First Aid Kit revels in American folk sounds 

click to enlarge Swedish sisters Klara, left, and Johanna Soderberg make up the folk duo First Aid kit. - COURTESY JOHANNES HELJE
  • COURTESY JOHANNES HELJE
  • Swedish sisters Klara, left, and Johanna Soderberg make up the folk duo First Aid kit.
Singing Swedish siblings Klara and Johanna Soderberg – 21 and 23, respectively – have been obsessed with American folk and country music ever since they posted their first song as First Aid Kit in 2008, a cover of Fleet Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.”

At the mere mention of a chestnut like Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” or the Louvin Brothers’ forlorn version of “Knoxville Girl,” the girls, with heavenly harmonies, launch into a stunning rendition of the song. “We’ve really done our research,” says Klara, who even named her guitars Ira and Charlie after the late Louvins.

For First Aid Kit’s new Columbia disc “Stay Gold” – its third – the girls were photographed in a desert, sporting hippie regalia from the Laurel Canyon-1970s, where their breezy retro originals “Cedar Lane,” “The Bell” and “My Silver Lining” sound as if they originated.

In the credits, the Soderbergs – who play in Oakland on Thursday – thank their other crucial American influences, such as the late Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt, as welll as Emmylou Harris, for whom they penned the ballad “Emmylou” that landed on the Scandinavian charts. Its video was filmed in California’s Joshua Tree, where Parsons’ stolen body was immolated by his friends in 1973. “We even built a little shrine there for Gram,” says Johanna.

The jangly “Waitress Song” on “Stay Gold” further elaborates on the siblings’ Yankee fascination with the lyric: “I could move to a small town and become a waitress/ Say my name was Stacy and I was figuring things out.”

“We have this romantic idea about American diners and waitresses. But I think I would be a very clumsy waitress, dropping orders all over,” says Klara.

In fact, the sisters – who resided with their parents until last year – have never had any gainful employment. “I applied for a job. Once,” says Klara.

Music is all the Soderbergs have ever known.

Klara started composing in her early teens, then invited Johanna to join her. Their father, – a former member of Lolita Pop, began home-recording the results. Soon, First Aid Kit was winning Swedish Grammys and serenading Patti Smith, and Paul Simon, at Sweden’s Polar Music Prize ceremonies. Their take on Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot” was so breathtaking, it made Smith cry.

The musicians thank Coner Oberst for catching the folkie bug. Klara says, “We found him online, and we loved his stuff so much, we started listening to what he recommended in interviews. Then we got a Gram Parsons record from our uncle, and we became obsessed.”

“Then we thought, ‘well, we can do this, too!’” adds Johanna. “We can just pick up guitars and sing about what we’re going through, and maybe someone will listen!”

IF YOU GO

First Aid Kit

Where: Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland

When: 8 p.m. Nov. 13

Tickets: $25

Contact: (510) 302-2250, www.ticketmaster.com

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Tom Lanham

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