First Aid Kit
Waves festival : Vienna
It’s been couple of years since we first saw First Aid Kit play in a tight and sweaty bar in Holland in Tilburg and even then we were struck by their perfect harmonies and command of old school songwriting. I was struck even then that the two sisters, Johanna and Klara Söderberg must have obviously grown up steeped in the classics with Dolly Parton, battered country seven inches, Johnny Cash, Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood and classic car boot sale scratchy vinyl spook pop amongst many others informing their youthful muse and it turned out that they had grown up in a musical environment with their father being a core member of Swedish new wave band Lolita Pop.
Johanna and Klara have transcended this and are fast breaking into the future mainstream with their stunning take on the past. It could be down to their perfect harmonies- some of the best I’ve ever heard, it could be down to their skilful command of dynamics and it could be down to their perfect reinvention of those beautiful old songs that they have used as a template for their own brilliant songwriting and made their own.
Things have really moved on since that gig in Tilburg, their cover version of the Tiger Mountain Peasant Song by Fleet Foxes on YouTube brought them cult attention and then signed to the great Wichita Records they became a fully fledged big band. Tonight they are the key band at the Waves music event in Vienna and their packed show sees them arrive on stage like self deprecating heroines.
They have the glamorous stage gear and a back up guitar player and great drummer who give the songs a real sense of purpose and power. Combing their classic Americana and country pop with an indie sensibility it’s no coincidence when they talk about Jack White between songs and even play a thirty-second snippet of Seven Nation Army- they have the same kind of futuristic take on the American hall of fame music classic which is only made more interesting by the fact they come from Sweden.
It’s the way that they recreate this hallowed past and fast forward it into the future- these songs and melodies are timeless and whilst Klara takes the lead vocal and plays a great acoustic guitar it’s her sister Johnanna’s playing the bass lines on her keyboard and adding other lines from her keyboard that gives the songs a modern and unsuspected twist
Their vocals are so perfect that when they sing together they create a beautiful souring harmony that you cannot put a razor blade between. The harmony of human voices is the most perfect, heavenly sound in pop and when the sisters soar it’s so utterly perfect giving their songs a sense of soaring beauty and power.
Musically they combine their deep love of American C and W with an occaisnal baroque sixties pop, neo Doors swing and a darker more melancholic undertow. The past couple of years have seen them add a necessary showbiz sheen to their proceedings and they have some great party tricks like when they step away from the PA and play their song totally acoustic with no mics- you can hear a pin drop and everyone holds their breath as the sisters hold the audience in the palms of their hand. It’s a joyous and perfect moment and when the band kicks back in there is a rush of tingling excitement in the room.
When they play My Silver Lining it has everything that you want from classic songwriting – it has a dark beauty, a misty mystery and great story telling, it has a yearning and it has those soaring harmonies in a perfect execution of every hallmark that makes for perfect songwriting. King Of The World is sprightly and alive whilst Wolf is full of stark beauty and a whip crack wild west melody and more of that excuisite mystery.
First Aid Kit have everything – they are the modern and the past, they take the antique and they make it feel like the now. They add a genuine beauty to the music. They write perfect songs and they sing in perfect voices. They are also funny and loveable on the stage and you can feel the electricity and excitement of a band that know they have got something very special going on.