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First Aid Kit sul perché stanno abbracciando i loro Abba interiori con il nuovo album Palomino

THEY come from the land of Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia and Super Trouper.

Yet it’s taken well over a decade in the music business for First Aid Kit’s Klara and Johanna Söderberg to channel their inner Abba.

First Aid Kit’s Klara and Johanna Söderberg

First Aid Kit’s Klara and Johanna Söderberg
The sisters come from the land of Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia and Super Trouper, yet it’s taken over a decade in the business for Klara and Johanna to channel their inner Abba

The sisters come from the land of Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia and Super Trouper, yet it’s taken over a decade in the business for Klara and Johanna to channel their inner Abba
The siblings first got noticed for pure, sweet harmonies on a cover of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song

The siblings first got noticed for pure, sweet harmonies on a cover of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song

When the sisters from Svezia started out, they looked to Americana for inspiration . . . that indefinable fusion of folk, nazione, rock and gospel.

They first got noticed for pure, sweet harmonies on a cover of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.

Among their early triumphs was the song Emmylou, dedicated to alt-country pioneers Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons, whose music helped provide the soundtrack to their lives.

But now their ravishing fifth studio album, Palomino, allows a bit of Swedish pop heritage into the mix — without abandoning the sound we know and love them for.

Talking to me via Zoom from their home town of Stockholm, the siblings explain, in their perfect English naturally, how they’ve become more relaxed about exploring music that’s closer to home.

Klara, 29, dice: “When we were younger, we really wanted to be taken seriously . . . ”

As often happens with these two, Johanna, 32, finishes her sentence: “ . . . and we were underdogs and wanted to be different.”

‘The pandemic gave us a proper break’

In 2007, they began uploading self-made songs to MySpace and, three years later, their debut album The Big Black And The Blue appeared on British indie label Wichita.

Klara continues: “Back then, we felt it important to tell people we loved Americana because it was the music we listened to the most.

“I had a lot of rules about what our music could sound like and what instruments we could use. I was very strict about it.

"Ma, if you grow up in Sweden, Abba is the band that has always been with you.”

Johanna remembers the first record she ever bought, The Abba Generation by tribute act A-Teens.

“Super Trouper and Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! were our favourite songs," lei dice. “Oh yeah!” agrees Klara. “We were obsessed and now we’re ready to embrace Abba a bit more.”

They also admit that their new songs, particularly the smooth Ready To Run, bear nods to other artists from their parents’ generation: “Fleetwood Mac, Carole King, sala & Oates, Tom Petty, T.Rex and Elton John."

Mainly because of the Covid lockdowns, Palomino is the first First Aid Kit album to be recorded in Sweden since their debut and stands as their most pop orientated.

Hunkering down in Stockholm allowed them to take stock and set about making new music.

Klara says: “The pandemia gave us a proper break. The previous ten or 12 years had been non-stop and we were too tired to fully appreciate what we had achieved.”

They turned to producer Daniel Bengtson, a friend of the sisters’ musician turned teacher dad Benkt, to take charge of recording album No5.

The mood of the 11 tracks is in marked contrast to previous album, 2018’s Ruins, which charts Klara’s devastating break-up.

The album artwork demonstrates a change of direction, pure.

Stark monochrome faces are replaced by the pair hugging each other on a beach in flowing dresses of green, pink, Marrone, grey and black against a wide open sky.

“I wasn’t very kind to myself on those Ruins songs,” says Klara. “A big part of the new record is about growing older and learning to be kinder to yourself.”

Johanna chips in: “It was difficult to tour Ruins because, when we’re on stage, we have to live the lyrics.

“We knew this new album had to be different. We couldn’t have dealt with it otherwise.”

tuttavia, the resulting Palomino wouldn’t be a First Aid Kit record without a touch of heartache.

‘The song Angel is so naked, so dramatic’

“We could never write 11 happy songs,” affirms Johanna. “There’s still a lot of sadness but it’s not as in your face and the music is more playful.”

The album begins in emphatic style with Out Of My Head and continues with Angel, which juxtaposes unflinching lyrics about personal crisis with an arrangement that soars to the heavens. “You choose what you want to share,” says Klara. “But I genuinely want to write things that mean a lot to me and to show some vulnerability.

“That’s why other people can relate to our songs. The day after we released Angel (as a single), someone wrote to us and said: ‘This is a song about my life’.”

Johanna turns to Klara and says: “You didn’t even want to put Angel on the record at first.”

But she tells me: “I always thought it was a great song. I was very moved by it because it is so naked, so dramatic.

“We did think, ‘Is this too cheesy?'. A volte, there’s a fine line between too much and something that actually hits you.” Another of Palomino’s singles, Turning Onto You, presented a very different type of challenge.

Klara says: “We went, “Quando sono tornato, what if we try to write a happy love song?'. The line ‘turning onto you’ is cheeky and fun.

“When we were younger, we wouldn’t have been able to own that idea, but I love the song and its soul vibe.”

This brings us to the tracks, 29 Palms Highway and Wild Horses II, which reference their longstanding inspiration, country rock trailblazer Gram Parsons.

He’d been a member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers and was just forging a fine solo career when he died aged just 26 nel 1973.

He succumbed to a drink and drug overdose at his spiritual home, Joshua Tree National Park in southern California’s Mojave Desert.

La canzone 29 Palms Highway is named after the road that borders the park’s northern perimeter while Wild Horses II serves as a sequel to the yearning Rolling Stones original once covered by Gram, who was Keith Richards’ friend.

Johanna says: “We first went to Joshua Tree to make a video for the song Emmylou in 2011 and were just blown away by it. It was so foreign to us Swedes.

“We stayed at the Joshua Tree Inn . . . not in Gram’s room, but it WAS on his birthday (November 5th).

Klara picks up the thread: “We were in the room next door to his and there was a storm.”

Johanna again: “This black raven had been following us. Gram was haunting us!"

Poi, in ritardo 2019, just before the Covid pandemic, Klara returned to Joshua Tree with a friend.

“We’d cancelled all our shows that summer," lei dice. “I was burned out and feeling very lost, as if I didn’t know how to find joy in music again.

“Then we drove out there and listened to Gram’s music. I just cried and cried.

‘We’re like a phoenix rising from the ashes’

“Somewhere along the road, I suddenly felt a connection with the part of me that I thought I’d lost. It was really powerful and that’s when our song came into being.”

For Klara, Joshua Tree is a place she wants to keep in her life as much as possible.

She returned there in August and took part in a three-hour meditation ceremony. “It’s where I can embrace the spiritual and the wonder of nature," lei dice.

In 2007, they began uploading self-made songs to MySpace and, three years later, their debut album The Big Black And The Blue appeared on British indie label Wichita

In 2007, they began uploading self-made songs to MySpace and, three years later, their debut album The Big Black And The Blue appeared on British indie label WichitaCredito: Alamy
Their ravishing fifth studio album, Palomino, allows a bit of Abba's Swedish pop heritage into the mix — without abandoning the sound we know and love them for

Their ravishing fifth studio album, Palomino, allows a bit of Abba’s Swedish pop heritage into the mix — without abandoning the sound we know and love them for

As well as from Wild Horses II, there is another equine-themed song,  the title track Palomino, which closes the album.

It’s typically powerful imagery. This gorgeous animal with its gold coat and white mane running free.

Johanna says: “We just loved the symbolism. The song is very open-ended. You don’t really know where we’re going or what our next record is going to be like.

“Compared with where we were with Ruins, this record is about feeling more free and stronger. We’re like a phoenix rising from the ashes.”

Above all else, Palomino is a testament to the sisters’ love for each other and their continued desire to make music together.

“It’s a miracle. I don’t know what our secret is,” laughs Johanna.

Klara agrees: “I don’t know either because we drive each other crazy!

“But we’ve gone to therapy and we’ve learned through these quite hard years that the number one thing is our sister relationship. It is the most important thing to us. The music is wonderful but it can never, ever be prioritised above our friendship and our familial bond.”

Così, have they always been close, even as small children?

Johanna replies: "Si, we’re only two years apart and we would always play together.”

And Klara sheds light on how their relationship has evolved through the years.

“I think it’s changed but in a healthy way, like we don’t see each other all the time," lei dice.

“We also have friends that are not mutual. We have our own lives and then we come together and do this thing and hang out as sisters.”

An extra special addition to their lives is Johanna’s two-year-old daughter Harriet. Her mention brings a joyous response from doting aunt Klara: “I love her, I’m obsessed with her. She’s incredible and the best gift I’ve ever had.”

As for Johanna, being a mum helps her put everything in perspective and get priorities right.

Lei dice: “I don’t have as much time as before so Klara and I have to be more efficient but I think we appreciate each other more.”

“Music is always a comfort to us. It’s what we reach for when we’re sad and when we need to connect with other people.”

Così, do they ever disagree over their musical direction?

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“We have this weird, telepathic sister vibe,” says Klara, glancing fondly at her soulmate.

“In the studio, if I love a song, I know Johanna will love it too.”

FIRST AID KIT

Palomino

★★★★☆

Palomino is out today on Columbia

Palomino is out today on Columbia