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BYT Interviews: Icona Pop
December 13, 2012 | 11:00AM

We should all be a little bit intimidated by Icona Pop. Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo met one night four years ago and decided the very next day started a band. The synthpop duo have since then exploded in Sweden, sending waves through the rest of Europe, and now find themselves in the middle of their first proper US tour as support for Marina and The Diamonds. Being the absolute sweethearts that they are, made room for us in their packed promo schedule before their Ram’s Head show. When “I Love It” hits US radio, don’t say we didn’t warn you.  (BONUS: CATCH THEM LIVE @ U Hall in January 2013. TICKETS ON SALE NOW)

BYT: So, this is your first US tour.

Caroline: Yeah. I mean, we’ve been travelling so much the last seven months, so it feels like we’ve been on the longest tour. But we never have been from city to city, it’s usually just New York, LA, then back to Sweden.

Aino: Yeah, lots of New York and LA trips. It’s nice to actually be out on the road and see the rest of the country.

BYT: And the other city you spent a lot of time in was Seattle, usually not a big one. How was that?

Caroline: It feels very similar to Sweden.

Aino: But it’s not at all like Sweden at the same time. It’s the weather, it’s how people are chill– it felt like there was so much soul in that town that we just wanted to stay there a little longer.

BYT: So, who approached who for this tour?

Aino: We met Marina a year ago. Was it a year ago? I can’t keep track of time. She wanted us to warm up for her because we had just released a song on Neon Gold, and she was also releasing some stuff through them, and she liked our music. So we were so happy to open for her. She’s such a cool girl, and this is such a great girl power tour. Her fans have been amazing.


BYT: Well, it’s 4:30 and they’re already lining up outside.

Caroline: They are?!

BYT: Yeah, all of them dressing like her. There are a lot of sequins and tiaras. 

Caroline: Haha, yeah, and little black hearts. We also hung out with her a couple times and she’s a crazy fun person, going to all these parties.

Aino: She’s an amazing girl and it’s nice to be on this girl power tour. You can tell from the audience. The crowd is accepting us too, so it’s really a perfect couple.

Caroline: They’re really embracing the music. You know how harsh it can be for warm up bands. But here it’s been great, people are here from the beginning and they’re singing along to our songs. We’re like, “What?! What happened? What are you doing here?”

BYT: What would your dream girl power tour look like?

Aino: I mean, we wouldn’t say no to Patti Smith. Obviously. And Beyonce would be awesome, and she’s all about girl power as well. It would probably be a mix between Beyonce, Patti Smith, Tina Turner, Icona Pop, and Marina and the Diamonds.

Caroline: I actually met Tina Turner once at a toilet in Monaco. I was running to the toilet and I was almost peeing my pants and I was bumping into someone and I said, “I’m so sorry!” And it was Tina Turner! And she had a wig on, she looked so fancy, and I couldn’t even breathe. And she was just laughing with that great voice of hers.

Aino: I LOVE her. She’s so cool. Oh, this summer, Patti Smith said hi to me because we were playing the same festival. She was drinking her morning coffee and saw me and said “Hi,” and I said “Hi!” back. And then, oh my god, did this just happen?! I almost wanted to touch her.

Caroline: Something like that, with a lot of genres.

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BYT: I’m amazed that I haven’t heard “I Love It” played on the pop stations here yet. I’m waiting for it to be Top 40!

Aino: We haven’t really gone to American radio with it yet. Sirius FM just picked it up, so we’re gonna start with that soon. But that’s all we’ve been doing in Europe, so we’re taking it easy for now. We really just need to start taking it one step at a time.

Caroline: We released it in Sweden and then suddenly all these other countries started snapping it up, but you’re right, we need to see how it’ll do in the US.

BYT: Oh, it’s going to be huge. The friend that introduced me to you guys– I’m pretty sure his top two albums of the year are your EP and Taylor Swift’s “Red.”

Aino: Oh my gosh, is he here? We have to say hi.

BYT: So you’re cool with being up there with Taylor Swift?

Aino: Absolutely! Pop is pop. Even the Beatles are pop, remember that. It’s a really wide mix. But yeah, she’s good. I don’t listen to her every day, but I think she’s doing an amazing job and she’s a cool girl. She’s alone on that kind of adventure at that age.

Caroline: I mean, we have each other. And we are so thankful for that every day. Most of all because we have so much fun. It’s a little bit weird that we can hang out so much and not get tired of each other. But we have so much fun. And when it’s rough– we’ve been through some really rough times, and I realize that I would have never done this alone. It’s good, we share the good and bad.

BYT: Did you guys start out with similar styles, or has it been more give and take?

Aino: We’ve been on this musical adventure and when we started, we didn’t even know what we were doing. We kind of met and the day after, we started a band. We didn’t even talk about what kind of music we were supposed to write. And what came out was this sort of Tarantino inspired song with a lot of electronical stuff and a guitar. Craziness. We don’t really know. The only thing we know is that we’re making pop, and our influences are from all over. And we really have no rules when we go into the studio. We never know what we’ll come out with.

Caroline: I think it’s funny though. Some people might find it a little disturbing though. Like, “wait, I thought they were going in this direction! What are they doing?”

BYT: Yeah, “I Love It” and “Manners” could be from two completely different bands.

Caroline: I think it explains a lot about who we are as people. On the album, it won’t be fifteen similar tracks, but we still want to keep the choirs, the bittersweet melodies, and us pouring our hearts out. It’s a very honest album.

Aino: We started Icona Pop almost four years ago now, and it would be strange if we were still doing exactly the same kind of music. We’re developing constantly, and we want to try new things. We love to go into the studio and mix live drums and twist them so that they sound electronic, but keep that live feeling. We love it chaotic. A good chaos.

Caroline: You and me, we’re all or nothing. It’s never in the middle. We’re super happy, or we’re extremely sad; very high on earth energy or almost dying of no sleep.

BYT: I feel like I should just leave so you guys can take a nap.

Aino: We get all that energy back after we’ve been on stage.

Caroline: I don’t think this will hit me until I get home, but this tour will be one of the best things that we’ve been through. The response is so amazing, and doing this same procedure every day, finding little routines– otherwise it’s just chaos all the time.

BYT: So other than LA or New York, what other cities have you really enjoyed on this US tour?

Caroline: I think Boston was really cool.

Aino: Boston was cool, and Seattle was amazing. Most of the time we have a lot of promo, so we don’t get out that much unless it’s at night. But we had a day off in Seattle and it was great.

BYT: Did you do all the tourist things?

Aino: Yeah, we went to go on the- what’s it called? The Space Needle!

BYT: I couldn’t go up there until the day I moved from there. Too scared of heights.

Aino: Really? We didn’t actually get to go up.

Caroline: We made our tattoos there!

BYT: What’s the idea behind the little triangles?

Aino: It’s a really personal meaning. But it’s our band tattoo now! We just felt like it was the right time. It was a lovely day in Seattle and we just had to have something on our bodies to remember this time in our lives.

Caroline: It was a change. We could feel the change. Sometimes you wake up and you feel in the wind and in your body that things are changing in some direction. You don’t really know which one. And it’s important to remember those days when you feel that way.

Aino: Of course you don’t always have to make a tattoo.

BYT: No, it makes sense. You can write in your diary or you can get a tattoo.

Aino: Exactly. Or even a little piercing.

BYT: So there are a ton of “Manners” remixes, but which ones stand out to you the most?

Aino: Oh, definitely Captain Cuts, Step Brothers and ELOF. Those three are the favorites.

BYT: Do you ever go into the studio with something in particular in mind?

Caroline: The last year has been crazy, and we haven’t had a lot of time to reflect. We’ve just been on tour, doing a bunch of promo stuff. I think when we go into the studio, it’s been very much how we feel that day. It’s not been a process of asking what we want for the next song. It’s more about, “today I feel like this.” And I think sometimes when you’re pushed into a corner like that, it can be a good thing. When you’re not overanalyzing things, it becomes very organic and I think that’s a good start. And then you can develop it in different directions. But you still get that feeling inside of you and you put it out, and that’s the song for the day.

BYT: What have you been listening to during this long stretch of touring?

Aino: We love Drake. We’ve been listening to Niki & The Dove. We’re actually on one of their songs, in the chorus of “The Gentle Roar.” What else– the Knife, Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers, Beyonce of course. We love boy/girl bands, mostly the girl/boy bands from the 90s. And lots of one-hit wonders. They’re kind of the best thing. Oh, and Talking Heads. And some other songs, like I’ve been listening to Metronomy, and I love “Corine.”

BYT: Are you serious? I was listening to them on the way here. “She Wants” came up on shuffle and I just had to listen to the whole album.

Caroline: No way!

Aino: I’ve been listening to that album a lot. I love it. It flows together.

Caroline: It builds up to a feeling and it’s great.

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BYT: What feeling are you trying to build up to? What do you want fans to take from it?

Caroline: We just want people to feel. We love bittersweet songs that you can relate to. If you’re sad, you can connect to the words but still be happy about it, and if you’re already happy, even better. We want to make pop music that make people feel. We have a lot of songs that have a message of anger or sadness but there’s still hope.

BYT: You can still dance to them.

Aino: Yeah, exactly. Sometimes it’s nice to disguise heartbreak stories in a glad melody. That’s what we love.

BYT: That’s a very disco era sentiment; Having dance anthems about heartbreak.

Aino: Exactly! It’s kind of like an open diary.

Caroline: That’s why sometimes you get so nervous when you’re going to put a song out. Even if you think it’s the right choice, and you’re ready, and you feel proud, you can still feel like– I mean, the morning it’s come out and you know people have heard it, you don’t really want to leave your bed. It’s really weird.

Aino: It’s so scary, but there’s a lot of relief. You’re not sure if you should push the button.

BYT: Obviously you sound different than you did four years ago. Can you guess at all what you’ll sound like four years from now? Or what might happen other than this girl power tour we planned out?

Aino: The sound will keep growing and I don’t know. But we’re big dreamers, and our dream is to headline our own world tour and meet our fans. Like, personally meet them. They’re the people that let us do what we do.

Caroline: It’s so nice to reach out! And to be able to do this as long as we want to. Because we’re just starting out. And it’s a good start for huge dreams.

BYT: I think we’re all excited to see what’s coming next.

Aino: That makes us so happy. I mean, we’re two girls from Sweden and we just met one night and the day after, we’re starting a bad. So it’s so weird to be in a dressing room in Baltimore, being interviewed. Like, what happened?

BYT: It’s the last thing you expected.

Caroline: The weird thing is, it doesn’t feel strange because we’ve run through it in our heads so many times. But it’s weird that things are happening so quickly. Eight months ago, we didn’t have anything.

Aino: We had just split with some people that we didn’t want to work with, and started from scratch. We met Atlantic and they’ve been awesome.

Caroline: We’ve had the same management from the beginning, and they’re our family. It’s a very small crew and we like to keep it that way. And even Atlantic are a family. It’s so important to find the right people. And we love to find ways to work with friends and family.

Aino: It makes a big difference and it’s really important to surround yourself with people that believe in you and what you’re doing. It won’t always go like this, and that’s when the evil people turn their back on you and the best people come out.

BYT: I think you have a lot of people that are cheering for you, so thanks for making time for me!

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