In the ten years since Swedish sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg started First Aid Kit, they have been going non-stop. The indie-folk duo got their start when their cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” went viral, and have since released four albums, won five Swedish Grammis awards, and brought two of their idols to tears on live television.
Following a brief hiatus, and four years after their last record, Stay Gold, First Aid Kit is back with Ruins, a raw account of losing love and finding yourself. In the middle of a North American tour, Georgie talked to Klara and Johanna about the new album and what brought them to Ruins.
G—You’ve said in past interviews that Stay Gold was a more put-together, polished kind of album, and Ruins is a lot rawer. What caused that shift?
JS—The production of Stay Gold is very lush and elegant, and I think that’s what we wanted at the time. But we started longing for this rawness, this almost lo-fi aspect that we had on our first records. [For Ruins]…our attitude was that everything doesn’t have to be perfect. If we sing a bum note or there’s a little crack in the voice, let’s just embrace that because that’s the beauty of music. I think it brings you closer to the listener when you feel like there’s more at stake. Today you can auto-tune everything, and re-record a song a million times, but does it really make it better? I think there’s something magical about the first few takes. And that’s what we wanted with Ruins.
G—Does that change in sound resonate through the content as well?
JS—The lyrics are more direct than the past records, and they’re darker, and fatter, and I think that affected the sound as well. I don’t think we realized how sad it was until it was done, and we got reviews and responses from other journalists, because it’s hard when you’re in it to get the full perspective. Now that we listen to it, we can listen to a lot of the themes of loneliness, and questioning yourself and who you are and your identity. It’s very dramatic.
G—What brought about that darker, fatter content?
KS—I was in a long relationship, and it ended. I was very young when it started, and I feel like I kind of grew up in that time and just had to kind of re-figure my life out—as you do when you’re very devoted to a person and it doesn’t end up working out. And for me it was the first time when my heart truly changed after heartbreak. I had so many questions and so many things that I was going through, and it just ended up being material for a whole record.
G—And you both took a break from the band as well.
JS—Yeah. We were very exhausted from touring—having toured all our lives since we were teenagers—and I think it had kind of hurt my relationship with Klara. We took it too far, and we ended up lying on the floor of a venue crying and arguing, and that’s kind of when we told ourselves we had to stop. So we took a break from each other. Klara lived in England and I lived in Stockholm for about six months, and we told ourselves we didn’t have to write songs, or listen to music or do anything band-related. That was very important to us because I feel like we both lost our identities as people outside of the band. It was always about First Aid Kit all the time, and I was really anxious because I felt like if the band failed, then I have nothing—my whole life is going to end. I got really restless and kind of depressed after touring, being so used to that life, so I think that’s in the record, too—a lot of loneliness and isolation. But I feel now—I think both Klara and I feel—that we are so much stronger as individuals and that we have a base, and a home, and we feel loved in a broader sense than just First Aid Kit.
G—It’s amazing how open and willing you both are to talk about what you’re going through. Is anything off-limits when you’re writing?
JS—We don’t want to be too specific about people. I think that’s just being rude, and it’s not really about that anyway. It’s about the more general emotion. So there are some things that we edit out. I mean, we’re extremely honest as people. We’re very transparent. So [being honest] is not something that we decide. That’s how we are and that’s how it’s always been.
KS—It’s also the only way that I feel that it’s meaningful to me. If I don’t feel something when I’m writing it, then why should I do it? It needs to come from a real place. And that’s kind of a vulnerable position, but then when you share something like that and it resonates with people it just means so much more than if it’s something that you’re not that invested in.
G—In addition to being so open personally on your records, you’ve touched on political issues like sexual violence in your song, “You are the Problem Here”. Do you feel a sense of responsibility to speak about issues like these?
KS—It’s not a responsibility. It’s just feeling like this is too important to ignore. It just feels urgent, and necessary—like, how could we not talk about this when it means so much to us? I personally feel better when I get to actually talk about these things and share my thoughts. So when we put out “You are the Problem Here”, and when we sing it live every night, I get release from just singing it and being angry about it and getting to express that and talk about it. I feel like something is being done even if it’s a tiny little thing. It’s still something.
G—So, maybe less of a political statement, and more just expressing yourself?
KS— Yeah, I don’t necessarily think it’s going to change anything. But if it changes one person’s point of view, or if they gain some strength from the song, or just feel like there’s someone there to listen, then the song has a reason to exist.
Charlotte Cardin is on track to having her biggest year yet. The electro jazz-pop singer has been nominated for Songwriter of the Year and Breakthrough Artist of the Year at next month’s Juno Awards. Along the way, she has performed at Osheaga—an experience she calls “surreal”, having attended for years growing up in Montréal—and Festival d’été de Québec where she opened for Sting and Peter Gabriel. More recently, she has been touring behind her EPs Big Boy (Cult Nation Records, 2016) and Main Girl (Sony Music, 2017). Through this past September and October, she supported Nick Murphy (formerly Chet Faker), and she’s been on tour with BØRNS since January. This spring, Cardin will headline her own dates. Prior to her full-time career in music, Cardin modelled in fashion which afforded her pocket money and freedom to work on her art. She also competed on the first season of La Voix, a francophone Canadian version of The Voice. But being on television, like modelling, was never her passion. “I never really felt that much pressure when I was on TV. For me, there’s something a lot more real about what I’m doing right now.” She feels more pressure performing her own
Garland Jeffreys’ album, 14 Steps to Harlem, grew out of a soulful period of retrospection late in the artist’s life and career. As a veteran songwriter, Jeffreys started writing provocative, ahead-of-its- time, genre-bending songs in the early 1970s, with lyrics focused on everything from relationships to racial diversity to political turmoil. Now in his seventies, the New York musician is looking back on his life with an album that takes on bold topics and includes a title track inspired by his turbulent relationship with his father. Jefferys spoke with Georgie about his latest release, his relationship with Lou Reed and his somewhat unconventional approach to songwriting. Georgie—14 Steps to Harlem is a great album. Garland Jeffreys—Thank you. I’m very proud of the record. I took some chances in recording it but had confidence that it could be something special. You don’t know a record is good or bad until it’s done – then you know. I worked on the album with my co-producer, James Maddock, who’s a great artist in his own right. G—The title track, “14 Steps to Harlem”, stood out to me. I read that it was written with your father in mind. Did the experience of writing about your dad
Since his 2005 breakthrough, Breaking Kayfabe, Cadence Weapon has been an artist to watch. The two-time Polaris Music Prize nominee, writer, producer and rapper is known for his innovative musical style and has made waves worldwide. Following a five year hiatus – which included a move from Montreal to Toronto and a stint as Edmonton’s poet laureate – Cadence Weapon returns with a new self-titled album. Cadence Weapon is armed with furious flows, big collaborations and themes that include dance-party politics and dystopian futures. For his latest effort, the rapper is noticeably more focused and is reintroducing himself in a big way. Georgie caught up with Cadence Weapon to talk about the new album, his musical journey, and the L-word: legacy. G—Your new self-titled album is being called a “reintroduction to Cadence Weapon.” What does that mean? Cadence Weapon—I feel like I’ve matured a lot more and the music really reflects that. There is a reason why this album is self-titled. It feels like a rebirth for me; it feels like my first album in a lot of ways. I feel like the creative process for this album is what I’ve always wanted to do in my career. I was