"We had no aspirations when we started," remarks Klara Soderberg, one half of Swedish duo First Aid Kit.
The two piece started young, and after more than a decade of performing, they've grown beyond their folk leanings creating a sound that's as harmonious as it is infectious. Beginning in 2007, the sisters seemed to take off almost immediately. "I was 14, and Johanna asked if she could sing harmonies with me. And then we started playing shows and it's been crazy how everything happened. Making it as an artist was a pipe dream when we began."
Their debut release, Drunken Trees EP, and their debut full length The Big Black and the Blue were both produced by their father, a musician himself. Though for their second release, the sisters turned to Mike Mogis, best known for his work in Bright Eyes. "It was nice because Mike wasn't our father, and we got to use his big studio rather than record in our bedroom. There were string players like Nate Walcott and it was a new world for us."
Alongside working with Mogis, the sisters also lent harmonies to Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes on his album, Upside Down Mountain, something that was a huge treat for the longtime fans. "When we worked on Upside Down Mountain, we were also working on our own album Stay Gold. We'd already toured with him and become friends. We'd been singing along to his albums for so long, that working with him was a great fit."
The duo's most recent album, this year's Ruins is pop infused folk that grabs your attention from the opening notes. Produced by Tucker Martine, the album includes contributions from Wilco's Glen Kotche and REM's Peter Buck. Asked if they intended something with a more universal appeal, Soderberg said: "I think it's dangerous to think of how people will react to your music. It's a very personal album, so it's funny that you say it has a broader appeal. Because when I hear emotional and personal music, I'm moved by it. It's hard to write personal music and get people to love it as well."
Their songwriting process varies from song to song, Soderburg says. "We start with lyrics, or a line. If there's a guitar nearby, or the inspiration starts, we will write the music. I'll either record on my phone or send it over to Johanna.
"With Ruins, we went to California, we sat down with a list of ideas and we worked through them. Sometimes the song comes fast, sometimes it's much longer. The song "Postcard" took three years to write. When it showed up in our heads, it made no sense. Then it began to represent my life and writing it was easier."
While Ruins is not even a year old, in mid-September the duo decided to release a four song E.P. called Tender Offerings on their own. "We had 18 songs going into the studio, we had all of these songs and we put ten of them on the album. We like ten songs on an album, it's classic and more than that seems too long. We loved these songs so much that we decided to release four of them as this E.P.
"A lot of people say that four years between records is too long, but we toured and took some time off before we started writing again. People act like we were at home that whole time not constantly working. We're nostalgic for the time when artists could just stay in the studio making albums, but that's not the case anymore."
Their sets aren't the typical folk band show. Plenty of lighting and visuals make their shows feel closer to that of pop or EDM acts. "We love the visual aspect of going to shows. We toured with Jack White, and we were shocked at how much he put into his performance. We were supposed to figure out what our set list would be for this tour today, but Johanna is the set list queen and unfortunately she's sick. We want it to feel new for us but be great for the fans as well.
"We have Julia Jacklin as our opener. Two years ago we put her on a list on Instagram of our favorite artists, and she commented that we were the reason she started playing guitar. It was very flattering, and we can't wait to get to see her perform every night on this tour."
You can stream the entire catalog from First Aid Kit on all streaming sites, and you can purchase Ruins from the band's web store or from digital storefronts. Tender Offerings will be available worldwide through Columbia Records on September 14. You can catch First Aid Kit live and in person, when they perform at White Oak Music Hall downstairs on Monday September 17. The all ages show will feature a support performance from Australia's Julia Jacklin. Doors at 7 p.m.; tickets $29.50.