First Aid Kit: Creativity, Gear, and Music

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As seen in Guitar Girl Magazine June 2018 issue.

Swedish sister duo First Aid Kit has become known worldwide since the popular cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” was featured on the duo’s YouTube channel over ten years ago. Since then, sisters, Klara and Johanna Söderberg, have released four albums, two EPs, and a slew of singles. Their latest album, Ruins, was released in January of this year, and the duo has been touring relentlessly and is currently on a world tour through December of this year. Klara and Johanna eagerly took the time, while on the road, to fill us in on their writing and creative process, their gear (especially their special ones that mean the most to them), growing up with music, and their female peers.

Photo by Neil Krug

How do you manage the creative process of writing songs and music between the two of you?

Klara Söderberg:  It’s different for each song; some songs take ten minutes to write, and some are more like puzzles that take years to complete. I usually come up with the initial idea, and then we work to finish the song together. Johanna is more organized than me, so she helps me take all my ideas and make them into fully formed songs.

You both play guitar, although Johanna plays keyboards, autoharp, and bass guitar. What gear do you guys use, and are there any other instruments that either of you play?

Johanna Söderberg:  I play short scale basses. I play a Hoffner club bass and a Fender Mustang bass. The Hoffner is so light and easy to play, and it sounds beautiful live. The Fender is a vintage one from ‘66; it’s amazing. I don’t play keyboards anymore, but I used to play a NORD, with my own MainStage samples. I have a lot of autoharps, but my favorite is my electric one from Oscar Schmidt, the OS150FCE model.

That’s it in terms of instruments I play, for now. I have this old vintage Gibson mandolin that Jack White gifted me that I really want to start playing live soon.

Klara:  I have a couple of different guitars I tour with. I had these two beautiful acoustic guitars custom made for me recently; they are by a Swedish luthier named David Sundberg. I also play Jeff Tweedy’s signature Martin Guitar. When I play electric guitar, I either play a Fender Stratocaster or Telecaster, the classic ones. I love old guitars, but they’re too fragile to tour with! My favorite guitar is my acoustic Gibson from 1928. It is custom made and absolutely stunning. I wish I could take it on the road, but it would be too much of a risk.

You both are currently promoting your new album, Ruins, and will be on tour through December. What do you look forward to the most about touring?

Klara: It’s easy to forget that your songs have a life of their own when you’re at home. When we get on the road, it’s a constant reminder that people live with our songs and that they have a special meaning for people. It’s one of the best things about touring, getting to meet our fans and feel that connection with them. We also just love to play music, and our band is so cool! It’s such a treat getting to rock out with them every night.

Growing up, did you both always want to pursue music together?

Johanna: When we were kids, we were always singing, but not necessarily together. Klara started writing songs on her own when she was around 12. When she recorded her first demos to upload on Myspace, I added harmonies to the recordings. We thought it sounded pretty good and did a first live show together as First Aid Kit. We officially formed the band after that show. We then started to write songs together. It’s only until later that we realized we had something really special together with the sibling harmonies.

Who are some of your female peers that inspire both of you and with whom you’d like to possibly collaborate one day?

Johanna: Oh, there are so many and too many to list! We mostly listen to music made by women; I guess because we can relate more, maybe. We’ve been huge fans of Laura Marling since she released her very first songs. She’s about the same age as us and has just been killing it musically since she started. We love her guitar playing especially. Jenny Lewis is another big inspiration for us. When we started out, we basically tried to write songs like the ones from Rabbit Fur Coat. She has this amazing live energy. Our other favorites are Neko Case, Julia Jacklin, Angel Olsen, Mitski, Big Thief, Courtney Marie Andrews, and Alela Diane.

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