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JOHANNA: And they were very encouraging and supportive of us whenever we were doing anything creative, and that really helped.
JOHANNA: But people do like to put stuff into genres so we say that its folk and country Americana-inspired pop music, basically, with lots of harmonies and storytelling.
WOLANIN: Along those lines, what influences do you think directed you towards that sound, specifically? KLARA: And then through Bright Eyes we found Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Gram Parsons and so many amazing musicians that we became kind of obsessed with. JOHANNA: Yeah, and now its like we’re still exploring, I mean there’s so much good music out there and you can keep on digging. KLARA: I think, I don’t know it’s a strange thing its almost like because the way we grew up with the Internet and everything just having the whole world at your fingertips you can listen to music from anywhere in the world or watch a TV show from anywhere in the world it kind of made the national borders disappear. JOHANNA: Yeah, like when we started making music we didn’t think, “oh we’re going to sound American,” it’s just what came naturally to us. JOHANNA: And in Sweden they don’t dub TV shows so we grew up watching The Simpsons and Sabrina the Teenage Witch and that’s how we learned English. WOLANIN: So your new record Stay Gold is about to be released, and I listen to it on NPR persistently. KLARA: Sure, we made this record in November in Omaha, Nebraska with a guy named Mike Mogis who is part of the band Bright Eyes. WOLANIN: One thing I noticed with the album was that it had a lot of themes of displacement. JOHANNA: I think a lot of the songs are written from the perspective of being on tour and being a musician, I mean that’s what we do so obviously that’s what we’re going to write about. KLARA: Yeah, but I also want to say that it’s not just a record about being on tour and how hard that can be, it’s just about being a human being and feeling lost in a more general sense.
WOLANIN: So now I’m going to say a song title, and you tell me what emotions or memories come to mind.

JOHANNA: Well, its about the feeling you have when you’re young and you’re afraid of ending up where you started from, like not being able to go out into the world and discover things and being stuck somewhere. KLARA: Yeah, and its sort of about how things can be hard but you’d rather deal with it and get the good stuff than not feel anything at all. JOHANNA: It’s about having this memory that you’re haunted by but you also kind of like it as well and you don’t know how to get rid of it. KLARA: “In the Hearts of Men,” that’s a song that came very quickly, I remember writing the lyrics for that and it was just one of those.
KLARA: Yeah, so the very dramatic landscape of Scotland because we were driving through Scotland when that song started coming together.
JOHANNA: A lot of people think it’s about Game of Thrones, like the Lannisters…Lannisters right? KLARA: Just to sort of capture the feeling that things are changing and running out of our hands and we have to grab hold of it. JOHANNA: It’s all from the Robert Frost poem [“Nothing Gold Can Stay,” which is also seen in the film The Outsiders]. KLARA: I think of the strings, I think of Townes Van Zandt who was a big inspiration for us when we were producing the song, when we were arranging the song. WOLANIN: So you’ve been playing together since 2007, has the music business changed a lot since you’ve started? KLARA: I think the music business is changing drastically, because people aren’t really buying CDs, but we’ve never kind of experienced a time when we were musicians and people weren’t buying our CDs. KLARA: Yeah, so I think it’s probably harder for bands who started out and had to get used to the fact that people don’t buy CDs anymore.
JOHANNA: But for us, we love the Internet and the fact that we found country and American music was through that and we wouldn’t be here without it so we’re very positive towards it.
WOLANIN: You started playing out and getting more attention when you guys were fairly young. JOHANNA: Yeah, I mean we quit school, and you didn’t go to high school, I mean it was just so fast.
You have read and agree to the Global Shipping Program terms and conditions - opens in a new window or tab. Import charges previously quoted are subject to change if you increase you maximum bid amount. I think we first got into this kind of music through the band Bright Eyes, that I started listening to when I was 12, and you were 14.
So, because you have this sound and you are so influenced by North American musicians, are people surprised that you’re from Sweden? And you know I think when you’re doing this you can sort of feel out of place and isolated in a way because you’re far away from your family and your friends and you’re on your own. Just trying to find your place in the world and trying to understand how it all works, and how you fit into it.
Which happens very rarely, that a song writes itself almost, it sounds silly but it kind of happened with that song. Having these strings that are almost like a choir, it’s almost like the vocals and the strings are talking to each other and they’re answering.

It could be someone you’re in love with but it could also be someone like your sister or a friend. And it’s about Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons and Johnny Cash and June Carter, and their harmonizing and how special it is.
Was it intimidating to be garnering that much attention from fans and other bands like The Knife and Jack White when you were still so young? We never even thought about it, like that’s never even occurred to us, like, “we’re so young it’s so weird,” you know? I think in a lot of ways songwriting is the best thing because I’m not very patient so I usually give up on things quickly but with songs it’s pretty short usually.
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And it was kind of a revelation to hear that music because it was just so simple and honest. And it’s amazing to come here and see people liking what we do and this is where everything started. We’ve tried to do it separately but it’s so different because of our harmonies and how important they are. I’m still really pleased with the lyrics in that one, I feel like I kind of nailed it there [laughs].
Just how special it is to sing with someone, it’s so different from talking and it’s just a completely different form of communication. I mean it felt weird and surreal, but I don’t think we had time to reflect on it because so much happened to us and it’s been such an amazing adventure so far. A lot of people say “how could you work with your sister, I would never been able to work with mine, we hate each other,” and things like that. It was really inspiring as an insecure 12-year-old to hear this music that was just like “this is me, I’m just a regular dude just singing about my life,” and that you didn’t have to be this perfect pop star, you know? When we can see each other and we’re in the same room they get tighter and it feels better, so that’s how we do it. I think we have this sort of romantic idea about having a normal job, and a normal life, waking up in the same place everyday and going to the same place of work.
Nate Walcott, who’s also a member of Bright Eyes, wrote all the string arrangements for the record and when we heard this it was like “whoa,” he just captured exactly what it is was we wanted. It’s strange but to us that’s something exotic and sometimes we definitely long for that too. I think when you’re on the road with anyone I think you’ll encounter problems and you’ll be tired and stressed out and you need someone to take it out on.
And it just happens to be the one you know the best, and then you forgive each other, quickly.

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