Some bands are happy to leave the creative direction of their gig posters and visuals up to their labels, but others, and these are often the more special of the bunch, put as much care into their visual representation as they do their music, carefully building a coherent image with every photo shoot, illustration and album sleeve. First Aid Kit is one of the latter. The Swedish sibling duo has accrued quite a roster of preferred illustrators and photographers to design their posters, channelling their one-of-a-kind amalgamation of Scandi heritage, folk symbolism and references into each one. We spoke to Johanna and Klara about the process of commissioning their posters, their favourite illustrator to work with, and keeping creative disagreements in the family.
How closely do you like to work with designers and illustrators on your tour posters and visuals? Do you set the the briefs for them, or do you leave that to your label?
We usually have a lot of ideas and opinions when it comes to our visuals. The visual aspect of what we do is very important to us. It’s got to work as a companion to our music. When we started out with our first EP and first record, I (Johanna) did all the designing of the merch, album artwork, websites etc. I really loved doing it, it’s so much fun, but it became a little too much work when things started taking off for us. Now we work with a bunch of different talented artists. We usually give guidelines or send inspirational images for them to work with.
Which has been your favourite tour poster so far?
That’s a tough question, we’ve had many tour posters made for us throughout the years. Our favourite has to be the ones made by Anne Benjamin. She did a tour poster for us a couple of years ago for a show we did at The Lincoln Hall in Chicago that we fell in love with.
We loved it so much we asked her to create two new tour posters for our UK and Swedish tours this year. We told her to use a fairytale theme, and for the UK she made one where we’re in the forest shooting a bow and arrow (very badass) Robin Hood-style, riding a horse and a deer. For the Swedish tour we got one with a more Scandi-looking theme, where we’re snow queens riding a polar bear. They look like they’re from the kind of exciting psychedelic children’s book you wish you’d read as a child.
Another favourite would be the Australian tour posters made by Ken Taylor. He’s made two, one featuring a red fox and another one which is more Art Nouveau style. Truly gorgeous work. We were mind-blown when we saw them. We have a small basement studio in our parents’ house where we record demos. Ken’s posters are hanging up there on the studio walls as inspiration.
"It's so powerful to get to meet other creative people on the road who've inspired you and find out there's a mutual appreciation."Johanna, First Aid Kit
Do you have many young illustrators and photographers approaching you wanting to create visuals for you? Do you ever consider it?
Actually, we haven’t had that many illustrators or photographers reach out to us. It’s more been a case of us reaching out to our favourite and then, luckily, them agreeing to work with us.
For example, about a month ago we were on tour in Australia, and Klara wrote an email to this photographer called Nirrimi Firebrace. She has a blog which Klara has been following for five years. Klara asked Nirrimi if she would hang out with us and document our time at the Golden Plains Festival outside of Melbourne. She answered that she’s been a fan of us for many years and came along. It was an incredible meeting. It’s so powerful to get to meet other creative people on the road who’ve inspired you and find out there’s a mutual appreciation. The photos from our trip will hopefully be up on her blog soon.
How important do you think tour posters and other printed ephemera are in this day and age? Do you think that the shift into digital has emphasised the role of printed material, or reduced it?
It’s kind of sad the way it is today. It’s convenient that media is available digitally everywhere and all the time, but it’s also lost some of its visual appeal. We get nostalgic thinking about how things were in the past, in our childhood, with all the VHS cassettes and the CDs, it was definitely a different era.
"Johanna had a lot of pictures of Britney Spears in our shared room, which Klara was not too happy about…"Johanna and Klara, First Aid Kit
We buy a lot of vinyl, even if it’s a record we already have on our phones or on Spotify. That feeling when looking through the artwork and putting it on the record player is magic for us. Our tour posters sell very well when we’re on tour, so perhaps a lot of people long for this physical connection to the music. We believe the general interest in design, illustration and photography is probably bigger today then it ever was before though. Now photo-editing software and cameras are available to most people. In that way it’s a very inspiring time to be alive in.
Do you ever disagree on what you think band visuals should look like?
No, we very rarely disagree on anything creative. We’ve been so lucky to get to collaborate with such incredible illustrators, photographers and directors and we’ve been absolutely amazed by their work.
What’s the most fun you’ve ever had on a photo shoot?
It is always fun when a photographer has a clear vision that we’re all excited about. We loved being out in Death Valley with one of our favourite photographers of all time, Neil Krug, when we were shooting the cover art for our latest record Stay Gold. That place is magical, it’s very inspiring. We love Neil’s 1970s aesthetic and his photos are always breathtaking.
Are there any posters you had on your walls as children and teenagers? What do you think drew you to them?
To be honest, we can’t really remember any… Johanna had a lot of pictures of Britney Spears in our shared room, which Klara was not too happy about…
What is your favourite band merch? Either your own, or other peoples?
We recently went to see our friend Soko play. One of the things you could buy was a Polaroid picture with her and you in it, which was a great idea. Really nicely designed T-shirts are always awesome.