Icona Pop is probably best known for “I Love It,” their double platinum single that became one of the most prolific songs of the summer. Yet the Swedish duo, that is Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, is more than just a couple girls with Keyboards. Icona Pop has rocketed to the top of music charts around the world with their particular brand of party ballads and “bitter-sweet melodies.”Hjelt took a moment out of her globe trotting schedule to talk to the Pace Press about everything from little bars in London to the Billboard Awards.
Somewhere in the distance “I Love It” can be heard blaring out of a car stereo. It is just past noon and Hjelt answers the phone with what sound like a smile. After a few minutes of exchanging pleasantries Hjelt begins to tell the history of Icona Pop and their long journey to where they are now.
Hjelt and Jawo met back in 2009 at a party. The less than conventional meeting is the perfect beginning to a less than conventional duo.. Jawo was singing and playing cowbell in a band with six men. Hjelt was involved in a number of projects but both were unsatisfied with what they were doing.
“We were both searching for… and Aino was producing a lot, she got frustrated that no one really got what she wanted to do and I was also very frustrated, I was working with different people but it just didn’t feel 100% right and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was,” Hjelt said. “So then when I met Aino I was like ahh this is how it is supposed to feel because it was just pure creative freedom and I got so inspired. “
The day after meeting the two began writing together. The day after that they booked their first show and a month later they performed on stage together. Hjelt says that this is just their relationship. The two became fast friends and together they are able to create. “…If we get inspired, if we feel for something, we don’t sleep we just defiy it. We just sit there and we are creating.”
Yet it hasn’t always been easy for the two. Before they were perfroming on the same stage as Prince and Justin Bieber they were sharing a mattress in a little apartment in London with barely enough money to buy food and rats as their only companions. It was that time in London that the two decided to take control of their own music. Hjelt explained, ”we first moved to London for a year and we were there and we were really like trying to find people to listen to our music and to get DJ gigs at some shitty bars and we didn’t have any money and we were like shit what are we gonna do and we were working with people that didn’t really listen so we decided we didn’t want to work with them anymore.”
Since that bleak time a lot has changed in the lives of Hjelt and Jawo.”… Now we have the best crew. We have our Sweedish crew and our music group Ten, which is like a big family and atlantic records and it’s just like we’ve traded this crew with tens of people that we love so now everything feels just right. But this last year everything has been going very fast and very good. We’re very happy,” said Hjelt.
The biggest turning point in their career can be arguably pinpointed to a show at The Glasslands in Brookyln. The show was the duo’s first headlining gig and for the first time they played to a crowd of about 200 fans who sang along to every song. “That gig was so important for us because to come to New York to play was like a dream. And we were there and people were actually signing along to our songs and it was like what did people actually come to see us? And you know then we saw the girls episode, that was huge for us, and then playing the Billboard Awards, we didn’t even realize what we were doing till we got down in the audience next to all the other artists, like did we just perform her on the same stage as Justin Bieber and Prince?” Four months after the show and the astonishment could still be heard in Hjelt’s voice.
Hjelt describes her life now with such an enthusiasm and excitement but the tones of wonder are still audible. “I guess we just do what we did a year ago but now people come to our shows, people go to our gigs, if we ask a question on to our fans on twitter there’s so much people answering and you know it feels like we, that is the biggest difference, that we can actually go somewhere and play and people will come to our show and they are you know singing along to the songs, even songs we haven’t released in their country.”
Hjelt continued, “It’s just been weird, a crazy feeling. And then I mean this tour, we are gonna go on a headlining tour of the US and then we are gonna go to Asia, Australia then Europe. So I said to my mom now when I left Sweden, well I’ll see you in maybe six seven months time she was like what? … I don’t really think you can understand, I mean we can’t even understand how big “I Love It” got you know? But being with your best friend keeps you on the ground.”
Now Icona pop is supported, not only by hordes of fans but a team that has become their family. Hjelt continues, “I think we have each other and we’re best friends and so we just we just have the best little team and the thing to know is that we are having so much fun and we are actually able to do what we love and do want we want to do and people like that, no one is trying to change anything.”
It was with their makeshift family that the “control freaks” that make up Icona Pop were able to create their debut album “This is …ICONA POP” to be released Sept. 24th. Hjelt could barely contain herself when talk turned to the soon to be released album. “This is our baby and we are so proud and so glad that it’s finally coming out. It’s just you know we’ve been working on it for such a long time, it’s kinda like, it’s time for people to get to know us a little bit more.”
Hjelt continued, “I think people will get surprised over all the sounds we have on the album, it shows new sides of us that people haven’t seen before. They’ve been there but maybe now they are there even more maybe a bit more of our vulnerable sides and different expressions in some songs. But it’s still gonna be the bittersweat melodies and the campy choirs and of course some really good fucking party songs.”
Icona Pop will soon be back in NYC for a sold-out show at Webster Hall on Sept 20th. Fans should get ready for a never seen before show from the twosome. Hjelt said, “ I mean, It’s [the live show] really so unique and no show, even though we play the same songs, will ever be the same show because it’s a collaboration with the audience. It’s that chemistry, all of that electricity you can feel it, that.. we want people to feel what we feel when we sing the … that is the coolest feeling when you feel like you have a.. connection with the audience and you get so much in it. Even though you give and you may be tired when you get up on stage that just disappears because you get so much back from everyone in the audience.”
Every performance, every song, every fan means the world to Icona Pop and they want to share their musical joy with the world.