IMAGE COURTESY OF SANTIAGO FELIPE
"We just moved here, so everyone out there who wants to show us a good time, please come and dance with us!" Aino Jawo quips about her recent relocation, along with fellow Stockholm-native bandmate Caroline Hjelt, from London to New York. Jawo and Hjelt—better known as Icona Pop—met in 2009, fittingly at a party, and quickly found themselves making music with folks like Patrik Berger (who produced Robyn's "Dancing On My Own") and UK newcomer Charli XCX. That duo helped Icona Pop put together "I Love It," the hit lead single off their new EP, The Iconic, out October 16.
Icona Pop is about to jump off on a European tour followed by an extended stay in Los Angeles to work on their first full-length disc, due in 2013; but tonight, you can take them up on their New York party request: they're playing Santos Party House. We chatted with the fashion-obsessed Swedes about what to expect from The Iconic, where they like to party, and what the ethos of Icona Pop really is.
ALEX ERIKSON: You two are known for your sense of style, and you've been to Fashion Week before. Is the second time better than the first?
CAROLINE HJELT: I think there's always something special about the first time. We were here and we had no idea what we got ourselves into.
ERIKSON: In the beginning of the video for "I Love It," Aino is talking about checking out people's street style—or checking out good-looking people. Have you been doing a lot of that in New York this week?
HJELT: I mean we love the fashion, the street fashion. That is the best. We're not the best ones for following trends. We love to express ourselves through clothes, and we love beautiful clothes. It's like art sometimes, and it can really help you express a feeling, and when people walk on the street really putting some weird stuff together, it's like art, and that's the best fashion.
ERIKSON: Are you still in "I Love It"-chaos?
JAWO: Oh, yeah. It's amazing. We just love it. [laughs]
ERIKSON: What's that like?
HJELT: It's like a creative chaos. It's been like that since we released it: traveling around the world, waking up in different cities, just meeting a lot of crazy and fun people. I wish I could stay in this fuck-it mode, slash "I Love It" mode, forever.
ERIKSON: How do you say that line from "I Love It"—"I'm a '90s bitch"—in Swedish?
HJELT: Ah, jag är nittio bitch. [laughs] Are you gonna write that down?
JAWO: We can spell it for you.
ERIKSON: The video for "I Love It" feels like one huge bash. What's your favorite city to party in?
HJELT: We haven't explored that much when it comes to partying, because we're always working. We party a lot. But mostly it's when we're DJing, and that's not the same way as when you just go out clubbing. But I think New York, definitely has a lot of nice clubs.
JAWO: Yeah, we love the party life in New York.
ERIKSON: You live here full time now?
HJELT: Yeah we do, but we're actually leaving on Thursday on a European tour and then we're going to LA for three weeks. So we live here, but we're not going to be here that much 'til November or the middle of October. But at least we have our stuff here now. We have our base here. And it feels so good. It really feels like this is the time for us to get over here now.
ERIKSON: What do you think the next Icona Pop song to blow up the way "I Love It" has will be?
JAWO: Well, we have so many songs, but we have one in particular that we love. Yeah, we have... it's so hard to choose between your darlings.
JAWO: Every song is different and has such a different feel, but soon we will be releasing "Ready for the Weekend," and that is a song that is all about getting ready for the weekend and just have fun and party.
ERIKSON: That seems to be a theme in your music.
JAWO: We went to London about a year ago and got a huge interest in the DJ scene and the London scene, because it's such a big difference if you go from Sweden to London or America to London. So we went there to explore the music and we kind of fell into the dance scene, a whole dance-ier vibe than before, and that's kind of how we made up the song "Ready for the Weekend." You can really hear that it's kind of more up-tempo, dance-ier. It's not the same punk feeling that "I Love It" has, but we still kind DJed them together. How do you say that?
HJELT: Yeah, you can mix them together.
ERIKSON: And that drops today.
HJELT: Yeah! I think so. That's exciting. I mean, we lose track of the days because we're traveling. But if [it does] that's amazing!
ERIKSON: Plus, your EP The Iconic is due out October 16.
ERIKSON: But you've also said you have enough material for five albums. When can we expect something full length?
HJELT: Yeah, yeah, yeah. There's going to be something very soon. It's just been very busy. So it's like, now with the single, then the EP and shortly after that the album.
JAWO: Yeah, we've been traveling so much and we've been having so many shows—I think 45 shows in two and a half months—so that makes it so that you can't be in the studio as much. We always have a microphone everywhere we go, so we can always record. It takes a little longer, though, to get the album finished. But yes, we have lots of good songs.
HJELT: We just have to get it all together. It's always the last touch. You know, we have to say, "Okay. We're done. It's done. This is the album; this is the song; this is the title." That is the trickiest part, 'cause you have to choose from all the songs that you love. We have to kill our darlings. Or we could just put out five albums at once.
JAWO: We should do that! I think that some songs doesn't feel quite right and also some songs we wrote at a really early stage and doesn't feel quite like us anymore because we're also kind of in the middle of a creative chaos. It feels like... we're developing constantly.
ERIKSON: What's your writing process like?
HJELT: Well, it's very different every time. We travel all the time, so we're very good at writing wherever we are. Hotel rooms, buses, airplanes. And then maybe we write something like a hook or a lyric, or maybe we come up with a bassline or something, and then we take it to the studio for the people that we work with. Sometimes we work with someone new, and that's a totally new process, and then you always learn so much about new ways of working and you get so much inspiration. It's really nice to collaborate as well.
ERIKSON: Whom did you collaborate with on The Iconic?
JAWO: Our main producers, Patrik Berger and Elof [Loelv]. They're like our big babies. And I think we're gonna work with them for the rest of our lives.
HJELT: When we started working with them we got so like giddy because they are so good.
HJELT: It's amazing.
JAWO: We're like a big family.
HJELT: We have a lot of nice collaborations coming up. We're going to go to L.A. in a couple weeks and write with a bunch of people—we don't want to tell you now and jinx it, but we will let you know as soon we get out.
ERIKSON: You've also said that you can do whatever you want and call it pop. Should we expect some relatively big departures from your currently electro-heavy style in the future?
JAWO: Well it's still going to be a lot of heavy choirs, a lot of galloping drums and synthesizers. The main thing is that it's still going to be a lot of bittersweet melodies because the music that we love is often very bittersweet. We can listen to it when we're sad, or when we're super happy about something; we can cry and laugh, dance, have sex to, I don't know, everything to that music. But our album is not going to be like 12 tracks that are going to sound exactly similar. It's going to be very different. You can hear the journey that we've been through.
HJELT: It's been a long journey.
JAWO: Yeah. You're going to hear some stuff we wrote [a while ago] and then you're going to hear songs we wrote a couple of weeks ago or something. It's such an Icona Pop vibe.
HJELT: I think it's very clear we're keeping to fuck-it mode and then we can do whatever we want and call it pop. We have our soul in all of our songs, and we are so proud, but scared and excited at the same time.
ERIKSON: Is that fuck-it mode what makes Icona Pop what it is?
HJELT: Yeah. I think that's true.
JAWO: Fuck-it mode equals Icona Pop.
THE ICONIC IS OUT OCTOBER 16, AND THEIR SINGLE I LOVE IT IS OUT NOW. ICONA POP WILL PLAY SANTOS PARTY HOUSE IN NEW YORK TONIGHT. FOR MORE ON THE DUO, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.