Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg of First Aid Kit have voices you’d expect to hear singing of freedom under a full moon or while exploring an abandoned Western town. Honest and powerful, they are of the sort that deserves to be heard.
And heard they have been, ever since the duo, now 21 and 19, sent a demo of their song Tangerine, a heartbreaking lament about infidelity, to a Swedish radio station. Further to that, in 2008 they recorded a few tracks in a forest, one of them being a cover of Fleet Foxes’ Tiger Mountain Peasant Song, which now has more YouTube views than the original. And things have only gone up from there: They were picked up by a label owned by The Knife, released one EP and two full-length albums, and have toured with Lykke Li, Bright Eyes and Fleet Foxes, and soon will do the same with Jack White. Their latest album, The Lion’s Roar, produced by Mike Mogis, was released in early 2012.
Recently they played a sold-out show at La Sala Rossa, a safely hidden gem on St-Laurent Blvd., on April 9. The sisters snuck out to watch the opening performance by British darlings Peggy Sue with the rest of the crowd, and strolled onto the stage when their turn to “wow” came. It’s obvious that they’re not asking to be superstars. They were both incredibly down to earth, laughing with the crowd as they showed off their mediocre French skills and switched to their native tongue to tell each other “Swedish secrets.” However, their evident talent just might shoot them to the same status as the legends they mention in the single Emmylou: Graham Nash, Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris.
Mixing songs from both their first and second albums, they did not disappoint. The combination of their unfaltering voices, poetic lyrics and the shift from slow ballad to upbeat folk-rock tune in almost every song makes them something unique. And if there ever was a time when the songs seemed to sound the same, the girls’ stage presence made it impossible to look away. For Ghost Town, a song off their first studio album, they asked the audience if they could try something new. When the crowd replied with applause, Klara unplugged her guitar and they both stepped to the front of the stage, asking anybody who knew the words to “please, sing along.” What followed was something like a campfire sing-along.
They finished with a folksy cover of Patti Smith’s Dancing Barefoot, which started off slow and finished as an earthquake of sound, reverberating through the room as the girl’s began King of the World, a song usually played with Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst, and which had the crowd screaming until the end, when the sisters humbly thanked the crowd and promised to take pictures, sign autographs and talk to anybody who had a problem in their life over by the merchandise table.
Photo by: Neil Krug