Jack White, Conor Oberst, and Tavi Gevinson are among First Aid Kit’s many fans, but the celeb fawning hasn’t gone to the Swedish sisters’ heads just yet. “After every show we sell our merchandise and wait until every fan has gotten chance to talk to us—they’re fans, but they’re also friends,” says Johanna Söderberg, the older half of the nu-folk duo. That may explain the strong following the band has cultivated in just a few short years; since their breakthrough—a cover of a Fleet Foxes song that went viral in 2008, when they were still teenagers—the Söderberg sisters have toured the world and recorded two albums. The latest, The Lion’s Roar, shows just how much First Aid Kit have grown since they first picked up an acoustic guitar and gave harmonizing a proper shot. ELLE.com spoke with the duo about their new release, bringing audience members to tears, and why it’s still tough to be a female musician.
ELLE: After all the months of writing, recording, and preparing a new release, do you already feel some distance from the album by the time it comes out?
Johanna Söderberg: Before you release it to the world it’s yours, your private little baby. When you read reviews you distance yourself from it—it’s not your thing anymore. In a way we’re moving on, although we’re just getting started. And I think it’s a good thing, because we feel we can do even better. That’s awesome; you shouldn’t be too attached to any album.
ELLE: You read your own reviews?
Klara Söderberg: Yes, we do! As long as we know it’s not the universal truth about our record, I don’t think its harmful.
ELLE: You’ve spoken about being raised by a feminist mother; as a band comprised of two young sisters, do you feel like the media portrays First Aid Kit in a specific way?
JS: Sure, I think they describe us differently than they would if we were men. They choose different words, like we’re a “force of nature,” or “fairies,” or something like that. Our music should be taken seriously, in the here and now, and not some fairytale bullshit. If we were men, I think people would have totally different ideas about who we are. It’s easier for men in this business, overall. Women have to prove a lot more to show that they’re intellectual or interesting at all.
KS: A lot of people think that because we’re two young Swedish girls that listen to folk music, we’re just doing this because we think it’s something cool. It’s so far from the truth—this is our passion. It’s annoying when you read those kinds of things.
ELLE: What do your parents think about both of you playing in a band?
JS: They’re such a huge part of it. [First Aid Kit] is like our entire family, our thing. It’s hard to be a family and do this, but we all think that it’s a rare opportunity and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing. We have to make the best of it, and everyone in our family is really into music. Our father’s a sound technician, so he’s kind of quit his job to do this. He’s probably very surprised that he ended up touring with his daughters; I don’t think he saw that coming!
ELLE: Are there ever moments on tour when you wish you could act all rock’n’roll and not have your dad around?
JS: We don’t really think of him like that. But it can actually be a good thing if there are guys are hitting on you. You can say, “My dad’s here!”
KS: He’s not here to protect us or anything, he’s just with us because he’s an awesome sound technician and a great dad. We’re not really the kinds of girls who are partying all night—to be honest, I think we’re much more like old ladies, we sit at home read books, rather than out partying.
ELLE: You’ll be playing Coachella for the first time in April. How does playing at a big festival compare to shows at small, intimate venues?
JS: There are so many factors that take part in how the show is: which day it is, how we’re feeling. It’s hard to say, but in general, the people who come to our own shows know who we are, so of course we’ll get more support and they’ll sing along. It’s so powerful when you’re at a festival and you’re in front of much bigger crowds and they don’t know you but you find each other in the moment, you connect. Winning over a crowd that’s skeptical in the beginning is the best thing ever. It’s a feeling of victory [laughs].
ELLE: Is there a particular festival where you were blown away by the crowd’s response?
JS: There was this Swedish festival that doesn’t exist anymore, but it was an electronic festival and so the audience was kind of odd. I just remember seeing this pierced, tattooed guy, who you would not expect to listen to our music, crying to our songs. The entire crowd was moved, we had this moment of crying together. That was awesome.