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Aimsel Ponti

Aimsel Ponti is a Content Producer at MaineToday.com and a music writer for MaineToday.com and the Portland Press Herald. She has been obsessed with - and inspired by - music since she listened to Monkees records borrowed from the town library when she was six years old. She bought her first Rolling Stones record at a flea market when she was in 7th grade and discovered David Bowie a year later. She's a HUGE fan of the local music scene and covers it along with national musical happenings in her "Face the Music" column and with artist interviews that appear in print in the Portland Press Herald and online at Mainetoday.com. You'll also find her out and about absorbing live music like a sponge and roaming around local record shops and flea markets. Aimsel is also the host of Music from 207 on 98.9 WCLZ and appears monthly on the News Center Maine TV show “207” to talk about...music of course.

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Posted: September 3, 2018

Q&A with the kid sister of First Aid Kit as the duo drops by Portland

Written by: Aimsel Ponti

Photo by Neil Krug

Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit will perform in Maine for the first time Thursday night, on the road in support of its fourth studio album, “Ruins,” released earlier this year.

First Aid Kit is sisters Johanna, 28, and Klara Söderberg, 25. Johanna plays bass, Klara plays acoustic and electric guitar, and both of them sing. Their touring band features Melvin Duffy on pedal steel guitar, mandolin and electric guitar, drummer Scott Simpson and keys and trombone player Steve Moore.

Here’s “Fireworks” from “Ruins”:

Known for its soaring harmonies, First Aid Kit first caught listeners’ ears in 2008 after uploading its cover of “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” by Fleet Foxes to YouTube. The clip now has more than five million views.

In 2012, First Aid Kit performed the Simon & Garfunkel song “America” during the 2012 Polar Music Prize award ceremony honoring the song’s writer, Paul Simon, in the Söderbergs’ home city of Stockholm. Footage shows Simon himself initiating a standing ovation for the duo’s moving interpretation. “America” was released in 2014 as the title track of a 10-inch vinyl First Aid Kit EP.

In 2014, First Aid Kit released the album “Stay Gold,” home to “My Silver Lining.” The song cracked music charts in eight countries, including the U.S., where it reached No. 22 on Billboard’s Adult Alternative Song chart. “Show me my silver lining, I try to keep on keeping on” is repeated several times in the sparkling song that embodies hopefulness.

First Aid Kit’s next release is an EP called “Tendering Offerings.” It will be out on Sept. 14.

From her home in Stockholm, Klara Söderberg spoke about “Ruins,” the forthcoming EP and the band’s first no-holds-barred angry song, released last year to correspond with International Women’s Day.

The four songs on “Tender Things” are beautiful, sad and tender. What made you decide to put them out?

These songs were songs that we recorded during “Ruins,” so they were all kind of contenders to be on it. We always like having a classic album of 10 songs; we don’t want to make the albums too long. We felt like the songs, both musically and lyrically, on “Ruins” all really fit together really well, and so then we had these other songs, and we loved them so much we didn’t know what to do with them. We really wanted to put them out and then we thought, OK, well the best thing is probably just to wait and release an EP because then they’ll get the attention and love they deserve. It’s exciting to release something new.

The song “Ugly” has lines like “I thought that being skinny was the answer to all my problems. I thought if you found me pretty then I’d be fine.” What inspired it?

It’s both a very personal song about our insecurities but also, as a woman, how you’re just constantly being told to change, be better, be prettier and how I think a lot of us walk around with this idea that, like, if we could only fit into this mold than somehow we’d be happier and things would just work out for us. I think that’s just (expletive), and it’s just kind of coming to terms with that. It was kind of a scary song to write and record. It is scary to release as well because it feels really vulnerable to say those things out loud, but it also feels so important. If you want to say that we’re ugly, well, we don’t really care because that’s not what this is about for us. We’re not making this music to please someone, we’re making it for ourselves. So it’s a really powerful stance for us.

Last year you released the single “You Are The Problem Here.” The first three lines of the song are “I am so sick and tired of this world/All these women with dreams shattered/From some man’s sweaty, desperate touch.” What was it like releasing something like that out in the world?

I was nervous putting it out. I know both me and Johanna were because we had never released something like that, so blatant and angry. That was new for us and scary because it’s one thing writing about your own personal life, but this felt so important and necessary. We live in a world where woman are constantly afraid, and it’s scary to put out a song where you’re saying, “Screw you guys.” But it was born out of pure frustration. It wasn’t something that we were like, “Let’s write a song about this”; it was just like, “God, we’re so angry and sick of this,” and just had to let that out. It turned into a song and then we didn’t know what we were gonna do with it or if we were gonna do anything at all. Then we recorded it, and it felt so powerful and then we put it out, and then the whole #Metoo movement happened a couple of months after, and then we started touring and that song had gained momentum, and it felt so important to play and still does. It’s sad that it feels so important, but we just have to keep on talking about it and singing that song.

Thinking about the “Ruins” album, what’s one song from it that really stands out for you?

I always really love playing the last song on the record, “Nothing Has to Be True.” It’s just really cathartic to get to sing it and play the instrumental at the end. I really like how that gets to take up so much space because a lot of our songs are very vocal heavy and have always been. It’s cool to just kind of let that go and let the last couple minutes of the record just be instrumental. I also really like that we switch the vocals, that we sing each verse and that we’re not doing harmonies. I love that song; I love playing it.

What did the album’s producer, Tucker Martine, bring to the table during the making of it?

I think he created a really wonderful atmosphere to make a record in. We had such a great time making this record. I know it sounds weird because the record is so sad, it’s so miserable, and we actually were just laughing so much the whole time. I think maybe because it’s so sad we had to kind of release that and joke around. He put together the most amazing musicians. Steve Moore played keys on the record and is now in our band because we loved him so much. Glen Kotche and McKenzie Smith play the drums, which is so good. It was incredible to work with a big band like that for the first time.

First Aid Kit with Julia Jacklin

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland, $28 in advance, $30 day of show. TICKETS & INFO: statetheatreportland.com

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