We love playing in the UK. It’s always been a blast. The reception has been really good. We don’t really know why, but we feel like there’s a big interest for our music in the UK.

You went on stage with Mumford and Sons for their closing set at Glastonbury in 2013, what was that like and how did it come about?

It all came about while hanging out backstage at the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury. We literally decided we were going to do it about an hour away from the performance. Mumford and Sons had a little rehearsal space backstage. Together with The Staves, Ezra from Vampire Weekend and the Vaccines we just did a quick run through of the song and then we went up on stage. It was absolutely mental! The biggest crowd we’ve ever sung for. It was so surreal, we couldn’t comprehend it at all, but it was a fantastic experience. We love those guys, they are the sweetest and have a good knowledge of folk music.

You played Latitude festival in 2012 and are set to return this year on the main stage again. What memories to you have of playing there and how do you feel about going back?

Our Latitude show in 2012 was awesome. We got to play the main stage which felt so huge. It was a great crowd. We played there in 2010 too, in a smaller set up in the woods. It was beautiful. We remember seeing the dyed sheep and thinking it was really funny.

When you were at Latitude in 2012 which other acts do you remember seeing and what was your favourite set?

We saw Lana del Rey for the first time and she was surprisingly good. The crowd was full of young girls screaming like crazy. It was a very memorable gig.

Who are you most looking forward to seeing at Latitude in 2014?

We want to see Dawes, Agnes Obel and of course Conor Oberst. It would be cool to catch fellow swede Robyn too. If we were able to see HAIM as well that would be so good, we love them. Go sister bands!

Tickets are still available for Latitude which takes place between July 17 to 20. Go to latitudefestival.com/tickets

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