“First Aid Kit”
His issues are nothing, however, to what she brings to the band. Quinnissa, who was 13 when First Aid Kit was recorded has skills. “She’s a total ringer and a complete pro in a live setting,” Mulkerin acknowldges. “She’s a lot more reliable than her grumpy parents.” Indeed, Quinnisa’s voice has developed into an astonishing powerhouse of force. While she has been contributing to Big Blood records almost since birth, First Aid Kit solidifies her clear talent. All her lyrics are improvised in the moment while recording, a real shock to realize considering how insightful and perfectly suited to the song they are. “Never Ending Nightmare” candidly and perfectly describes the anxieties of being a teenager today: “The quiet growing inside me is louder/I should have known not to trust another stranger.” Or the heartache of “1000 Times”: “I think about you at least 1000 times a day/I can’t even say hi/What’s wrong, what’s wrong, what’s wrong with me?” What more, her natural ability to perform amazes her parents. “She’ll be slopping around all practice, and you are convinced she doesn’t have it,” Kinsella says. “Then we record and she nails the guitar and vocals, even does something better. She’s in control.”
Teenage impulses fit right in with the band’s intent, which is making music that’s honest, inclusive and flawed. Inventiveness in the moment wins out over belabored, repeated takes, as the group is in a constant state of creation. Songs sound fully built and realized, but they actually rise out of improvisation. Big Blood channel the moment and let go once they finish. “I think about Ursula Le Guinn and how she talks about everything she takes in becoming compost,” Kinsella says. “It mixes together, and when it comes out there’s all that stuff in it, sometimes it’s direct and sometimes not.” Mulkerin’s descriptions of different songs on the record run like faint recalled dreams. “I don’t remember much other than it flowed from the three of us absurdly quick,” he says of opener “In My Head”. “Haunted” has intriguing lyrics like “I’m haunted by your pictures/That faded like a memory” but, as Mulkerin says, “Colleen is not one to try for things in any sort of premeditated way, it just flows and evolves.” Many songs touch on the fear and horrors outside a safe home space, fitting for a record made during COVID. They sing about their feelings in the moment, so lyrics are often topical. “Makes Me Wonder” is about Ma’kihia Bryant, a 16 year-old black girl shot by police (“Be still the mess you make/The life you squeeze, you take,” and later in the song…”She should be alive today.”)
While any fan of the band will tell you that no two albums sound very much alike, First Aid Kit displaying for the first time their affinity for the emotional effects of bands like The Cure, Bauhaus and The Clean, there’s a clear thread throughout all their records. First, there’s Kinsella’s voice, which pivots from upbeat fun to pure dread, presumably based on how she was feeling that day she recorded. Secondly, Mulkerin’s production preserves layers of could-have-beens by keeping the ghostly presence of past takes alive in the background of tracks like subliminal thoughts. Their songs achieve the double satisfaction of being immediate, catchy and memorable, while also revealing inner depths at repeated listens. Some of the best experimental music is cloaked as mundane.
First Aid Kit was recorded entirely at the family’s home onto 1” eight-track tape. It achieves the magic of capturing a moment and making a lasting impression. There aren’t many family bands, and there’s definitely no other band like this.