MUSIC | The Swedish pop duo talk fashion, feminism, and their new single
After all this time, we still love it.
It's been a long road for Icona Pop. After becoming queens of the 2012 pop scene with the fizzy feminist anthem "I Love It," new music has been slow to come. Focusing on touring the world, Aino Jano and Caroline Hjelt returned to their native Sweden to record music for the new record. After all this time, the pair is now ready to be known by something other than the single that put them on the map.
That isn't to say that they've sacrificed any of their sass or style: Icona Pop's first single "Girls Girls", a wavey summer jam co-written by Tove Lo, still has the danceable beats that made Icona Pop so much fun to listen while moving them in a new direction. The lyric video, which compiles pictures of Icona Pop fans from around the world, also shows us the band's head is in the right place: were it not for their fans, what band could possibly do what they do?
We caught up with the dynamic duo to talk about their upcoming European tour, reconciling a love of vintage shops with haute couture, and their new single "Girls Girls."
via Instagram @iconapop
So you guys are in Sweden right now?
Caroline Hjelt: We've been we've been in Sweden for quite a long time just writing and focusing. Now it's time for touring.
Did you guys move back to Sweden; I read somewhere you guys moved to New York?
CH: No. I mean we've been living like everywhere because we've been touring so much.
CH: We've been based mostly in L.A., but now with the writing we've been home for a couple of months, so and now it's back out again, so it's like kind of living a little bit everywhere.
So how long have you been in Sweden writing?
Aino Jawo: I think since Christmas.
CH: A little but more than six months. Yeah that's crazy. We've been doing so much stuff coming back here, it feels like two months.
That's amazing. I applaud you for getting some work done. How do you see the music scene growing over there? There's been like a big rise in Swedish musicians. Tove Lo, Sophia Somajo... I've been working with a lot of Swedish musicians so I'm wondering how you see the scene there especially with rising female Swedish musicians?
AJ: I mean I feel like it's blooming, and it's just it's so fun. Tove is one of our best friends and we've known Sophia for a while.There's so many great Swedish songwriters, producers, and so much music going on in Sweden. That's actually why we decided to go back home and write, because we've been writing a lot all over the world and we love that, but we felt like "no, let's go to Sweden because it's so much great stuff coming out of there right now." We have a lot of friends writing there, so it's just some fire over here.
That's wonderful. You guys have a fire though? Are you guys feeling it or you guys thriving off that energy?
CH: Oh yeah, we are totally feeling it. I think it's been important for us to also to go back to our roots and be like "hmm, so where are we going from here? Which way do we want to write." And also to do something a little bit different. So it's been well-needed and we've been having such a great time here. But we feel like we're now we're ready to go on tour again.
AJ: I mean, I feel like sometimes when when you're out on tour you're doing so much stuff at the same time, you don't take a second to just like stop and reflect. That can be very scary, because sometimes you're more used to like. So such high tempo and just doing stuff all the time so you don't process anything that you're going through. So sometimes when you come home, just take a moment, look at all your notes and diaries from when you've been touring and that's like "okay, now we're ready to write."
Yeah, absolutely. I mean as a writer, I definitely feel that! So on that tangent, I wanted to talk about your stage presence. So it's no secret that you guys are very big on fashion. I'm wondering if you guys have any favorite designers.
CH: You should see our living room right now because we're packing for tour. I wish I could send you a picture... Looks like someone just dumped so much clothes in here, and it's just like sparkles and different textures! It's kind of amazing, actually. We definitely feel like we express ourselves through clothes. It's important for us and we love finding like upcoming designers that just graduated, or have that amazing, raw feeling. There are so many great designers. We love Saint-Laurent, Paco Rabanne...I mean, there's so many that are doing such great stuff that I wish I could wear it all every day. We also go to a lot of vintage shops, we love vintage.When you go to a fashion show, it's almost like building an album. You work so hard for such a long time, and then it's chaos backstage, and then it's kind of a few minutes of perfection, and then you start all over again. It's very beautiful .
I'm happy you elaborated on that because I think it's so poetic, and I don't hear a lot of people talk like that when they talk about fashion. I find that very interesting.
AJ: It's like it's a beautiful energy around the around the fashion show, and I mean it goes hand-in-hand with, like, an art installation.
Do you guys find power in your style and your presentation? Like with the things that you were on stage; I remember reading this really cool interview about this guy who told you not to wear high heels, so you wore higher heels, and I love you for doing that, by the way. I'm wondering how this relates to your personal style, like what power do you find in your presentation and your style?
CH:Yeah what I mean I feel like we love mixing super-feminine with masculine. You know when it comes to I mean and then we usually have like power outfits. When it comes to a really good shoe, or like a leather jacket that's been through a lot of good nights. It's almost like you get the power from all those nights when you put them on, so you put them on and it's almost like your armor. Then you go out and you feel cooler than you did five minutes ago.
AJ: Of course it's important because, I mean, to stand onstage in something that you don't feel powerful in...it's terrible. You don't feel comfortable in your body, it almost becomes like you have to think about how you move. The best feeling is when you don't think you have something that you know just makes you feel stronger and cool and then you don't think about it––it's just there.
CH: Sometimes just a pair of sunglasses can make you feel rock n' roll. It's all about what kind of day you're having. Sometimes you can just put on a pair of jeans and be Prince onstage. Sometimes you have to put on the glitter boots to even feel like you're a little bit like Prince. It's all about where you are in your life on that day. We've been buying so many great vintage pieces for weird, awesome mixes: like pairing an awesome Valentino dress with a great t-shirt. I know one day you were wearing and I'm like I know you were wearing that one the other day where it was like "Super Mega Pussy Vagina" and we were going through customs and people were like "what is that" and I was like "what are they staring at? We also love finding stuff also on social media from all over the world and reaching out to small brands.
The other day we found a small French brand that embroiders cute little sex positions on T-shirts and it's cute but it's kind of raw, so we were like "hey guys, where can we buy a T-shirt like we want to buy T-shirts?" It's so fun when you find stuff like that. We would also die with everything from Gucci...it is to die for right now.
Courtesy of Above Board
What's the brand?
CH: Carmen Bulense.
Would you say your fashion is essential to your feminism?
CH: I don't think there is a way you can dress feminist; It's more about what you feel comfortable in. I think he was so wrong when Miley [Cyrus] got so much shit because she was wearing a thong onstage I was like "that's awesome, be proud of that you have those curves." I think just that if you feel comfortable in a T-shirt or you want to run around and show your tits, you should be able to do that. It's about owning it. That's feminism for me.
AJ: I mean we usually sometimes we go out like in a bra and sexy shorts and sometimes we wear like a power suit because that's like the mode of the day, and I think it's it's all about feeling good in your own body and what you wear.
What would you say is the usual Icona Pop mode?
AJ: Right now when we're in the studio I think it's like a pair of old Levi's jeans. Very laid back.
CH: I know I said it already, but you can never go wrong with a good leather jacket. You can throw it over everything and it's like "okay, I'm done." And a good pair of good high heels.
Really, really high heels to tower over the stupid men.
CH: Like, really high. I remember when we were playing a show, and we were wearing these off-the-runway Stella McCarthy shoes, and Aino's heel just broke when she was doing a very sexy move onstage. We were like "oh shit, everyone turn the lights on, can anyone find Aino's heel we need that!" It was like a super small club a long time ago, and we never found it!
AJ: We were so sad, it was like a funeral for the Stella shoes. We buried them.
I'm happy you love haute couture as much as indie designers. That's the future of the runway. So, going from fashion to music, can you tell me about "Girls Girls?" How are you guys feeling about the finished product?
CH: We've always been very fortunate to be surrounded by our amazing moms, great friends, people that told us to go out and do whatever we feel like doing and be proud of it, but that's not everyday for everyone. Some people when they do go out and feel and do stuff or maybe do stupid stuff, they have to like pay for it afterwards. we feel like it's very important, first of all, to feel alive. Whether that's going dancing with your friends, getting laid, whatever...it's so important to not get judged by that. To have the freedom and feel like you have the right to do whatever you want to do and whatever makes you feel.
Is that feeling of freedom kind of the inspiration behind the single?
AJ: We wrote it from our perspective, and we just felt like sometimes girls have to take a lot of shit for things that guys wouldn't take the same shit for. It is about girls, and people who feel like girls, and making a statement on family.
Intersectional feminism! Hell yeah.
CH: Finally, in 2017.
Is the single a part of a bigger project or is it a one-off single?
AJ: We are right now writing a lot of music. We feel like we have such a good, flow and then we will release a lot of music this year. And I think that we're definitely going to hear that and grow fat like this. It's very fresh, and we tried to do something and been going back to our roots, a little bit. It's more electronic, kind of dark, but with a very beautiful theatricality that we always have. For us it's important to go home and really feel it out. It's different this time, but we're definitely going to release a lot of new music.
And I was excited––so excited. We have the best fans in the world, and we feel like it was way too long that we release something, we've just been so busy touring because we love touring, and it's hard to say no, but it's been taking a lot of time from the studio, so now we would like to write some good music. It's time.
You guys burst into the scene with "I Love It," and I distinctly remember 2012 when that song came out, and I was a sophomore in high school and I was in a car in Miami like driving to the beach blasting that so hard that the windows were shaking and I just remember feeling so free.
CH: You know, people ask us if we're tired of that song, and it's like "no!" We got to tour the world on that song, and we're so thankful for that.
Do you think "Girls Girls" will have a similar effect?
CH: I mean, of course you want your song to be a big success and be heard all over the world, but we always talk about how it's never going to be the same. It's like with a lover. You know, even though you have sex with someone and it's the best you will ever have, you can find someone a few years later who's amazing, but it's not the same. It can be so good, but it'll just be different, and that's also exciting because "I Love It' is such an important song for us, and the journey with that one was amazing, but it was a few years back, and we're now ready for a new journey.
Follow Icona Pop on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Watch the lyric video for "Girls Girls" below:
E.R. Pulgar is a music writer, poet, image-maker, and once cried reading Virginia Woolf. Follow him on Twitter.