What is it about Sweden that makes it a breeding ground for music with a particular brand of girl-power awesome? Abba, Ace of Bass, Robyn, and now, following in the tradition of infectious and intelligent pop music, Icona Pop. Any dedicated R29 reader would know that we like — no, love — the duo behind the anthemic ode to youth, but when Lena Dunham chose the song "I Love It" to soundtrack her night of wild abandon in an early episode of Girls this season, it's safe to say the track took the place of Robyn's "Dancing On My Own" in terms of the musical moment that defines the show and, for many in this city, a generation.
Wait, one more thing: Caroline Hjelt and Aino Neneh Jawo, the girls of Icona Pop, are amazing. They are engaging, excited, funny, down-to-earth, and have style for miles. The affection the two gals have for each other is contagious, and after we met up with them at SXSW, we wanted to stay and hang with Hjelt and Jawo...in their world where clothes are totally sharable, best friends are your family, and it's possible to say, "I don't care! I love it!"
Photographed by Nina Westervelt/MCV Photo
So, you guys have this really amazing kind of ability to make dance music that you can get a little emotional about. We think that's something that's really evolved in the last 10 years — the idea of listening to something that you can cry to on the dance floor. Is that important to you? Is that something you set out to do?
Aino: "We don't think that much when we go into the studio, but we've been DJing a lot. We moved to London two years ago and we're very into the dance vibe. And you can really hear that in our music."
Caroline: "I mean we want to make music that makes people feel."
C: "Because we want to make people feel like we felt when we wrote the song or when we recorded the song in the studio, you know? That's the best thing about performing 'I Love It' live. You can really see that people have a face in front of them. They're singing to someone. They're thinking of someone and then they're putting their fist up."
A: [Singing] "I love it!"
C: "To share that moment is incredible."
A: "I'm very happy you say that we do dance music that you almost want to cry to, because I think we love to disguise our sadness. We sing a lot about heartaches because we kind of met through that, so it's a lot of pain. But at the same time, it's lovely to disguise it in happy melodies. We love bittersweet music. That's the shit, because you can both cry and laugh — and do everything to it."
We completely understand that, and it comes across a lot in your music. You guys are really special in the sense that you've traveled to a new place and have undertaken a professional endeavor together. What is that like? What's that partnership like?
C: "It's weird because we're both people that need a lot of space. I never thought I'd be able to hang out with someone this much. We hang out as best friends and we don't get tired. But I'm having so much fun and I get so inspired. I feel like together we can do anything. I'm so happy — I feel like this is a luxury. It's a luxury to find someone in your life to share that with. I mean if I would have done this myself, I'd never be here because all those times when you just want to cry — like if the airline lost your luggage or you don't have any money, you can't call home, you don't know where to go. We can either cry together or we can just laugh it off and take a beer."
A: "When it comes to the good things, we're very synchronized. But then when someone's sad, the other one helps create a balance. We always have each other. I would say we're superheroes."
Do you guys share clothes?
A: "We share everything except guys."
C: "Yeah, the guys and the underwear."
Do you guys have very different taste in guys?
A: "Well, yes and no. We usually think, like, 'Oh that's a hot guy,' but I think when it comes to actually getting together with someone, we have a totally different taste."
C: "You always have that 'wow' guy. And then we just look at each other like, 'Good luck.' I mean, the one who gets the guy, it's like, 'I'm happy for you. Please tell me all the details."
A: "Not that we have that problem right now, because right now we're working."
C: "No one is hitting on us. It's like, what the f**k? Come on, guys."
A: "I think we're too tall."
C: "Maybe people are intimidated. I don't know."
Anyway, we'll send a call. Do you guys ever have one of those moments where you're like reaching for the same shirt, and you're just like, "Err…you can have it!"
A: "There have been times, but when we're writing music, everything's very natural. Sometimes, I'll be like, 'You know, you sing this chorus better than I do. Do you want to take it?' Or if we find the same shirt and try it on, it usually just ends up on someone. But I don't know. I can't come up with anything that's like the one thing we have on stage."
C: "We have our own style. We can really see if it's a Aino shirt or a Caroline shirt."
Caroline, do you think you can describe Aino's style?
C: "Yeah, I mean, it feels like that we've been growing together. So, even though we're using the same shirt, it's different on me, or it's different on Aino, because we've got different bodies and different skin — and everything. But Aino's style is masculine meets feminine. I wish I could pull off what she can."
A:"I feel the same with you!"
Do you think you can describe Caroline's style?
A: "I would say we're exactly the same. Masculine meets feminine, and she has the legs that God forgot to give me, so she pulls off all of the coolest things. I also think that when she puts on something, it looks so rock star. She looks like David Bowie if David Bowie were a girl."
How did you guys meet?
A: "We haven't known each other for that long. It was four years ago, and we met through a mutual friend. Caroline was having a party, and I was going through a really rough year. I was down from that shit head… Yeah. I'm glad, today, because we've been talking about this a lot, and we feel like if we both weren't down at the bottom, we don't think we would have met. But we were so open to find new ways to solve and get through the dark periods of our lives. So, when we met each other, we just gave each other so much energy. From February 2009, we've been hanging out like every day."
C: "It's crazy. We went to Mexico two weeks ago…"
A: "—and I cried."
C: "I was with my boyfriend who came with us and we were on Skype, and my mom was like, 'Aren't you supposed to have vacation?' I was like, 'You don't understand!"
That's so special.
A: "It is. You meet a lot of girls, and they can sometimes be really catty with stuff."
C: "Instead of realizing the power of supporting each other, some girls tend to try to go against each other."
There's nobody who brings girls down more than girls.
A: "That's so true."
And it's such a bummer, because we get enough shit from guys.
A: "We have a pretty rough lifestyle. It's a man-dominated world, so we should just support each other and take over the world."
Absolutely, just like Beyoncé says. We wanted to just quickly ask, last season of Girls — speaking of girls, there was that really great Robyn song that defined the season. When they won the Emmy, they kept playing that song because there's not a real theme song. And then this year, there was such a great scene with you guys in the soundtrack. It was kind of a similar moment. So, A: Has there been any fallout or reactions to that? And, B: What if you guys got to be like, "This song played at the Emmys every time Lena Dunham was up there?"
A: "I mean for us just being on that show — it was huge."
C: "It was huge for us. I mean we watched all the episodes when we were sharing a mattress in London and didn't have any money, and we just loved that. And we tweeted them one year ago, just like, 'We love you! You should play our music in the show!"
A: "And we don't think that's the reason why they took us, but it's a fun story to tell, like, 'Yeah! We tweeted at you! And now, a year after, you actually played our song.' It's a huge difference. They helped us a lot."
C: "We reached out to so many new people."
You could technically be wearing a garbage bag, but is there anything that you guys want to pick out or choose or think about to wear on stage? Do you think about how you have to perform? What are the most important factors to you?
A: "We travel so much and we have double the kilos, so you have to think ahead. But we love to wear — well, we don't know that much about fashion — but we have certain things that we love. We love the street fashion. It's like walking art."