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First Aid Kit deliver feeling and folk

by The Concordian March 27, 2012
First Aid Kit deliver feeling and folk

Okay, it’s official; Scandinavian countries kick ass. Sure, they’ve got the whole tuition-free education system thing mapped out, but I’m talking about the music. Somehow their progressive social structures, northern weather and mish-mash influences have fused together to create some of the freshest, most creative and raw music out there. Sweden’s sister-duo First Aid Kit is no exception to the rule.
From YouTube clips and homegrown EPs, to collaborating with some of music’s finest, young vocalists and instrumentalists Johanna and Klara Söderberg have topped Sweden’s charts for weeks now with their latest full-length release, The Lion’s Roar.
“It’s really weird,” eldest sister Johanna tells me over Skype about their newfound fame. “We walk around the streets of Stockholm and I can see people looking at us differently; some even come up and talk to us. I guess sometimes we probably would prefer to just go about our stuff, but I’ve always seen it as something you have to take when you decide to become a musician.”
They will be getting a small break over the next few months, as they tour North America where they can still be considered a fan’s well-kept secret. But given the group’s raw vocals, perfect harmonies, catchy tunes and stunning performances, they won’t be enjoying anonymity here for too long.
People have been trying to peg down First Aid Kit’s genre since the very start.
“That question always trips me up,” Johanna admits, laughing. “Klara and I actually came up with ‘folkal,’ or folk music that focuses on our vocals. I guess that could work, but to be honest, we think it’s kind of cool that everyone has their own way of interpreting what we do. It’s never felt too important for us to fit into any given genre.”
Their sound has also evolved considerably. Their 2008 EP Drunken Trees was a warm, woodsy and stripped-down effort, with their track “Tangerine” featuring laments expected only of women much older than the two sisters, who recorded the album at the tender ages of 15 and 17.
Next came The Big Black and the Blue in 2010, which had them touring extensively across Europe, North America and Australia with a medley of increasingly polished and toe-tapping tracks. It was during one of those shows that they were approached by The White Stripes frontman and music producer, Jack White. They recorded two titles with White, including a cover of Canadian singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “Universal Soldier.”
Things kept picking up for the sisters, and in February 2011, they linked up with Bright Eyes for a performance of their track “Lua.” That collaboration would prove defining. Next thing they knew, producer extraordinaire and Bright Eyes multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis was offering to produce their next record.
The result is their most recent effort: a country-tinged album that is by far the band’s most polished and mature.
“Country was a really natural progression for us, and this album has made us much more confident,” Johanna explains. “Working with Mike, which was completely surreal, has also made us want to really live up to the studio’s name and to his expectations. We were definitely much more focused under that kind of pressure than we ever were recording in our room over weekends and holidays. I think that was really good for us.”
The availability of top-of-the-line equipment and a slew of new instruments have also changed the group’s sound—a far cry from their early YouTube debut. In fact, the girls are now the ones being covered.
“[YouTube] has been a really, really good thing for us,” says Johanna. “I guess you could say that we’re not selling as many records, but it’s opened so many doors and provided us with so many opportunities—it’s like a musical revolution, really.”
The girls will be hitting up Montreal on April 3, performing their new stuff at La Sala Rossa. “We’re excited to come back to Montreal with the new album,” says Johanna. “We haven’t properly toured in over a year and the album is really fun for live performances, a lot of singing along and fun, dynamic crowds.”
If previous performances are any indication, expect some soul-wrenching harmonies, quirky sister banter and a powerful dose of Scandinavian creativity.

First Aid Kit play La Sala Rossa (4848 Saint-Laurent Blvd.) on April 3. Tickets are $17 in advance or $20 at the door.

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