Shock Pop Won’t Stop
Out of 2013’s success stories, Icona Pop have had a particularly memorable rise to the top. The Swedish duo’s fuck-it-all party banger “I Love It” was tipped as 2012’s summer anthem by those in the know, then finally skyrocketed to ubiquity in the first half of 2013. With the strength of other jams like “All Night” and “Ready For the Weekend,” Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawa make music you want to live your life to. Last September, they released their international debut album This Is…Icona Pop, a powerful follow up to their hit singles.
The two became best friends and bandmates one night at a party in 2009, and their journey together has taken them far beyond their native Stockholm. The success of “I Love It” has allowed them to travel the world, but there’s something you lose when you’re constantly on the move.
“We don’t have a home right now, so when it comes to party stuff, we try to invite ourselves into other people’s homes,” Caroline says. “We can just stop by your place quick and then we try to have a party there, because that’s more rare.”
Caroline says that her home has become wherever Aino is, a sentiment that her bandmate mirrors. Like many Swedish artists, Icona Pop’s fame went international after outgrowing their small home country.
“In Sweden,” Aino says, “we have this word that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world. It’s called lagom—that would describe a Swedish personality. It’s not too much, but it’s not too little either. It’s weird, it’s kind of in the middle. It’s not negative, but it’s not positive either.”
“That explains why we fit in [with] the world but not living in Sweden, because we’re not very lagom,” Caroline adds. “Everything we do is all or nothing, all the time. We throw ourselves out there, and when we started our band we were like, ‘We just started the best band in the world! Please come to our show,’ and that’s not very Swedish.”
What is very Swedish is their knack for pop hooks. “We have certain melodies that sound kind of like Swedish folklore music,” Caroline says, citing as a prime example “Nights Like This.” “When we write pop, we refer to that sound. I can pretty easily determine, ‘Oh okay, that’s a Swedish type of melody.’”
They also embrace their home country’s fashion. Post photo shoot, Caroline looks fresh in a tri-colored Acne leather jacket, though she also favors flashier looks, mentioning Prince and David Bowie as style icons. Though the duo favors all-black ensembles onstage, they still keep things eclectic.
“We think it’s so handsome, men in high heels,” Aino adds. “We like to mix and match so we like to mix masculine with feminine, preppy with punk. It’s basically just about expressing yourself and we’re not that good at following trends. We don’t have time for it either, but we love clothes.”
Similarly, Icona Pop’s songwriting style is all about switching it up. “The fun part about it is that you learn so many new ways of writing and you get a totally different inspiration when there is a different energy in the room,” Caroline adds.
One such energy is Patrik Berger, the producer who first played Icona Pop the demo of “I Love It,” the Charli XCX-penned track that would become the Swedes’ calling card. While it’s far and away their best-known track, they’re not worried about becoming one-hit wonders.
On the contrary, their live performances show that they’re navigating their own fate. When Caroline and Aino sing, “With a love this deep, we don’t need no sleep / And it feels like we could do this all night,” it’s both an invitation and a dare. The two make it impossible to not have a good time at their shows— and you’ll never see anyone play the kazoo with more aplomb than Caroline during “Then We Kiss,” a track they introduce as a song about how much they like making out with people.
As a party anthem purveyor, Aino has this advice to offer: “Surround yourself with people that you love, like your friends. Then it doesn’t matter where you are. You can go to a dive bar and you will be the party, or you can go to a huge club and you will be the party.”