First Aid Kit – in concert at The Biggest Weekend in Belfast and recorded by BBC 6 Music on May 26, 2018.
Taking a minor detour from our French excursion this week with the Swedish duo First Aid Kit as they did a gig at the 2018 Biggest Weekend Festival in Belfast, Ireland.
Sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg are from Enskede, in the outskirts of Stockholm. Johanna was born on 31 October 1990 and Klara on 8 January 1993. Their father was a member of the Swedish rock pop band Lolita Pop but he quit before Johanna was born and later became a teacher of history and religion. Their mother is a teacher of cinematography.
From childhood, Klara and Johanna were eager singers by giving concerts using a jump rope as a pretend microphone. Klara’s first favorite songs were Judy Garland’s songs from The Wizard of Oz and Billie Holiday’s version of “Gloomy Sunday”, which she sang without much understanding of the English lyrics. Klara wrote her first song “Femton mil i min Barbiebil” [Fifteen miles in my Barbie car] when she was six.
They both attended the International English school of Enskede. Klara applied for admission to a music school but she was not accepted.
In 2005 when Klara was 12, a friend introduced her to the band Bright Eyes. This led her to country music stars such as Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Carter family, Louvin Brothers, Townes Van Zandt, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. The same year she received a guitar of her own as a Christmas present and quickly learned to play it.
Johanna enjoyed a wide range of music from Britney Spears to German Techno. However, it wasn’t until watching the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? and listening to the film’s soundtrack that she was inspired to sing “Down in the River to Pray” with her sister, Klara. Fascinated by the result they started to sing together first at home and then as street singers, for example in the Stockholm metro and in front of liquor stores. Klara preemptively came up with the name for their band at age 13 by looking through a dictionary. She found the term “first aid kit” and thought it described best what she wanted her music to be.
Klara and Johanna also started to write and compose their own country-folk songs inspired by Devendra Banhart and CocoRosie, among others, without much influence from their parents who were more fond of Patti Smith, Velvet Underground and the Pixies. Their father confessed later in a Swedish radio program that he was astonished and actually a little jealous of the ease his daughters had in producing top-notch music. The most important advice their father gave to them was to sing so loud that even somebody behind the wall could hear it.
On 12 January 2018 BBC’s Graham Norton Show was broadcast where First Aid Kit performed “It’s a Shame”. At the same time Johanna and Klara were interviewed on the Norwegian-Swedish Skavlan TV show where they also performed “Fireworks”.
The new album Ruins was released on 19 January 2018. A gold record was awarded in Sweden in August and silver record in UK in November. The release was followed by several tours in Canada, the US, Europe and Australia. They performed at Coachella on 14 and 21 April 2018. They had their first arena concerts in UK in November and had arena size concert tour in Scandinavia starting in January 2019. During touring they performed in several radio and TV programs such as The Ellen DeGeneres Show, The Andrew Marr Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
On 8 June Columbia released an EP Live from the Rebel Hearts Club in digital format that contains live versions of five songs from the Ruins album in addition to a live version of You are the problem here. On 11 July Spotify released a stripped-down version of “Fireworks” and a cover of Kate Bush’s song “Running Up That Hill” as singles that were recorded in the new Spotify studio in Stockholm. On 14 September vinyl EP Tender Offerings was released containing four previously unreleased tracks. It went number one in UK vinyl charts.
First Aid Kit sings backing vocals on several 2018 releases: on Alela Diane’s song Ether & Wood on her album Cusp, on George Ezra’s song Saviour on his album Staying at Tamara’s and on Little Jinder’s song Goldwing on her album Hejdå.
UK Americana Awards 2019 nominated Ruins for International Album of the Year award in November and in Sweden they got Grammy award nominations for the song of the year and alternative pop of the year in December. In January 2019 they got again nomination for the International Group Brit Award.
So now you’re all caught up. Hit the play button, sit back and enjoy. Back to Paris tomorrow.