Best of What's Next: First Aid Kit

Music Features First Aid Kit
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Hometown: Stockholm, Sweden
Album: The Black and the Blue
Members: Johanna Söderberg (autoharp, keys, vocals), Klara Söderberg (guitar, vocals)
For Fans Of: Fleet Foxes, Neko Case, Samantha Crain 

The two sisters who make up First Aid Kit had never been to the United States before this March, when they shuttled over from Sweden to play at the 2010 South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin, Texas. But from the country-tinged harmonies on their debut full-length, The Black and the Blue (released in May) you’d never know it. Nineteen-year-old Johanna Söderberg says that she and her 17-year-old sister Klara are “a bit obsessed” with American culture, endlessly inspired by the stories and sounds of the States’ country-western and folk music traditions. “The stories that they tell are usually tragic, horrible stories of murder and madness and greed,” she says. “I think we’re really inspired by that combination of beautiful harmonies and beautiful melodies and really sad lyrics.”

First Aid Kit’s music has the beauty-against-carnage feel of the best dusty, antiquated country records; lyrics about death and decay are set amid warm, luminous harmonies and delicate acoustic strumming. Despite the singers’ slight ages, The Black and the Blue touches on some pretty heavy themes—take the longing of the narrator in “Winter Is All Over You,” and “Hard Believer,” which was inspired by Klara’s conversations about religion with a Jehovah’s Witness. “She almost got him to quit,” Johanna says. “But now they’re friends.”

The Söderberg sisters recorded their album at home in Stockholm over a period of eight months, during weekends and breaks from school, with their father producing. They also recorded a gorgeous rendition of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” as a tribute to one of their favorite bands, whose debut LP they “listened to the record basically every day for three months,” Johanna admits. The duo is currently wrapping up a U.S. tour before heading back to Europe and spending the summer playing festivals—familiar territory for them, and not just thanks to their recent SXSW run. Johanna recalls the time they performed at an electronica festival in Sweden: “Guys in tattoos and piercings were crying,” she says. “It was really funny.”

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