First Aid Kit has been staging a slow invasion of the United States. Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg have been making inroads into American pop culture on the strength of songs like “My Silver Lining” and their sweetly retro sound, which recalls Joni Mitchell and Fleetwood Mac.
As they criss-cross the country from coast to coast and everywhere in between, it’s no surprise that the band, whose sound harks back to the golden age of late ’60s music, has found solace in Simon & Garfunkel’s “America.”
“We who travel so much and have been around America so many times can really relate to it,” explained the girls of First Aid Kit in an interview with TIME. “We somehow can’t get tired of performing this song. It just won’t happen.”
The band has begun including the song in their sets: “It’s always a highlight at our shows,” they said. Now, they are releasing the track on 10″ vinyl for Record Store Day on Black Friday, Nov. 28. The album will feature the concert favorite “America,” plus the unreleased song “Brother” and acoustic versions of two tracks from First Aid Kit’s latest full-length release Stay Gold. In addition, the band put together a video documenting their travels across America and set to the sweetly haunting tune, which TIME is premiering today.
As they prepare for the special release of the song, the band emailed with TIME about the song:
How did you choose to cover this particular song?
In Sweden there’s this award called The Polar Music Prize that gets handed out to a popular music artist every year. During the award ceremony, they invite a bunch of Swedish artists to perform the winner’s songs for the winner. The recipient in 2012 was Paul Simon and we were asked to perform at the ceremony. We had about six months to prepare and we went through the entire Simon & Garfunkel catalogue. In the end, we felt strongly that America was the song we wanted to do, even though it was quite a challenge because we thought the original was so magical. To us, it stands out among the Simon & Garfunkel songs.
What made it resonate for you?
It’s an incredible tune in many ways. Even though we play it with only one acoustic guitar and some pedal steel, it’s very dynamic and builds up into a dramatic ending. The structure of the song and the melody just make for an epic journey. The lyrics are like a poem, without a single rhyme. It contains some of our favorite lines, like, “Toss me a cigarette I think there’s one in my raincoat,” and, “Kathy I’m lost I said though I knew she was sleeping.”
What was it like performing the song for Paul Simon?
Terrifying, but amazing. We have huge respect for Mr. Simon as a songwriter and performer. It’s very scary to go up in front of someone you admire and sing their own song to them. It’s such a huge honor. You never know what they will think of your performance. There was also some pressure for us because the year before we performed for Patti Smith at the Polar Music Prize and she cried – so everyone was waiting for Paul’s reaction! He did give us a standing ovation in the end so it was a good night.
Your cover of Fleet Foxes “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song” helped establish your career. As artists, what is the difference between playing a cover as opposed to playing your own songs?
Our own original songs are, of course, more personal to us in a different way. For us songwriting is a way to connect with other people. When we sing covers of other people’s songs it is a great joy. You get to take something that isn’t yours and try to make it your own. It’s a challenge and it’s magical if and when you get there.
Have you seen people cover your songs?
Yes! We’re amazed by how many people cover our songs on YouTube. We watch those videos all the time. It’s inspiring and so flattering. It’s the biggest compliment you can get.
First Aid Kit’s America 10″ will be available in record stores on Black Friday, November 28.
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