When First Aid Kit — a Swedish folk duo — decided to record their album, they traveled all the way to Omaha.
It was not only a long trip to make a record, but a dream come true for Klara and Johanna Söderberg. One of their favorite bands is Bright Eyes, and they recorded at ARC Studios with Bright Eyes' Mike Mogis.
“We've been huge fans of them since forever,” Johanna Söderberg told The World-Herald from her home in Sweden. “I remember hearing ‘First Day of My Life.' Klara was 12 or something. That made us want to pick up a guitar and write our own songs.”
She called Mogis their “dream producer.” They met Mogis and Conor Oberst at a Monsters of Folk concert in Stockholm. Somehow, they worked their way backstage and handed the band a copy of their CD.
“We were just two fangirls,” Söderberg said.
Later, Bright Eyes showed up at a First Aid Kit concert in Austin, Texas. Mogis said he loved the sisters' folky tunes. They asked him if he'd produce their album. He said yes.
The band spent months recording in Omaha and living in the studio's attached guest house.
“He just treated us so well. He was so welcoming,” Söderberg said. “We clicked and knew this would be an incredible experience. He's so creative and so musical. He gets our music and understood it was about the vocals and the harmonies — the most important thing was to get the harmonies.”
When the band returns to Omaha, they plan on inviting Mogis onstage to perform with them. It's possible that Oberst may as well. He co-wrote and sang on the song “King of the World” from the album they recorded in Omaha, “The Lion's Roar.”
Söderberg said they were excited.
“We didn't want to show how freaked out we were. It was difficult. He was very humble. He kept saying, ‘If you don't like it, just delete it. You can do something else,'” she said. “‘Oh my god, you don't understand how big this was for us.' We just asked him a couple times: ‘If you want to sing it with us, that would be great.' He just went in and did it. He's a pretty amazing guy.”
“The Lion's Roar” is full of the kind of folk you may have heard on Bright Eyes albums such as “I'm Wide Awake It's Morning.” Many songs have an old country feel and “Emmylou” pays tribute to Emmylou Harris, June Carter, Johnny Cash and Gram Parsons, which is different for a pair of Swedish girls.
“It's not like kids our age listen to country music from the '30s like we do,” Söderberg said. “It's a popular genre in Sweden and in the world, but there's not a folk or country scene in Sweden. We're pretty special in that case.”
The songs rely on acoustic guitar, occasional pedal steel and especially the sisters' harmonies, which they apparently have never had to work on.
“The way it sounds, the way I improvise when we're singing, that's the way it always is,” Söderberg said. “We don't really practice at all, but we are singing together 24/7.”
With the duo's Bright Eyes experiences, they've fulfilled one of their biggest dreams right out of the gate. First Aid Kit has also performed with Fleet Foxes, a big inspiration, and played songs at the Polar Music Prize event for Patti Smith in 2011 and Paul Simon in 2012. Simon gave them a standing ovation and the sisters shared happy tears backstage.
With so many things being checked off their life's to-do list, Söderberg said she wasn't sure what would be next.
“I don't want to dream too big,” she said. “We'd love to meet Emmylou Harris. We have no idea if she's heard (“Emmylou”), but we'd love to meet her and thank her. I don't know what else. God, I'm just so happy for everything. It's unbelievable.”
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