Interview with Icona Pop: We Love It
Though you may not know it, Icona Pop’s Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt have been making you dance all summer and fall. For a song that never hit the Billboard charts, their single “I Love It” lit up enough clubs and dance parties that if you played it right now you’d bob your head and say “Oh yeah!” even if the Swedish duo is not yet officially on your radar.
My advice: don’t stop at “I Love It.” Download their new EP “Iconic” (streaming below) and listen to the new single “Good for You,” which just dropped yesterday. Every song is pure pop. Think The Breeders’ hot female voices meets Prince’s fun-factor and bitchy breakup lyrics (see: “You hate my love because you’re dead without it” from “Good For You”).
Also think Hall & Oates. Seriously—Hall & Oates have never dabbled in electropop (or have they?), but they had pop-duo chemistry that emanates beyond themselves into the crowd; and Icona Pop has that, too. It’s obvious when they smile at each other on stage, and it’s obvious in the first minute of talking to them—they finish each other’s sentences, react in unison, say “Yeaaahhhh” to each other’s comments. They have so much chemistry that you feel like you’re in on the connection—even if you’re just dancing to their songs alone in the mirror while you’re supposed to be working. Take it from me.
Let’s start at the beginning: how did you guys meet?
Aino: I was dumped and one of our mutual friends forced me, after laying in the bed for two weeks, to go to this party; and that was at Caroline’s. So that’s where we talked the first time.
Caroline: Yeah. I was having a lot of good parties at my place. I was just trying to have as much fun as possible. So we met at my place and it was kind of…we just felt instantly that we had something special. It was weird—we thought we didn’t have any more time to lose. So the day after meeting Aino called me and came over to my place with a computer and a bottle of wine and we wrote our first song.
You felt a connection before you made any music together? You were just talking?
Aino: Definitely! The strangest thing is, I felt like I’d known Caroline my whole life. We were like “Oh, there you are! Finally!” So we made our first song; two days after that we booked our first gig and a month later we had our first gig. We really wanted to show the world that we had something going on.
How did you get from Sweden to London to New York?
Caroline: We just started immediately to write a lot, DJ. We didn’t believe in sleep; we just worked our asses off. And then we started going to Paris because Kitsuné picked up the song from MySpace (“Luvsick”), and wanted to have it on one of the compilations. And we were just super thrilled and started going over there…And then we felt, Ok, maybe we should just move there. Because we want to be where we get the most inspiration and the most done. So we moved to London.
Aino: London is not that far from Sweden. It’s just two hours on an Airplane. So it’s very short. If you want to move it’s really easy.
So how long was it between when you met and when you decided to go move to London together?
Aino: Two years, right?
Caroline: Yeah. First year in Sweden we went back and forth. We were traveling like crazy. And then we decided Ok, it’s time for us to move. And that was a good decision. We got so much stuff done there.
Caroline: And we met a lot of strange people.
Aino: And I mean, we’ve been constantly aiming for moving to New York. Our third gig was in New York.
Caroline: So then we started going over, then we felt like… now is the time. Before it wasn’t the time. We were not ready. We were having so much other stuff going on.
Aino: It feels very natural.
Caroline: We love being here.
Who were you listening to around the time you guys met? What kind of music inspired you?
Aino: We get inspired by very different kinds of music, everything from Reggae to classical music. But mainly it’s pop bands in the 90s. The boy and girl bands. The one hit wonders.
Can you name a couple?
Aino: Like “What Is Love” with Haddaway.
Aino: Nightcrawlers, aww, they were really good. Those kind of things put a lot of inspiration in our songs. We listen to every kind of music. And we love differences between all the genres.
Caroline: Yeah. When we met we were very inspired by Prince but then also listened to like Chemical Brothers, Talking Heads, Daft Punk. But it’s…we listen to so much music all the time.
Caroline: A lot of old stuff.
Did either of you have formal training on computers or did you teach yourselves how to use equiptment?
Aino: Computers came pretty late. My brother was producing so I started to borrow his studio because no one else understood what I wanted to do with the music. So I actually started to produce myself. But we went to music school.
Caroline: Yeah, we went to music school and sang and played instruments, but when it comes to the equipment I think it’s all about passion and interest and a lot of hours just sitting there and trying to figure stuff out. You really need to have a huge interest otherwise you won’t learn. Now we’re the biggest geeks ever. When we walk into a store where we can buy electronic stuff we’re like, Oh shit!
How are you doing ramping up to releasing your first full album? Are you guys still working on it?
Caroline: Everything is just like a very big creative chaos right now.
Aino: We haven’t set the date yet and we feel like you’re gonna hear that we’ve been on a huge adventure since day one. In London we got real inspired by the dance music there—the underground stuff. Then we came here. You’re gonna hear like maybe 15 really different tracks. We want to write until the last day so people can really be on the whole adventure and hear a song that we made maybe two months before we released this album. I’m happy that we’re not locked in that basement in Stockholm.
I saw you guys at the SoHo House. It was such a fun show.
Caroline: It was very strange! The sound kind of flew away so we couldn’t hear anything.
Everyone wanted to be dancing but no one had the nerve.
Do the crowds in New York have a harder time dancing? Or is it just that one venue? Because your shows are usually dance parties.
Caroline: I think it was a little bit that place. Because people got shy. It’s too like, high. People get intimidated by standing there. It feels very private up there.
Aino: Swedish people can be very rough when it comes to dancing, too. Like they’re always standing. Especially in Stockholm. They stand and watch until the last song. Mostly. But New York people have been amazing to us.
Caroline: Our goal when we play live is we want the audience to feel like we’re all in it together, you know? That’s why we usually jump down in the crowd and dance with people because you don’t want them to feel like it’s us up on stage and then it’s the crowd. It’s such a cool feeling when you can see that you’re actually connecting with people in the audience.
Where do you want to go that you haven’t been yet?
Caroline: We want to tour around here in America. It’s kind of a Swedish dream to be in this tour bus and just go for miles, for days, and see the small cities everywhere.
Caroline: It would be cool to go to like China, Japan, Australia.
Change of subject: You guys are so stylish. How does fashion play into your performance? Or do you guys just put on what you think is cute and go?
Aino: We love clothes but we’re not following any trends. It’s more about expressing ourselves when it comes to fashion. Standing on stage is really amazing that way because you can wear stuff you maybe wouldn’t in the daytime. You can express yourself even more.
Caroline: I’m very honored people think we have style, but when we lived in London we were so poor we had to like sew stuff on our clothes just to make them look new.
Nice. What would you sew on your clothes?
Caroline: Often it was like the capes that we have in the “I Love It” video. Stuff like that that can really add movement when you’re standing on stage. We love sheer fabrics and layers. It feels like you can never have too many layers.
Aino: No…you can’t.
You really can’t. What’s next for you guys after CMJ?
Aino: We’re gonna be on a long tour. In a couple of days we’re going back to Sweden and going on the Swedish tour. And then we’re gonna meet our families for the first time in a very long time. And then we’re gonna support Marina and the Diamonds in December.
Caroline: That’s gonna be great. We met her in London and she’s a friend of ours. It’s gonna be so fun. Then Germany—we’re just gonna tour.
Aino: Tour and write our album. It’s almost done.
Caroline: Yeah, but like we said, we want to have that one last song.
Aino, that boyfriend who dumped you before you met—has he seen how well you’re doing?
Aino: We actually got back together! After a year. He came to one of our gigs and he was like “I’m so sorry,” and I was soooo angry. But then I said to him, “Well, I’m actually very happy that you dumped me because I don’t think we would have met otherwise, me and Caroline.”
Caroline and I were both in really shitty situations and we kind of saw the light in each other. But I got back together with him, then we broke up again. But I was actually the one who broke it up this time, so…What goes around comes around I guess.