“I’m a master pretender,” wafts from the speakers of my record player as I listen to First Aid Kit sing a track from their newest album, Stay Gold. Yet, after a brief phone chat with these soulful, real-deal sisters, it’s clear they’re doing anything but pretending.
First Aid Kit is sisters Johanna and Klara Soderberg. They grew up in the suburbs of Stolkholm, Sweden in a home steeped in the arts.
“Our mom is a film professor, and our dad was a professional musician in the eighties,” Klara said. (Their father was a member of Swedish rock band, Lolita Pop.) “We were always around culture and we always knew we wanted to do something creative,” Johanna added.
As they grew, their love of singing and telling stories together forayed naturally into songwriting.
“There isn’t a time I can remember when we weren’t singing together,” Klara says, “and when we were 13 and 16 we started singing in harmony and writing together.”
The girls attended The English school of Enskede (which accounts for their very American-like accents), but you’ll be surprised to hear that they are not formally trained in music.
“Our parents offered to pay for lessons, but we were self-taught and learned by being around music growing up,” Johanna said.
“[With songwriting]”, Klara says, “[we believe] there are no rules, its about emotion and…go[ing] with your gut and hav[ing] a lot of imagination…We get to make what we want to make…we think it’s important for people to know we [aren’t formally trained but] got good because we do it a lot and we love practicing and singing. ”
Passion and hard work brought them to where they are now, and authenticity to themselves and their artistic vision has earned them a devoted fan base. Being one of those fans, I can vouch for it: listening to First Aid Kit’s is like hearing my own mercurial, poignant existence put to music.
“We want our music to be honest, that’s why we’re so drawn to country and folk. You don’t need to be a goddess with a huge production crew, you just need to feel and be who you are,” First Aid Kit says.
Here, First Aid Kit is especially talking to you, my lovely Smart Girls. The Soderberg sisters are serious when it comes to supporting and inspiring other women to do what they love, a credit to their “hardcore feminist” mom, they say.
“She is really amazing…very honest and outspoken; a no bullshit kind of woman,” they said. Johanna and Klara definitely take after her.
“…[If you want to do something] just do it. You need to sit down and play and hone in on your craft. Don’t think you can’t do it because you’re young or a girl… In our culture, men are told to stand out and women are told not to take up too much space. But, as a girl, you should feel that what you do is valid and know that someone will find it interesting. Dare to share it,” Klara said.
“Even if people don’t take you seriously, don’t let it stop you. Look at how far we are. We showed em’!” Johanna adds with a giggle, exemplifying that down-to-earth charm these Soderberg gals have so well. (Further case and point: “At some point, we want to get dogs and buy a house on a farm.”)
Johanna and Klara say they are extremely happy about where they are now: touring all over the world, meeting their idols (like Jack White, Bright Eyes, Emmylou Harris) and making adoring fans. Plus, it looks like these determined Soderberg songtresses will be sticking around a while, giving you permission to continue (or begin) your addiction.
“We want to keep doing this for a long time,” First Aid Kit says. “In a way that’s comfortable to us…When it comes to our music, we’re very determined to do what we like and follow our vision. No one, not our label or manager, can get in the way of our vision.”