Filed under: feature, interrupting yr broadcast | Tags: alan pedder, interview, taxi taxi!
We’ve been keeping an eye on talented twins Johanna and Miriam Eriksson Berhan for a few years now, waiting expectantly for their debut album after their self-titled 2006 EP, produced by Björn Yttling and released on the Efterklang-run label Rumraket, blew us away with its clear-eyed teenage charm and unusual harmonies. That album, Still Standing At Your Back Door, finally arrived in October on legendary indie label Fierce Panda, and didn’t disappoint in the slightest. From the rolling melancholy of the opening title track to the stunning reworking of EP track ‘Mary’, it’s one of the most mature and sophisticated debuts we’ve heard all year, rivalling similarly youthful Swedish sisters First Aid Kit for beyond-their-years wisdom and sparkling freshness.
Only 19 years old, the sisters have an engaging vocal interplay that recalls mid-’90s oddballs Pooka and, occasionally, CocoRosie, and it’s this that brings their otherwise relatively simple songs to life. Where the sprightlier melodies exist, such as on album standouts ‘More Childish In A Long Time’ and ‘Old Big Trees’, the rush of youth flushes the songs, and the listener, pink. Try listening to the swooning love song ‘Ripest Fruit’ and not come away with a rosy glow; it’s virtually impossible.
Having been dumb enough to miss their recent UK tour, we caught up with Johanna and Miriam over email instead to find out which of them wears the trousers and why they can’t wait to get started on their next album.
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You’ve been playing music together for 10 years now. How does it feel to finally have your debut album out there? Have you been pleased with the reaction?
Miriam: It feels good to have our album out, but as soon as we were done with it I just wanted to make a new one. I don’t know if I’m pleased with the reactions. It feels good, everything’s just in its right place, you know… I’m not overwhelmed, but I’m happy.
How did working with producer Johan Berthling compare to your previous recording sessions with Björn Yttling?
Miriam: Working with Johan Berthling was so comfortable. I think he and we had quite the same visions about the songs we recorded for the album. We could talk a lot about the songs, and took it easy, drank a lot of coffee, and that fitted us very well. It took us maybe four months or more to have the album finished. With Björn Yttling, we just went in to the studio, thought we were going to ‘try’ to work with him, and play two or three songs for him. But when we went home, our first EP was recorded!
Do you have defined roles when it comes to songwriting? Do you tend to write together like First Aid Kit or separately like Tegan & Sara?
Miriam: We write separately. Johanna often comes up with finished songs. Or sometimes she or I have some lyrics, but not a melody, and then the other one has a melody to give to that new song.
Do you think you’ll ever get involved in the production side of things too?
Johanna: Yes! I think that would be fun, and kind of healthy. I like recording at home and have space only for my own ideas.
Which one of you is most bossy?
Johanna: Me :D
Myspace played a big role in your early success. What do you think of it now?
Johanna: We were lucky. I think that was a very short period, when people thought they could really find something special on Myspace. Then the community became so huge, it’s hard to just find something you really like. And then Facebook came and took all the other users away from Myspace.
Miriam: It was good when we started, I don’t know much more about it than that. It’s important to stay in touch with the people who like your music, but I think maybe that’s even easier through Facebook now. We still put up some blog posts on Myspace though, when something is happening in TT!-land.
How important has the mentorship of Efterklang been to you over the past few years?
Miriam: V E R Y M U C H I M P O R T A N T !!! I search in my mind for answers to WHY they’ve been so important to us, but I’m not sure. I’m not sure TT! would have been the same without Efterklang and Rasmus. Most of all it’s our manager Rasmus, from Efterklang. He must be from outer space or something because everyone who meets him is like glowing gold afterwards.
Your mum runs a children’s bookshop. What were your favourite books as kids?
Miriam: Mine were Millans Märkvärdiga Mormor (“Millan’s Peculiar Grandmother”), and Kajsa Kavat.
Are any of your songs inspired by literature?
Miriam: Our songs are inspired by everything, books as well, but I’m a very bad reader. I read fast, but I often think it’s hard to understand the plot or story, haha. But I’m very fond of mixing everyday life with dreams when I write, and if I’m lucky I can find the dreams in books, songs, movies, art, and in minds and sleeps, of course.
The lyrics to ‘More Childish Than In A Long Time’ have been a big talking point. Was there a particular scenario that inspired that song?
Johanna: Falling in love with a person that is in love with you.
Miriam: Johanna wrote the lyrics for that song. But I can try to describe what it is about: L O V E. Both me and Johanna have this thing, that when we’re in love with someone we hear, like, a roaring sound in our ears. I guess it’s about that kind of love. When you can’t help that you’re wearing this expression on your face 24/7 —> :D
What do the Swedish lyrics on ‘Same Side Of The Moon’ mean?
Johanna: “I have cried rivers, and I almost floated away / No one but you can console me, why didn’t you come here quick? / The wind is too cool, and the sun is too hot / As long as I’m not resting in your arms.”
The accordion is a difficult thing to learn and play well. What made you take an interest in that particular instrument?
Miriam: I think I know as little about accordions as you do. I own an accordion and I play it, but I haven’t learned how to play it. You know, I just push a button and if I like the sound of it, I just continue pushing that button. I just bought it because I wanted to learn how to play that instrument, but I never did. Sometimes I practice out of an accordion book though. I’m going to continue with that…
Are there any instruments you’d still like to learn?
Miriam: I would like to learn how to play the guitar, because I have no idea how to do that.
What are your ambitions for 2010 and beyond?
Miriam: I think we’re going on tour in spring. And while there’s still snow outside, I want to go to my grandparents’ cottage and lie on the floor and sing a little. But beyond that…I don’t know.
Johanna: Write loads! See new places! Etc!
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Still Standing At Your Back Door is out now in the UK on Fierce Panda.
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