Icona Pop is Lovin’ It
Girls just wanna have fun. And crash cars. And throw their ex-boyfriends’ crap down the stairs.
That’s what one of Sweden’s latest imports, Icona Pop, did with “I Love It,” an inescapable kiss-off that turned indie darlings Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt into a legit pop act, scoring them a double-platinum top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.
With their debut album This Is … Icona Pop just out, we caught up with the girls to chat about their “big family” of gays, capturing LGBT subculture in “All Night” and why they’d make the perfect lesbian couple.
When was the moment you knew how much the gays loved you?
Aino Jawo: The gays are the first ones to pick up the trends when it comes to music, so it feels like they’ve been with us from the beginning.
Caroline Hjelt: Yeah. From the beginning, they picked up our music and put it on blogs and stuff, and we’ve been playing little clubs in London and DJing when we didn’t basically have anything – and that was at the gay bars.
You’ve performed at the White Party in Palm Springs and also at several Prides. What’s the best part of performing for a room full of gay men?
Jawo: That everybody dances! And that there’s so much love. It’s so much love, it’s crazy. We feel very home in those kinds of environments, so it’s like we’re a big family just singing along.
During “I Love It,” you bag up your ex’s stuff and throw it down the stairs. In real life, what’s the best revenge you’ve gotten on an ex?
Jawo: The whole “I Love It” song! (Laughs) We didn’t crash any cars, but just for them to actually hear a song that’s about them that became a huge worldwide hit, I would say that’s pretty good revenge. Also, to see the look in their eye when, even though they don’t say anything, they know we’re singing about them, that’s very good revenge.
Hjelt: That is very good revenge!
Was any of the album written or created with your gay fans in mind?
Hjelt: I don’t think we think about anything or anyone except what we’re feeling in that exact moment. Our main goal is to make pop music that makes people feel, so in the studio we don’t have any rules – it’s just pure emotions and pure feelings. So I don’t think we had anyone specific in mind when we wrote it. But performing – and doing White Party and Pride – and seeing the gays adopting our music and understanding it, it makes us feel so appreciated and very home. It’s so amazing.
For the “All Night” video, which celebrates drag-ball culture, you obviously had the gays in mind. How did the video evolve and why did you decide to represent this gay subculture so prominently?
Jawo: “All Night” is basically about expressing yourself. And with vogueists, it’s all about expressing themselves. We asked (House of Ninja, a N.Y.-based voguing troupe) if they wanted to be in our video and they said yes, and then, actually, (we had) the vogueist that taught Madonna to vogue.
That song is about just finding your element. It’s all about being who you are, and that means if you’re gay or straight or whatever. With that video, the people who are in it represent everything about what that song is about, because they are doing it 1,000 percent.
How did the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning, which also focused on ball culture, inspire the video?
Jawo: It’s so great when you watch them and they’re talking about why they’re doing what they’re doing. I think that’s so beautiful. It was a big inspiration for us and also for the director.
What can people expect from your debut?
Jawo: It’s definitely an album that’s very honest. It’s what we’ve been basically going through, so it’s not gonna be all songs that sound like “I Love It” or “All Night.” Some are more down-tempo, more heartbreaking songs, and some are party tunes.
Hjelt: People are gonna hear some new sides of Icona Pop and get to know us even more, because on this album we let people in. Like Aino said, it’s a very honest album and we’re not hiding anything. It’s just what we’ve been through the last five years.
Is there pressure to live up to “I Love It”?
Jawo: I wouldn’t say so. The most important part is that we’re proud of what we do. I know I am very proud, and I know that Caroline is as well.
“I Love It” opened so many doors for us. Before “I Love It” there weren’t that many people listening to what we were doing because they didn’t know who we were, but now if we release something people actually do listen.
“I Love It” has been played just about everywhere. Where were you when you first heard the song outside the studio?
Hjelt: The first time we heard it was on the radio, which was quite an experience. We were in Las Vegas for the first time and one of the promoters wanted to show us the city, so we were in his car driving down the street for the first time and “I Love It” comes on. We were screaming.
You had a freak-out moment?
Jawo: Oh yeah. A big one.
In the spirit of “I Love It,” what’s one thing you love about the other?
Jawo: There are a lot of things that I love about Caroline, but Caroline’s got one of the best senses of humor ever. She’s hilarious. And a good storyteller.
Hjelt: Aww! And Aino is such a special character and she gives me so much inspiration. She’s a true artist.
How often are you two mistaken for a lesbian couple?
Jawo: Well, not that often. (Laughs) I mean, we don’t really care what people think. We’re not together, but if people wanna think that, that’s fine.
Hjelt: We wish we were. I mean, I wish I were into girls so I could be with Aino. We would have the perfect relationship.
Jawo: Yeah. Like an old couple. Like an old, happy couple. No drama. I would say we’re like the perfect couple.
Chris Azzopardi is the editor of Q Syndicate, the international LGBT wire service. Reach him via his website at www.chris-azzopardi.com.