INTERVIEW: ICONA POP

Icona Pop is a name that all avid music lovers have been well acquainted with over the past ten years. With songs like ‘I Love It’, ‘All Night’, ‘Emergency’ and ‘Weekend’ topping the charts, featured in blockbuster movies, and receiving heavy rotation on radio and in clubs alike, they have definitely made their impact in a big way. 

The Swedish duo may have a carefree party aesthetic which has resonated well with listeners, but they also have an empowering message of standing up for yourself, equality and living in the moment that they want to share with people. Their new single ‘Next Mistake’ is a bold reflection of that as they reintroduce themselves by reflecting on their bad choices and embracing what makes them human. With their sophomore album in the pipeline, they are ready to reintroduce themselves to listeners and continue the self reflective journey they have begun. 

I recently chatted to Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo from Icona Pop about the reflective representation of humanisation behind their new single ‘Next Mistake’, explored why Swedish pop music is making a huge global footprint and discussed the importance of equality. Check it out HERE; 

TB: Your new single ‘Next Mistake’ is a nostalgic feeling dance pop track with a 90’s influenced soul. Reflecting on all the bad choices we made that make us human, why did this feel like the right song to kick off the new era and reintroduce yourself to listeners with?

AJ: We have been touring for such a long time which means that we have been pretty quiet in the new music department. So we took some time off and we had to think about what we wanted to hear on the dance floor. We then entered the studio with a clear vision of what we wanted to dance to, so I think ‘Next Mistake’ is a great representation of that. It feels like pure and classic Icona Pop.

TB: This song took you almost six months to create. Why did it take so long for you to finalise the vision, and what else was influencing you during the creative process that made you second guess how it was flowing?

CH: As Aino was saying, we had been touring for so long so we just wanted to get back into the studio and create music like we used to because when we are on tour we don’t create music, we create memories instead so we can write about them. 

The process of finding where we are at now took a little longer than we thought. We had to try everything and not feel stressed about it. We have been writing so much new music and it feels so good. We had to have the time to experiment and play with the sounds to make that new Icona Pop sound. Now we are ready to share that with people and we have SO much new music to share. 

TB: You haven’t released a music video for ‘Next Mistake’ yet, so how would you describe your visual relationship with the song and is there a video planned?

CH: There is not a video coming because there is new music coming really soon! But we always like to mix and match feelings and colours. It’s pink and glittery but then there is also a contract with black thrown in there too. I think it’s just a really cool collaboration of everything from fashion to pop. 

I think it’s typical Icona Pop. You mix everything. You mix music genres. You mix styles. And I think that’s how we’ve always done it. We’ve never really worried about the rules. 

AJ: Exactly! We’ve always seen songs through colours. With big, bold and pretty aesthetics *laughs* 

TB: Reflecting on the release of your debut album in 2013 and where you are at now as songwriters and artists with the release of ‘Next Mistake’ and your upcoming sophomore record, what would you say is the biggest thing you’ve learnt about yourselves as artists and songwriters throughout this journey? 

CH: It’s been such a great journey! When we started it was just us two in the studio. We were writing, recording, producing and visualising what we wanted this to be. But then suddenly it took off and we were just saying yes to everything and it was like a whirlwind, we were just trying to hold on.

But what I’ve learned the most from going through all of this is that our friendship has grown stronger. It’s weird we can hang out this much and create still. Even through super tough times and super happy times, we are still sharing it with each other. It’s so cool that we’ve been a band for such a long time and even now we are sitting here and we still have so much excitement for the project. It almost still feels like we’ve just started, in a weird way. 

AJ: I think we’ve also learnt to sit back and enjoy all of the moments that are happening around us because it’s so easy to get sucked into it. But sometimes you just need to take a step back and reflect and thats where writing music and lyrics becomes so important for us as it allows us to reflect on all the experiences we are having and encourages us to live more in the moment. 

TB: I personally believe that Swedish pop music is severely ahead of the game, with artists like yourself, Tove Lo, Zara Larsson, Lykke Li and Robyn constantly proving this. So what do you think it is about Swedish pop music and songwriting that crosses over so beautiful into commercial pop and is so sought after by international artists wanting to work with Swedish producers and songwriters? 

AJ: It’s kinda cool because Sweden is such a small country *laughs*. But the music schools in Sweden are free, so if you want to study music you can do it which I think is a massive encouragement. Also our winters are very long and dark which I think makes us a little bit more creatively inclined as there is nothing else to do.

CH: You don’t have a beautiful beach to hang out at!

AJ: Exactly! *laughs*

CH: Our summer is 2 months long and everyone takes their clothes off and gets naked in that time. 

AJ: They go crazy in the sun! The long winters really add that mysterious element to people I think which then reflects in the songwriting.

 Also If you listen to Swedish folk music melodies, they are really beautiful and you can almost hear those melodies in all the pop music that is being produced. 

TB: I think it’s really starting to majorly cross over. And for so long Los Angeles was looked at as the place to go to write music but now Sweden seems to be the place that everyone wants to go to collaborate in.

AJ: Yeah! Also a lot of Swedish people are in America right now, so sometimes we go to the states to write with Swedish people which is kinda fun. 

CH: Also, kinda weird too *laughs*. 

TB: One of my favourite songs that Icona Pop have ever released is ‘Get Lost’. This is a song that really embraces living in the moment, falling love and just being human. With lyrics like “Let’s get lost, drive all night. Leave this whole fucked up world behind” really encouraging listeners to live in the moment.  

CH: Oh my god!! I haven’t spoken about that song in SO long!

AJ: That makes us so happy that you love that song!!

TB: It’s a song that immediately just grabs your attention and was severely underrated when it was released. So can we chat about the inspiration behind this song for a moment because I feel like more than ever before it is so relatable to the way society is right now and lyrically ties into where ‘Next Mistake’ lays? 

CH: With everything going on in the world with mother nature and politics, sometimes you just want to say “I want to get out of here”. I think a lot of people can relate to just wanting to escape. 

AJ: It’s so important in times like these. You need uplifting songs that you can get lost in!

CH: Dancing is such a great way to get loose. Even if you’ve got your heartbroken, just go out dancing and stand in the middle of the room and feel the music. It’s the best thing you can do. 

TB: Dancing and crying, we love it don’t we!

AJ: We really do! *laughs*.

TB: Throughout your career, you have had a lot of songs synched in movies, TV shows and ads. With a lot of decent synchronisation happening and a lot of tracks that fit that commercial repertoire, is this something you and your team have been focusing on or want to tap into more? 

AJ: We honestly never even thought about it to start with. But I think we have good people that work with us that helped synch them in movies that we didn’t even think of doing. 

It was never something we thought of when we were making music. We didn’t think “we want to make songs to be in movies or TV shows”. But we do make a lot of upbeat dance songs so I guess they fit in high school and party movies especially well *laughs*. They seem to soundtrack those happy moments in movies really well which is quite human and links back to the lyrical ideas.

I’m still shocked when I hear them in movies. Like we were at the movies together and we started singing along and we were like “we know this song” and it was our song *laughs*. Sometimes it’s just crazy but it really is such a great way for people to discover our music who may not have known who we were. 

TB: In particular, they feature in a lot of big party scenes and comedy movies like ‘Sisters’, ‘Bad Moms’, ‘Blockers’, ‘The Duff’, ‘Pitch Perfect’ and ‘Get Hard’. Are you girls actually big party goers yourself because I feel like it has almost become a bit of your aesthetic? 

CH: We LOVE a good party! The world we were in before was kinda one big, loud, long, continuous party but now we look after ourselves a bit more. 

AJ: Now we kinda choose when it’s worth it because the hangover is not that fun and you don’t get that productive. But sometimes it’s worth it. And also sometimes you don’t even need to drink, you can just go out and dance. It’s all about being surrounded by people and good music. But we definitely like a good night out!

TB: Well you girls are very close friends with Tove Lo and I feel like she’s quite the avid party goer

CH: Let’s just say we are a really good party team when we are all together *Laughs*!

TB: Songs like ‘I Love It’, ‘Emergency’, ‘All Night’ and ‘Weekend’ have been played everywhere. So where is one of the weirdest places you’ve heard one of your songs played? 

CH: I remember once when I was in a public toilet that one of our songs suddenly came on and I was peeing and thinking that it was a little bit weird hearing myself playing. And then someone in the cubicle next to me started singing along and it was so funny and weird. 

AJ: That’s such a good one! I can’t beat that! 

TB: A relationship that has been really strong throughout your career is your one with the LGBTQI+ community. So with the way the political climate around the world is at the moment, why do you think it’s so important for us to embrace equality and support one another more than ever before?

AJ: For us we have always been so supportive of the LGBTQI+ community. It’s human rights to be whoever you are. We both grew up in families where there was never any difference, we could like whoever we like whether it was boys or girls. Everyone is human. 

I’m so shocked sometimes when I hear people talk in a certain way, or when I see things happen. I question how people can still be so stuck in the 1800’s. It’s so fucked up. I get sad. 

I guess you really have to scream out loud what side you’re standing on. 

CH: We’ve been playing so many pride festivals recently and it’s such an amazing feeling of coming together because when you come together we can make a change. Sometimes people think “what can we really do?” but when you do something together it’s so powerful and what it stands for is so important. Embracing the moment with so much love. 

We’ve always been so welcome within the community and we have so much to thank them for so we will always support them. 

AJ: We really feel apart of the community! And I think everyone can contribute in some way. It’s important to express yourself and show the world where you stand.

TB: Whenever I go to a gay club in Australia they play like three songs of yours throughout the night and I’m always like YES!!!

AJ: That’s exactly how we want it to be!

CH: We LOVE that! 

TB: Now I have to ask, when are you girls going to finally come back to Australia, because it’s been a very LONG time? 

CH: It’s actually been forever!! We are coming back!! We promise, right here and right now *laughs*.

AJ: We are going to go out with you and you are going to take us to all the best gay clubs, alright? 

TB: Deal! We will also request the DJ to play ‘Get Lost’.

CH: *Laughs* YES! lets do it! We just really want to come back and play all of our new music, so we will make it happen! 

TB: Let’s play a little game of rapid fire questions where I’m going to ask you some questions that you just need to answer with the first thing that comes to mind…

TB: The emoji that best describe our new single ‘Next Mistake’ is…

AJ: I feel like it would be the face with the nervous eyes like “woops, this just happened”

CH: Yeah! Followed by a dancing one!

TB: When we think of Australia we think of…

CH: Beautiful beaches, beautiful people and one of our favourite touring memories EVER!

TB: Our pre-show pump up song is…

AJ: Anything by ABBA!

CH: We have to play Swedish pop!

TB: Pineapple on pizza is…

CH: A yes! Pineapple on pizza is great, I love it. 

AJ: *sighs* No!

CH: It’s funny because we’ve just been debating about this the other day! We call it the Hawaii pizza here!

AJ: I just don’t understand it. The Pineapple should be eaten before or after the pizza, and not on it. 

CH: Why?! You can have the best of both worlds right there and then.

AJ: We were literally talking about this the other day. It’s one of the few things we disagree on *laughs*. 

TB: The messiest member of Icona Pop on tour is…

AJ: I think I would have to say the both of us!

CH: Yeah, a drunk Aino and Caroline is bad! We actually get messier together *laughs*. 

‘Next Mistake’ by Icona Pop is out now!

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