It’s been nearly a year since First Aid Kit released ‘You Are the Problem Here’ for International Women’s day. The single was written in response to the lenient sentencing of Brock Turner, following his very public trial for rape and sexual assault at Stanford University in California.
The band, which comprises sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg, wrote the song out of anger and frustration towards rape culture, but also in an entirely pre-#metoo world. The swell of support for women, and the rise of Time’s Up, is something that the sisters never anticipated.
“As a woman, we’re used to thinking that [gender inequality] is never going to change. I mean no one’s ever cared before so why would they now? But it’s amazing that change is finally happening. It feels crazy that it’s happening now and not a million years ago,” Klara says.
“We do have a super long way to go, but personally I feel so much stronger after the Metoo movement. I’m not afraid of speaking up anymore when I’m uncomfortable. Myself and Johanna, we’re not going to let the little things fly. Because that’s what really gets to you. That’s what leads to these big things happening, because we always let these big things fly,” Klara says.
In the year that has passed since releasing that record, the Swedish duo wrote and recorded their highly anticipated third album, Ruins. But before getting there, they had to make a lot of big changes, and step away from the band that had consumed the entirety of their adult lives.
“We couldn’t go on the way we had. We’d worked so hard, and it was really fun, but we got to a point where we needed to stop,” Klara says.
“We needed to take time away from each other, and from the First Aid Kit world. Because that had basically been our whole lives. I was 14 when we started the band, and everything was so exciting that it got to the point where my body was spent, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I was so exhausted.”
Klara’s body and mind, which had been through a huge amount of physical stress over the decade of being in First Aid Kit, began to falter.
“I remember we were on tour in Europe and we were talking about making a music video, which would mean we wouldn’t have as much time at home between tours, and I started crying. And I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t imagine just one day of work, I couldn’t do it,” Klara says.
It was, of course, a confusing time for the young woman, who struggled with balancing her need to rest and desire to work.
“It’s tough, I felt a lot of guilt for feeling that way, because I thought I was doing what I always wanted. And why wasn’t I appreciating it, what was wrong with me. Now I understand that better, that it wasn’t strange because I had been working so much, but also because it was our whole lives. I needed to figure out who I was outside the band, and if it all falls apart, that I’m still going to be a person who has other things,” Klara says.
“I think we’re all trying to figure that stuff out. I felt so much better in my own skin, and just the feeling that if this doesn’t work out for some reason, I’m still going to be a fully formed person. I have friends outside of this. And I think that’s a good thing to have, so you don’t feel so dependent on it.”
The sisters agreed to take a six-month break, with zero pressure to write or work in any capacity. During that time, her relationship of five years ended. Moving back to Sweden from the UK, Klara was struck by the inspiration that would shape the record.
“I’d had all these ideas about where my life was going, and then all of it changed very quickly. But I got to write about it, and now I can share it. And people say they can relate to the songs, and they’re in the exact same situation now that I was in, and it’s such a beautiful connection that we have with people,” Klara says.
As a new chapter of her life outside of the band, Klara is keen to continue challenging and expanding what First Aid Kit can do.
“As women, people expect us to be a certain way. There’s an expectation that we’re the Swedish, bohemian sisters who make beautiful folk music. And, well, yes. But we also do other stuff. We don’t want to limit ourselves,” Klara says. But just in the way that they empowered so many women, singing “I hope you fucking suffer” to any and all men who have abused their positions of power on ‘You Are the Problem Here’, Klara says they continued to be empowered and energised by the movement across the globe pushing women to the front.
“I feel such a sisterhood, we’ve come together. We need to change how we raise children. I feel there’s more and more people every day are realising it. That change will be better for everyone. But it’s going to take a long time, but I think we’ll get there.”
Originally published in Beat Magazine.