Swedish Americana: First Aid Kit return to their favorite place in the U.S.

After listening to the first few chords of a First Aid Kit song, it’s clear the Soderberg sisters were meant to make music. Klara and Johanna, 22- and 19-year-old Stockholm natives, have captivated audiences across the globe with their hauntingly beautiful folk-inspired melodies and atmospheric songs.

The Soderberg sisters were discovered in 2008 after covering Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song,” filmed in a forest in Sweden. Leaning into each other and sitting side-by-side, Klara strums the guitar as the sisters’ sharp and alluring voices take flight. The video became an Internet sensation.

“That was sort of the turning point in our career,” Johanna tells Xpress. “I remember watching the view count going up on that video, and realizing that people cared about what we were doing; that it had an impact. That was probably the biggest moment [for us] so far, ‘cause everything changed after that.”

Since then, First Aid Kit has released two albums: 2010’s The Big Black and the Blue, and this year’s The Lion’s Roar. They’ve toured across the world, collaborated with Jack White and Conor Oberst, and have shared the stage with Fleet Foxes, Patti Smith and Paul Simon.

It might seem unlikely that such powerful voices in Americana would hail from Sweden, but Klara and Johanna draw from a broad range of musical influences. “Both our parents are music lovers,” says Johanna. “Our dad was in a band during the ‘80s called Lolita Pop, and they played rock music. [Growing up] we listened to David Bowie, Patti Smith, Television, Velvet Underground, Pixies, stuff like that.”

“When I was 12,” says Klara, picking up where her sister left off, “I first heard the band Bright Eyes and just fell in love. I then found Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt Leonard Cohen, all of those, and thought, ‘Hey, maybe I should try to do this, to write a song.’”

For her 13th birthday, Klara got a guitar. “I just started playing, and started recording demos of the songs I was writing,” Klara says. “Johanna asked if she could sing on one of them, and that’s sort of how we started.”

Interestingly, the Soderberg’s success has brought them full circle, and in 2012 they got to record with members of the band that motivated them to take songwriting seriously. “When we got to meet Mike Mogis [Bright Eyes’ producer] and work with him to make this record, and work with the band that essentially made us want to make music in the first place, that was huge for us,” says Klara.

Listening to either of First Aid Kit’s albums, one is transported into a unique world. Both uplifting and deeply sad, their songs tend to pull in two directions at once. “There has to be a problem, tension,” Johanna says. “A lot of our songs are stories, we haven’t experienced everything about them, but it’s about us anyway, about emotions and everyday sadness that all humans have to live through.”

Like most things, the two work together when writing and composing. “Klara usually starts them off,” says Johanna of their songwriting. “Yeah,” adds Klara. “I tend to write the verse, and what usually happens is I get stuck and I say, ‘Johanna, help me!’ And we finish them together.”

This will be First Aid Kit’s second performance in Asheville (they played at the Orange Peel last November with Lykke Li, who headlined), and they’re looking forward to returning. “We did really love playing in Asheville,” Klara says. “We didn’t know much about the city when we came, but quickly fell in love with it. It’s a beautiful city, and there’s something about it.”
Johanna interjects, “We were both like, ‘We want to live here!’”

“I like being in a city where I can see the forest at the same time,” Klara says. “I want to always feel close to nature. It’s one of our favorite places in the U.S. so far.”

“Completely,” says Johanna, “and we don’t say that to everyone, I promise you.”

— Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt can be reached at asezakblatt@mountainx.com.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt
Aiyanna grew up on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. She was educated at The Cambridge School of Weston, Sarah Lawrence College, and Oxford University. Aiyanna lives in Asheville, North Carolina where she proudly works for Mountain Xpress, the city’s independent local newspaper.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.