"Nothing gold can stay." So saysRobert Frost, at once encompassing everything from man's fall from innocenceand the fleeting nature of beauty to lost love and ultimately death. Itwas that line that caught Klara S�derberg, who along with hersister Johanna makes up Swedish duo First Aid Kit, and stopped her in hertracks.
"I started writing the first verse of thesong 'Stay Gold' and I was kind of stuck," says Klara. "I had thiscollection of poetry and I thought, 'I'll open this and see if there's anythingin here that inspires me.' And I came upon 'Nothing Gold Can Stay,' that wasliterally the first thing I saw, and it was perfect."
So perfect that Klara plucked it for the chorusof the song, which grew to become the centerpiece, and title of, First AidKit's new album and Columbia Records debut, 'Stay Gold.'
"It's a song about change, and maybe notwanting to change," adds Johanna.
Much has changed for the S�derberg sisters in the past six years. They had been earning a stellarreputation recording and performing as a teenaged duo in Sweden when their 2008cover of Fleet Foxes' "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" started turningheads around the world, racking up millions of views on YouTube and earningthem big-name fans in far off lands. In 2010, they released their debut LP,'The Big Black & The Blue,' which prompted critical raves and dates witheveryone from Patti Smith and Jack White to Lykke Li and Bright Eyes.
"We were big fans of Conor Oberst [ofBright Eyes] for a really long time," says Johanna. "'Lua' was one ofthe first songs Klara ever learned on guitar. So when he played with Monstersof Folk in Sweden, we got to go backstage and give Conor our first record. Ayear later we played in Austin and he came to our show and said he loved it,and we met [Bright Eyes/Monsters of Folk member/producer] Mike Mogis, and weasked if he wanted to produce our next record."
Mogis readily agreed, and in 2011the sisters headed to his Omaha studio to record their breakthrough LP, 'TheLion's Roar,' which debuted at #1 in Sweden and earned a swarm of criticalpraise around the world. Mojo called it "astonishing," Paste hailedit as "spectacular," and the BBC described it as"brilliant." Rolling Stone named "Emmylou," the sisters'love song dressed in classic country references, one of the Ten Best Singles of2012, and raved that "you may not hear a more beautifully sung record this year." Theyperformed at the iconic Newport Folk Festival, as well as Lollapalooza andGlastonbury, and opened for Rodriguez at Radio City Music Hall."Emmylou" also earned them bookings on Conan and Letterman.
But not all change is good. Heartbreak, loneliness,and homesickness can ride the coattails of happiness and success. Sometimes wewish for change, for an escape, but it never comes. It's with an aching beautyand a wisdom well beyond their years (Johanna is 23, Klara 21) that First AidKit crystallizes those feelings on 'Stay Gold,' the most mature and ambitiousrecord of their career.
The album opens with a dusty, spaghetti-westernstring line from local Omaha stringplayers, who appear throughout the record withcinematic arrangements from Nate Walcott (Broken Bells, Rilo Kiley). That first song, "My Silver Lining," gallopsthrough an existential crisis and sets the stage for an album that finds themoments of hope and light in darkness and anxiety. "Master Pretender"is a lush meditation on growing up and learning from mistakes, while "StayGold" laments loss and the uncertainty of the future. "What if ourhard work ends in despair, what if the road won't take me there?" theysing in beautifully intertwined harmonies. "What if to love and be loved'snot enough, what if I fall and can't bear to get up? / Oh I wish for once wecould stay gold."
The lyrics are far more intimate than previousFirst Aid Kit releases. "On our other records, we wrote a lot about natureand fairytale-ish stuff," Johanna says, referencing their early music,which blended aspects of American folk music and Swedish folklore andstorytelling. "But if you listen to the lyrics on this one, you can tellit's much more about us, more personal."
"Cedar Lane" waltzes through heartbreak,repeating the line "Something good will come out of this" as amantra, while "Shattered & Hollow" asserts in no uncertain terms an unshakeableneed to escape. On "Waitress Song," Klara fantasizes about droppingeverything and assuming a new life. "I could move to a small town andbecome a waitress," she sings. "Say my name was Stacy / and I wasfiguring things out."
"It's about dreaming of other lives youcould lead," she says of the song, which was written during soundcheckwhile on tour with Jack White and inspired by listening to Neko Case. "Ithink everyone has this sort of a secret wish that they could just run away andstart a new life somewhere. Not really wanting to actually do it, but having alittle fantasy about that."
For two sisters from the suburbs of Stockholmwho now share a label with idols like Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen and regularlytour and record with some of the biggest names in modern folk and indie, reallife may seem like a bit of a fantasy at the moment, butit's been a long, steady climb that's brought them here. The future may always hold uncertainty, but for now, things are gold for FirstAid Kit, and as they prepare to release the finest album of their career, tomorrow's only looking brighter.