Interview: Icona Pop Talks Sci-Fi and Inspiring Women

Icona Pop have hit the mainstream in a massive way, having been featured on “Girls” and performing on the finale of “America’s Got Talent,” – this weekend might have been their busiest to date! On Friday night, during a performance at New York City’s Webster Hall, Perez Hilton announced that “I love it” had been certified Double Platinum. The girls were visibly taken aback by the announcement, as was the crowd. They danced and performed even harder and closed the show with the now iconic song. Their next stop was Virgin Mobile’s 2013 FreeFest , which comes on the heels of the Swedish duo’s new album, THIS IS… ICONA POP, which is set to be released on Tuesday. In an exclusive interview with Chip Chick during the Virgin Mobile Freefest 2013, Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo opened up about their first album, the gear they use, and what inspires them. It turns out that Hjelt and Jawo are full blown techies, and they even dropped a few sci-fi references for good measure.

What made you decide to stream your album in advance of its official release?

Caroline Hjelt: We’re not very patient, ha ha. Aino Jawo: I think people appreciate that a lot. I just think it’s very important for people to hear what they are buying. If they don’t think it’s worth it, then don’t buy it. But we felt that we wanted to give it to people and we love Pitchfork and they’ve been very good to us, so we felt that was kind of the right fit, the right place to put it up. Hjelt: By doing that, that’s for our fans. That’s for the people that have been waiting a long time, even though you can’t own it yet, you can still listen to it and get into the vibe. So when you get it, like your own piece, your own copy, I love when some artists, you know, a song leaks or something and you listen to it and when you get the album you know that song, it’s going to be like that for them. For our true fans that are listening so much to everything we do and for them to be able to sing along when they go to our concerts.

What DJ equipment are you using right now?

Jawo: We have a guitar, a drum machine and we actually changed our DJ mixer. We built them, we designed our own mixers so it’s the same stuff but we took away the things we don’t use like tapping in tempo or stuff like that and recording, you can do loops on there. Then we have your (Hjelt’s) synthesizers, you have two synthesizers. Hjelt: Yeah, I have a Korg and a kazoo, ha ha. We have so much… Jawo: Effects mics, one with delays… Hjelt: Loop pedals Jawo: We have a lot of shit, haha. It’s only us two on stage and we play live. Hjelt: And every song we have a lot of different stuff. We also use our iPads with Lemur. Jawo: We downloaded to an iPad behind the main set. Hjelt: It’s like our little spaceship, we call it the “mother ship” in the middle and then we have our little stations on the side. And it’s getting bigger and bigger and we collect. We are such nerds, you should see us. If we can buy anything tech, like a cable or whatever. It’s Christmas. You should see us it’s like “Goodbye social life” and we sit there by ourselves.

Why the sci fi-like theme for your concerts?

Jawo: We love space. Hjelt: We’re kind of obsessed. Jawo: When I was younger my biggest dream was to become a musician but also an astronaut. So, I’ve always felt this connection and we’ve been talking about it for a long time. Unfortunately at Virgin we won’t have the whole set up but at our live shows now, we built it like a real spaceship that’s red and it’s so beautiful and with all the lights it becomes this…we take them to our world. Hjelt: I think it’s very beautiful when you go to a concert and the artist’s steals you into their world. I don’t want anyone to think about time, where they are in the world. We could be in Sweden, we could be in New York. I think the futuristic thing about it is, it’s so present. We decide where we are, it’s so future but also so retro. Because, if you look at it’s more “Star Trek.” I think it’s very, at least for us, to finally now, with the first headlining tour, be able to do it our way and show people. Jawo: Now, I was just thinking, isn’t there a day  ‘May the fourth be with you?,” May 4th? Hjelt: Yeah! “Star Wars Day,” It was a couple of months ago. Jawo: We talked about it, ha ha. They were like ‘You like space, you celebrate this!’


What are your favorite headphones right now?

Jawo: When we DJ we use Molami headphones. Hjelt: When we DJ, we have DJ headphones, otherwise it’s the Molami ones.

Name a song you currently can’t stop listening too, besides your own of course.

Jawo: I started to listen a lot to, we both do, to this “Desert Blues” music. It’s a compilation with a lot of different musicians. Hjelt: Yeah, it’s really cool. Jawo: Especially Djelimady Tounkara and Tinariwen. Just the story behind, of traveling in the desert, that’s a story to tell. Hjelt: There’s so much emotion. Jawo: And then it’s everything from A$AP Rocky to Kanye West to… Hjelt: Rihanna Jawo: Yeah, Rihanna, Wild Belle, Chromatics, oh, Alt-J. Hjelt: It’s a wide mix! Jawo: The Clash, The Smiths, a lot of English music.

What women inspire you at the moment?

Jawo: Patti Smith Hjelt: Tina Turner Jawo: Beyonce. Kate Bush. Then when you go back like soul singers from long ago. Hjelt: Like Etta James. There are so many strong female artists that’s been such a big inspiration. They were the first at something and they had to struggle so hard and still, they did it with such pride and did it so well. It’s inspiring. Jawo: Nina Simone, her story. The stories of what they went through, and it wasn’t that long ago, that’s the weirdest part. It’s crazy.

If you were on an island alone – what two things would you take with you?

Jawo: I know, I’d bring you! (to Hjelt) and boring stuff like a phone, cause you can always work. Then, headphones, you can always listen to music. Hjelt: Something that you can record on. Jawo: Yeah! Hjelt: When you get bored, if I was stuck somewhere… after awhile you’d get bored you get creative. I think we would make such a great album if we were stuck on an island. Jawo: And sunglasses!

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