In six years, the ladies of Swedish indie duo First Aid Kit have grown from teenaged YouTube sensations covering Fleet Foxes and Johnny Cash to young women releasing their biggest record to date. With production help from Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Monsters of Folk) and inspiration from the darker music of Townes Van Zandt, 23-year-old Johanna and 21-year-old Klara Söderberg released their third album, Stay Gold, this summer. Their first major-label effort combines gorgeous harmonies with more experimental sounds and autobiographical, unapologetic lyrics.
Refinery29 caught up with Klara to talk about the new record, the sisters' amazing personal style, and the musicians who inspire their sound.
How is this new album different from the first two?
“I think one of the first things you’ll notice is the arrangements are a little bigger on this record. It’s something we did just for the sake of it. We felt like the songs benefitted from bigger arrangements. It was fun to experiment with strings, and we had flutes on there. Before we made this record, we talked about all of the songs and what we wanted to do with them. We just wanted to have fun, and we’re really happy with how the record turned out.”
Who were some of your biggest influences on this particular record?
“Well, one of the first that popped up in my head is Townes Van Zandt, who is one of our heroes. He’s an incredible songwriter who has inspired us a lot, and his music is really beautiful. Also, Simon & Garfunkel, Joni Mitchell, Joanna Newsom, Jenny Lewis, and Patti Smith. There are a lot of people; I could list so many.”
Would you and Johanna consider yourselves flower children?
“I don’t know. I’m definitely drawn to the ‘70s aesthetic. Today, in our generation, we sort of wish we could live in a simpler time. In the ‘70s, at least, there was sort of a feeling that you could make a change. I don’t know if that really exists anymore, which is really sad…. That ‘70s aesthetic or revolutionary spirit is something we’re really drawn to."
Do you think your music has been able to inspire change? Or, do you hope it has?
“I mean, that’s never a goal in itself. I think it’s hard to do, but I hope that people can find comfort in our music. The amazing thing is if we can inspire — especially young women. We’re doing our own things, on our own terms, and that’s what we’ve always done. We didn’t know if it was possible, but we did it. I wanted everyone to know that. You can do your own thing, and you don’t have to fit into any kind of frame. You can just do your own thing. So, I think that’s pretty cool."
How would you define your style? Where do you and Johanna find your style inspiration?
“Onstage, we love wearing vintage dresses. We love having things that stand out. It’s always fun to wear something like that onstage…. If we could, we would just live in Valentino dresses. That’s our number one. We can’t really afford that, but we love this Swedish label called Rodebjer.”
Do you have a favorite vintage shop you go to in Sweden or the U.S.?
“There’s one in Austin we really love called Feathers. We haven’t been back to Austin in a while now. We’re going back to play in Austin in the fall. We’ll have to go there when we get there. There’s a great one in Stockholm called Top. I just kind of want everything that’s in there.”
Sounds like a dream. Back to the album, what’s the story behind Stay Gold?
“It’s just about how everything is kind of fleeting, and how you never know if anything is going to last. It’s also about how hard it is to appreciate things while they’re happening, and how easy it is to think I should have appreciated it when I had it — like, I didn’t even know I had it and I was happy. The album is just about what we were going through during this time. It’s like a document in time of who we are and who we were when we were writing it. That’s always how I feel about all of our records. Hopefully, we’re just going to continue and make more records until we can’t anymore. We’ll just have these records telling our story.”
It’s a very simple and thoughtful theme. What’s your favorite song off of the album?
“It changes from time to time. I really like the song ‘Waitress Song.’ It’s a story about dreaming of another life — running away from everything and starting somewhere fresh. It’s a nice little fantasy, and I like how that song came together. There’s some trumpet on there and some strings.”
What’s the hardest thing about being in a band with your sister? Do you guys always get along? Or, do you often disagree?
“No, we don’t always get along. It’s healthy to have a disagreement. Something very good, but very bad, is that we’re very honest with each other. It makes it good because we really don’t have any surprises down the line; we both know how we feel about things. Of course, that can cause arguments from time to time, but I think we really work great with each other. We have a lot of fun. It’s pretty easy when we sit down to write with each other — well most of the time. We’ll usually just argue about little things, like who’s going to wear what on stage — things that don’t really matter. I think it’s because we’re together so much. When you’re on tour, it’s kind of stressful, you’re really tired, and there’s a lot of pressure on you. The person who you know best is being annoying and you’re like ‘ugh.’ We’re friends like five minutes later. That happens a lot.”
How do you think fans will perceive this album differently from your previous ones?
“I don’t know! Our goal was never to make anything different. It is different: different songs, and our lyrics are a bit more personal on this record. There are no songs or stories about other people. I don’t know. I don’t want to think about it or analyze it too much. I just want fans to listen to it, and hopefully they’ll still be into it.”