April 4, 2017


Icona Pop Talk Female Friendship, Getting Back in the Studio and True Crime Podcasts

Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

When my co-worker Zach emailed me on a Thursday to ask if I wanted to see an exclusive performance of Hamilton hosted by American Express Platinum that Saturday, April 1, I thought it was just one big, fat "April Fools'!" 

Turns out, it was not a prank, and it was totally happening. When I rolled up to the Richard Rogers Theatre Saturday evening, I still fully expected to be turned away at the door. Miraculously, I made it through to the lobby, where I saw no less than Cara Delevigne, Zosia Mamet, Brad Goreski, Coco Rocha, Christian Siriano and Stranger Things' very own Barb, Shannon Purser, in the span of five minutes. And even if I didn't instantly recognize them, I knew I was in the presence of people that exude an extraordinary quality that us peasant-folk don't, and will never, possess. To say I felt underdressed in my H&M blouse is the understatement of 2017.

For me to try to even start describing the wonder and magic of Hamilton would be a waste of everyone's time, as the most sought-after musical on Broadway is something that is beyond words—too good for them, in fact. I don't think I've ever been so rapt in my life.

And even though I had to sneak out a bit early to head across the street to interview Swedish duo Icona Pop, I wasn't disappointed—especially because the first thing member Caroline Hjelt, with her icy blue eyes and poppy orange lipstick, asked me as I was whisked into their dressing room was, "Would you like some champagne?"

Hjelt and her bandmate (and best friend) Aino Jawo have kept themselves plenty busy the past four years, touring nonstop with Miley CyrusKaty Perry and One Direction. We chatted about taking care of yourself on the road, the biggest misconceptions about female friendships in music and their secret love of true crime podcasts. 

FUSE: You've been touring constantly for almost four years and you're getting back on a plane to Sweden tonight. What are your best cures for jet lag? 

Caroline Hjelt: I've heard the best thing you can do is the eating—if you start eating in the right time once you land, it's so much easier.

Aino Jawo: I'm still trying to figure it out. I just took melatonin; that’s the nicest thing you can give to your body. I’m really bad with jet lag. It usually comes like two weeks after I travel.

CH: Excercise too, if you need to wake up when you're super tired.

AJ: Or go and have a drink!

Do you have any travel horror stories?

AJ: We have hundreds! 

CH: We were doing a cover story for The Guardian and the plane lost both of our bags. When you're on tour you carry everything that you care about with you and everything that you need.

AJ: And the only thing we were able to get for the time was a unisex "survival kit"...very sexy. Actually, Amex has saved us so many times when that's happened, since other cards get locked when you travel abroad, and it works wherever you go. It felt natural for us to have our song ["Weekend"] in their new ads. 

I know you guys have been in the studio. Can we expect any new material soon? Any details on collaborators? 

CH: We’ve been touring for almost four years, so we decided to go back to Sweden where we come from, to our families, where it started for us, and just go into the studio. We have so much new music that we just want to show everyone. I wish we could play it all tonight, but we can’t. We don’t wanna jinx anything. We've been through so much together. When we went back and read tour diaries it was like, wow, we have a lot to write about.

AJ: You can expect a lot of Icona Pop music, not just one song. 

What was one of the biggest challenges going back into the studio after touring for so long?

AJ: It’s the ego. When you go onstage and you see the fans and they tell you how much your music means to them, and suddenly you're in the studio, and you're supposed to go pour out your heart again, it's like, "Oh shit. Who am I? What do I want?" Also, the silence.

CH: Sometimes when you're on the road you don’t have time to deal with stuff. You put issues in a little backpack in the back of your head and think, I’ll take care of that later. So when you come home and start digging, it can be scary because you never know what is gonna come up. But it's also healthy. It’s the best material you can ever find. It's real.

I love that you are best friends. Do you feel like there are any misconceptions about musicians, particularly women, that are best friends?

AJ: People ask us if we fight because we are two girls. If we were two guys, they would never ask us that.

CH: Then it would be, "Yo, bro."

AJ: It's like no, we discuss a lot and we don’t agree on many points, but people think it's catty. We have so many women friends that are also in the music industry and we all support each other. We take that for granted, but when we started traveling around we thought, wow, not everyone has that.

There are so many Swedish women coming up in pop. Do you feel like it’s a collective?

AJ: We all know each other. Tove [Lo] is one of our best friends and we used to live together. Zara [Larsson], we’re signed to the same label, and we’ve seen her since she was tiny and now she's a lady!

Does it make you proud?

AJ: Oh yeah. And we’ve also seen the struggle behind it. Everyone thinks it happens over night and we're like no, it happened over 10 years. People always see the success but they never see what's gone on before it.

People ask us if we fight because we are two girls. If we were two guys, they would never ask us that.

Aino Jawa on being best friends with bandmate Caroline Hjelt

If you're on the road for so long and you can't necessarily deal with those personal issues, how do you make sure to take care of yourself?

AJ: We have each other, so we talk a lot. We also started to exercise quite a lot, doing yoga. This is my job and I love this, but I still need to give myself a kiss sometimes. A couple of months ago, Caroline looked at me and she's like, Aina, this is our job! We are musicians!

CH: We’ve been a band for eight years. Sometimes things catch up with you a little bit slower. 

AJ: You have to take a moment and just feel.

CH: We’re very good at sneaking off and disappearing. It happened the other day at the airport,  we just needed some time. We found this secret conference room and we were just sitting in there having a coffee.

So what's your favorite city to escape to?

CH: New York! There's a very beautiful way to exist in this city that isn't there in most cities. New York, Paris or Amsterdam...those are where the good nights happen.  

Do you have any artists or albums that you’re really into right now?

AJ: We love Madonna.

CH: I've been listening to Chemical Brothers and The xx’s old stuff. We love Justice’s new album. And we’ve been listening every day to Tove Lo’s new album.

AJ: It’s magic

What's one thing people don't know about you?

AJ: I listen to serial killer podcasts when I wake up and when I go to bed. A lot of Swedish ones, and also Stuff You Should Know and Lore. If you wanna commit a crime, just ask us—we know everything about it. We also fell asleep watching Forensic Files every night for a year.

CH: We’re very good at planning crimes so if you wanna rob a bank, we know everything. We’re a good cover-up.

Watch a 2013 interview with Icona Pop talking about how they got a Tupac sample cleared for their song "Girlfriend":