Icona PopIDOL Magazine
Aino Jawo, 25, and Caroline Hjelt, 24, are Icona Pop. Hailing from Stockholm, Sweden, the electro-pop twosome are taking over the hipster nightlife scenes of New York, London and Paris with their fiendishly catchy pop numbers, and DJ skills. We shot the girls on London’s iconic (couldn’t resist!) South Bank, and despite the freezing temperatures, they smiled and posed their way to some fantastic shots. Two things strike you about Aino and Caroline – they are very low-key, friendly and charming. But they are also best of friends, and this really comes across in the way that they work together, supporting each other whilst answering interview questions, getting into costume changes and tidying up each other’s hair. From their interview answers you will notice that they are supremely confident in themselves as artists and musicians, but not with a hint of arrogance.
HOW DID YOU MEET?
Aino: I was heartbroken. I got dumped by my boyfriend. Our mutual friend forced me to go this party…
Caroline: …At my place! I lived in this apartment with a bunch of girls and we just had the best parties in town.
Aino: It was crazy!
Caroline: We were just having a lot of fun. My friend told me she invited Aino, and she was kind of sad because she’d just got dumped so we had to give her the best night ever. And then I met you and we fell in love!
Aino: It was amazing. We couldn’t stop talking to each other, we were like woah, we should really try to write something together.
WERE YOU INVOLVED IN MUSIC BEFORE THEN?
Aino: Yeah, we actually went to the same school but we didn’t know each other. It was a music school.
Caroline: We were both frustrated because we were working with music but it was not going in the direction that we really wanted it to. We had both been stuck for a while. So people were like, “so what do you do?” And we’d be like “well, I’m trying to go through with the music” and then me and Aino started to talk.
Aino: After the party I called you and we started to write. 2 days after we wrote our first song we booked our first gig. We had a month to write 5 new songs and get a band together.
Caroline: It was so weird. I woke up and I was happy but I was kinda nervous at the same time because I thought maybe it was just the wine talking. But actually when we met it felt so good. And without talking about what kind of music we listen to we just started writing from scratch. It felt so good. We were just excited. We actually thought we had written the best song in the world because we were so excited about writing together.
HOW DO YOU WRITE? WHAT IS YOUR PROCESS?
Aino: I have my computer and we have Logic on it. We first made a basic track with bass and drums. We often do that. We start with the drums and just build.
Caroline: Then we get a feel for the song and get happy or sad. It’s different every time also because sometimes you might have a little bit of lyric in your head and you’re like, ok, we could use this. Or we just come up with something from scratch. It’s very uncomplicated. If you don’t feel like writing that day then don’t do it. If Aino wants to write a whole song I’m happy to sing it. It’s never that we have to do something.
DO YOU EVER FALL OUT OVER WRITING SONGS?
Both: No, never.
Aino: It’s so natural
Caroline: We have a lot of respect for each other. I admire her, for her ideas, and I think actually together we are kind of like the same person but are also very different. I think we just have a lot of respect for each other and no one forced us to live together, or do this together, or to constantly hang out. We’re doing it because we want to, and I think that’s why it’s worked out so good. And we’re having so much fun! The best job in the world, and then we can hang out together so it’s perfect.
AFTER YOU WROTE THAT SONG AND YOU BOOKED THAT GIG, WHAT WAS THE JOURNEY LIKE TO GETTING SIGNED?
Aino: Kitsune, the French label, picked up the song from MySpace. We had this MySpace page that had had 2000 views and the track Manners. They found us and were like yeah, you should come over to Paris.
Caroline: On our second gig in Sweden, or ever, we found our manager. Aino said I have this feeling for this guy, he’s going to be the one, we need to have him. And then I met him and we were like he is going to be our manager. And we never looked for anything else. Our friends were like, maybe you should look at some other options or where you could get a better deal. But we just tracked him down and called him every day and were like “come to our gig, come to our gig!” He flew over and came to our gig, and we started working together from there. But we still didn’t have a deal, it was like a management thing. Everybody was like it, it’s going to take a couple of years and we were like…
Both: Naaaah! No way!
Caroline: We were just up here (gestures to the sky with her hand) and so excited, and then Kitsune came across. Then we met Jamie from Mercury and it felt very good. Everything happened very quick, in one and a half years.
It’s nice to get to that point without the constant rejection often faced in the music industry…
Caroline: It feels so much longer because we’ve both been there. We’ve been rejected, and tried stuff that didn’t work. We found each other from nowhere and tried to do music. We were struggling before – when we met we felt that it was so right.
DO YOU THINK THE STRUGGLES BEFORE HELPED YOU?
Caroline: Yeah, I think you get more aware of what you want and don’t want, and good at not taking any shit. I also think it’s a very big difference from being 13 and 25.
YOU DJ AS WELL. DO YOU DJ SEPARATELY OR ARE YOU ALWAYS ICONA POP AS DJS AND ARTISTS?
Both: We are always Icona Pop
And how do you split your time?
Aino: We’ve been mainly DJ’ing in London.
Caroline: Our band don’t live here, they are still in Sweden. They come over but it takes a while. We’ve been writing a lot and in the studio. We were like, let’s take it easy with the live thing. We love to play live, that’s what we’ve been doing in Sweden. Let’s try and get to know the London music scene, it’s not like in Sweden. The best way of doing that is DJ’ing a lot. We have a DJ set at home and whenever we have spare time we start DJ’ing.
HOW DO THE MUSIC SCENES DIFFER?
Caroline: It’s so much bigger.
Aino: You have drum and bass and stuff – we don’t have that in Sweden. Well we don’t in the same way.
Caroline: It takes a while to find the right places to play at. Here you can go to 4 or 5 different live gigs every night, and then you can go to hundreds of clubs. It’s not like that in Sweden. You have your little clubs and your gig a week.
WHICH COUNTRIES HAVE YOU RECEIVED THE BEST RECEPTION IN?
Aino: In New York. But also a lot in Sweden. And in Paris.
Caroline: We’ve been having so much fun in Paris. We love being here in London. I think next year is going to be the best year ever.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR?
Aino: We’re going to release our album.
Caroline: First we’re going to release our single ‘Top Rated’ and then the album. And then hopefully everything will go very well and we will go on a world tour.
WHAT CAN THE READERS EXPECT FROM THE ALBUM?
Aino: It’s kind of dreamy.
Caroline: It’s been a journey. I think because we got signed pretty early, we always go into the studio and do what we want. We like that we can do exactly what we want. You will not hear 10 tracks that sound the same.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO GO UNDER ICONA POP?
Aino: Wow we were searching for so many different names.
Caroline: My iPhone got stolen so I went back to my old phone whilst waiting for a new one and I was going through my old messages and I found a message from Aino saying “Ok, today I woke up feeling like Icona Pop”.
We were searching for a name for such a long time and my mum was talking about me with Italian friends of hers. They were asking her what I was doing and she was like “her and Aino have got this group” and they were like “oh! Icona Pop?” Because it’s like a pop icon, are they going to be pop icons? She thought it sounded cool and so she text us and was like “hey girls, you should be Icona Pop” and in the beginning because it’s your mum, I was like yeah mum, thanks for your help, love you. But then we felt like it suits us.
Aino: We our Icona Pop. Kinda cocky.
HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT COLLABORATING WITH ROBYN?
Aino: That would be nice.
Caroline: Why not!
Aino: We should do something with Robyn.
Caroline: I think she’s very strong. She’s been in the business for so long and now she’s really doing her own thing. She knows so much about it.
Aino: I remember her first album, it was amazing.
Caroline: Yeah, I got it for Christmas from my parents.
Aino: Me too!
Caroline: And I listened to it every day, all the time.
WHAT OTHER MUSIC DID YOU LISTEN TO GROWING UP?
Aino: I listened to all the girls and boybands. N Sync.
Caroline: I listened a lot to N Sync as well. But also a lot of Queen and Prince.
Aino: We saw him in the summer, he was amazing.
THE SWEDES HAVE SUCH A GREAT SUCH REPUTATION FOR CREATING POP MUSIC. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS? IS THERE SOMETHING IN THE WATER?
Caroline: If you can’t sing you’re not allowed to live in our country… (laughs) no, Swedes are very sensitive when it comes to art and trends and music, and it’s a very small country so if someone wears something that is nice, it comes up on a blog, and then everyone wears it. It’s very much like that – if you’re good at something like music, everybody in that industry will know. If you’re good you will have the chance to collab with different artists.
OF YOUR TRACKS, WHICH IS YOUR FAVOURITE?
Aino: Digital Heart, because there was so much emotional stuff going on at that time. We just sat there and wrote this amazing song. It means a lot to me and that’s why I love it so much.
Caroline: Lovers to Friends I like very much. We wrote it so quickly, in 10 minutes. It felt so good. It’s on the EP. I love Manners but that’s already out!
WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE MANNERS?
Aino: We lived in this apartment in Stockholm with a lot of girls. We just heard a lot of stories about boys and girls do to each other. We thought that we would write a song about your manners. Girls can be pigs, not just to boys but also the other way too.
DID YOU WRITE IT TOGETHER?
Aino: We wrote it together with a guy called Patrick Berger. He worked lots with Robyn. He’s amazing because he really helps you to create a nice environment.
HOW WOULD YOU BEST LIKE A MUSIC CRITIC TO DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC?
Caroline: Like bittersweet quirky pop with a lot of galloping drums and twisting synths.
Aino: That was a good one!!
WHO ARE YOUR IDOLS?
Aino: That’s actually the hardest question. I think we constantly find new idols and sometimes it doesn’t have anything to do with music. We have so many. Ok of the month… I would say my friend Iris. She’s amazing. She will be my idol of the month.
Caroline: Iris is kind of your idol.
Aino: She is so caring and has been through a crazy story in her life and she still keeps on giving so much to other people all the time.
Caroline: She is a perfect friend. And also Prince. He’s wearing high heels…
Aino: …You don’t know if he’s a man or a woman!
Since my interview, Icona Pop were dropped from their record deal. They followed this heartbreaking turn of events with the empowering, energetic track “I Love It” which Pitchfork yesterday named Best New Track, and other tastemakers have been going crazy over. Written by Charli xcx, something tells me that this track will lead to a few A&R guys getting shouted at.
“I Love It” – Icona Pop – video link