Interview: Icona Pop (SWE) on “Next Mistake”, Sweden’s music scene and coming to Australia

Icona Pop should really be renamed to Iconic Pop considering the instant, “Oh I love those guys!” you hear upon mentioning their name. The Swedish duo reached global pop domination with their 2012 tune ‘I Love It’ and despite years passing since its release, the song continues to be on high-rotation at club nights and featured on many throwback playlists. It’s safe to say that song defined an era, and their new music is looking to do the same.

Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo have been back in the studio, creating a new body of work that draws upon the past few years of touring. Their latest release, ‘Next Mistake’ is a sample of the new music due to hit our airwaves early 2020 and we’re itching to hear more. We caught up with the girls to talk about the new track, their touring life and collaborating with other artists.

Icona Pop, how are you guys, where are you right now?

Caroline Hjelt: We are good. We’re in LA. In our house. It’s so nice. And we’re having a great view and we’re actually we’re just… we were just DJing a little bit here in the living room. So we were having a party. So we’re going to have a lot of DJ shows now. So yeah, we’re preparing for that, which is super fun.

That’s amazing. It’s almost like a house rave. What time is it?

Caroline: It’s … let’s see, it’s about five o’clock I think. Yeah, it is. You know, when you DJ, you kind of forget what time it is. So I think, yeah, it’s five.

So a bit of a rave, a bit of dinner, you know, goes hand in hand. You guys have been touring pretty nonstop for the past four years or so. How does it feel to have a bit of a break and to have been back in the studio?

Caroline: It’s just amazing. Even though we’ve have a some very hard decisions to make, because touring is the best thing we know. We are a bit addicted to being out there playing and meeting our fans. But we were like, okay, we really want to have new music to play for our fans. And that to be able to do that, we need to jump right back into the studio. It’s been great. It’s been so nice we’ve been writing a lot of new music.

Aino Jawo: Absolutely. And also we feel sometimes you kind of have to stop for a second, and realise everything that you’ve been through. I think that’s so important when you write music. So it’s been a very important time in the silence in a very amazing way. But now you feel like you want to get back to it.

It must be hard to be on the road and sort of celebrate your successes and you know, maintain a personal life to draw experiences from.

Caroline: Yes. Because, you’re always on the way to the next place. Or, when you release a single you’re already on the next one. And sometimes you just have to be like, “Oh my God no. Like stop for a second. Celebrate.”  We are so much better at that now than we were in the beginning; to just stop and be like, okay, cheers. This is great.

This is our life, this is what we do as a living. How insane is that?

Caroline: Yeah, we’ve a very good life.

Aino: Yeah, we’re very happy about our life.

And speaking of the new music you’ve put out, congrats on your single “Next Mistake”, which came out in July. Tell me a little bit about that song.

Aino: Well we’ve been quite, like everyone knows, we’ve been quite inspired by the ’90s, because that’s kind of where we grew up. I think you hear that in a lot of the lyrics that we write. So, basically we went into the studio and we said, “what would we want to hear on a dance floor right now?” And then we started to work on a song, and then it turned out more and more ’90s. So it’s kind of a, I think it’s a really cool mix of future dance music and the ’90s.

And also the song is about kind of embracing and celebrating your mistakes. Because, sometimes you know that you’re in a state of mind of like, okay, I’m going to make mistakes. And you might as well embrace it, because it might lead to something good. You know, sometimes you’re just down that road, you should embrace it instead.

And that’s the whole thing of when one door closes, another one opens, you know? You might make a mistake and it might not go to plan, but another door will open somewhere else.

Caroline: Exactly.

And with it being sort of a ’90s sound, you worked with Hudson Mohawk on this one and he’s produced for the likes of Pusha T and Kanye West and Drake, and they’re pretty defining for the ’90s. What was that experience like working with him?

Aino: He’s such an amazing producer and we are what-

Caroline: Like a genius.

Aino: Yeah, he’s a genius. Definitely. Yeah, we’re big fans. So this is like a dream come true basically, for us to work with him.

Caroline: Yeah. And then there’s little … and also just sometimes you meet people and you want to know how their brain is wired. And that’s with this music. And I think he has such a unique way of expressing himself.

I feel like he’s one of those brains that you just want to see inside of, and see how it works.

Caroline: It’s like, okay, “Hey, show me everything.”

What a mastermind. When can we expect a full album from you girls?

Aino: Definitely expect something bigger next year. And you can definitely see us coming to you next year.

Caroline: We’ve been wanting to come to Australia for such a long time, and we feel like now is the right time.

That’s so exciting.

Caroline: We are so excited. And also when it comes to writing something … I mean when we started, when we sat down after all the touring in the studio, we thought it would be like jumping right back into the creative mode and be like, “This is what we want to write.” That was not the case. It took much longer than we thought to think about we wanted to do. We tried everything like all weird shit and we really had to go through everything to find where we are right now, and it feels so good.

So we have so much music, and it feels like we’re getting to a place where we can actually start to maybe have an EP or an album for the next year, hopefully.

So the wait is definitely worth it.

Caroline: Hey, we hope so. We’re so excited. We just want to show everything to everyone now. But we have to pace ourselves a little bit.

Good idea. I love that. And you coming to Australia. We still love you guys here. Like honestly, every club night I go to I will hear “I Love It” at least three times. It’s such a… it was a great song, it still is a great song for English speaking countries.

But, I want to know if it’s at the top of Sweden’s favourite Icona Pop songs? Does it do as well there where it’s not English speaking?

Aino: Yes, absolutely. I think we have, I think “Emergency” was a huge song in Sweden. So I think that’s probably one of the top songs.

Caroline: Yeah, of course. Like Sweden is very good at … It goes well in other countries. They will jump on it as well and claim it. So you definitely hear “I Love It” a lot. We’re just so happy that people still want to listen and dance to that song.

Well I would say it’s timeless. You know, it never goes out of style, that song.

Caroline: No. And it feels like it’s got that energy. We get the question all the time: “Don’t you get tired of playing it live?” But we don’t, because the energy that you get back when you play that song, it’s crazy. It’s like pushing a button and everybody explodes in the audience. It’s just crazy energy. So we love playing that song live.

I’ve been a part of that energy. I know exactly what you’re talking about. Do you guys still DJ in your hometown?

Aino: We haven’t really… we’ve actually been mainly in LA for years. So we haven’t been DJing for ages. But we used to have a club like ten years ago; we used to have have us and a few more girls, we used to have a club in Sweden, and it was crazy. It was so much fun.

Caroline: Yeah, it was crazy time.

Did you guys used to live with Tove Lo? Is that right?

Caroline: Yeah. Yeah, we stayed at an apartment in Sweden with a bunch of friends, and it was called Techno Street. And it was the most epic place ever, and we just had a bunch of parties. I’m surprised the neighbours didn’t throw us out or even kill us. But yeah, I was a great time.

Sounds wild. I imagine they were just sitting there wanting to be invited along to the parties rather than kicking you out.

Aino: Exactly. Now they brag about it.

I would say you guys are responsible for the world knowing about Charli XCX with “I Love It”. How did you originally link up with her for that tune?

Aino: She used to write … she used to go to Sweden a lot. So we met her a couple of years before “I Love It”. And we had always been saying, “We need to hang out.” Then we actually moved to London and she lived across the street. But we never got to meet each other on Portobello Road where she came from. And we kind of met up in LA and up here. But we’ve known her for ages, little baby. But like we met her also through this…

Caroline: We met her before “I Love It”, but it wasn’t until she was writing with Patrik Berger in the studio that we really linked up. Yeah, because she was in Sweden and writing a lot. And we were like, “Wait, what’s this song?” Yeah. So it was so many years of like being in each other’s surroundings. So, you know, we love her, she’s great. And now we all live in LA, which is great.

Has it been pretty wild to watch her success over the past couple of years? Because she’s really exploded recently.

Aino: Yeah. But I think we’ve always seen her as a pop star. So we’ve always seen her as that big.

Caroline: She’s so good at connecting with people and puts great things together. So I’m not surprised at all. And she’s an amazing songwriter as well.

Absolutely. Multi-talented, like yourselves. So what else is on the horizon for Icona Pop were you guys say you’re going to come this way next year, going to put out a little body of work… Is there anything else that we can expect?

Caroline: I mean, we are going to tour next year.

Aino: Absolutely.

Caroline: And we’re super excited to get back on the road. We absolutely want to come to Australia again. We had the best time at the beach and playing festivals there, so we just have to come back. And, yeah, and then it’s going to be working, working, working.

Wow. Busy times ahead it sounds like. But you guys are going to have the most fun. And we definitely want to see you down this way very soon. And I can tell you right now, the beaches are looking amazing. They’re primed and ready for you.

Caroline: Aw, we can’t wait.

Well, thank you so much, Caroline and Aino for chatting to me. I really appreciate it. And I hope the DJing continues tonight.

Caroline: Oh yes. It’s going to. And hopefully see you soon.

Listen to Icona Pop‘s latest single ‘Next Mistake’ here. 

Photo by Fredrik Etoall.

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