First Aid Kit on Why They Had to Return to Sweden & Grow Up Before Recording New Album

First Aid Kit
Lauren Dukoff

Klara (top) and Johanna Söderberg of First Aid Kit

The folksy Söderberg sisters of First Aid Kit -- Klara, 25, and Johanna, 27 -- spent the better half of the past decade touring, and when they finally finished supporting 2014 breakthrough Stay Gold, they were mentally and physically burnt out. After time apart, they reconnected in spring 2016 in Stockholm before again hitting the road -- this time on their own terms. With an inspired outlook (“We’re more open-minded instead of sales-minded”) and new album Ruins, the duo’s fourth, out Jan. 19, the sisters explain how breaking out of their routine gave them a fresh perspective.

Finding A New Path
Manchester, England

As Klara’s engagement to indie artist Jo Rose ended, she found herself rethinking her next steps. “It was the first time where I had this very clear idea of where my life was heading, who I was going to be, and then it didn't end up working out,” she says. “That led to a transition for me and me growing up in a bigger way.”

No Place Like Home

“We had to catch up on things we hadn't had a chance to do while touring,” says Johanna of the sisters’ return to their hometown. She got her driver’s license, and they both got apartments. They also found hobbies other than music -- Johanna studied Japanese, while Klara took acting lessons and started drawing. Together, they dog-sat. “There’s more to life than touring,” says Johanna. “We needed to have a home somewhere.”

Free At Joshua Tree

“We’ve had dreams about California since forever,” says Johanna of the duo’s six weeks there in spring 2016. “It [symbolizes] freedom.” The two went on weekend road trips during which they blasted tunes from Fleetwood Mac, Angel Olsen and Mitski. In Joshua Tree, they wrote album opener "Rebel Heart." "This is going to sound so hippie," adds Johanna, "but we could sense a spirit there."

Turning Life Into Art

Inspired by their travels, the sisters began recording Ruins at the top of 2017, in Portland, Ore., with producer Tucker Martine. On the duo’s past LPs, Johanna says it was typically herself, Klara, their dad on bass and a producer in the studio. This time, they welcomed feedback from contributing musicians including Wilco’s Glenn Kotche and Midlake’s McKenzie Smith. “You can tell it’s a richer arrangement,” says Johanna. “There’s a lot of life.”

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 20 issue of Billboard.


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