When Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, the leading ladies behind Swedish duo Icona Pop, plop out of an SUV in front of Williamsburg staple Roebling Tea Room, they’re all legs and smiles, clutching massive Helmut Lang shopping bags overflowing with designer swag from an earlier showroom appointment. Helmut Lang isn’t the only downtown-friendly designer house that its losing mind over the sartorially-slaying, twentysomething pair (the duo sat front row at Phillip Lim and Charlotte Ronson during last season’s Fashion Week).
Since the release of last year’s anthemic, synthpop banger Manners and an EP, Nights Like This—exploding with in-your-face playground chants with tinges of ’90s girl power—the pop outfit has been finishing up their buzzed-about debut LP, boasting power-pop production by the man behind Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own,” Patrik Berger. Hard-to-please Pitchfork aptly pegged their first single from the aforementioned LP, “I Love It,” a “righteous contender” for the prestigious song of the summer title. Considering it’s the theme song for Snooki and JWoww’s MTV spin-off, the prediction hinges on the inevitable, replete with inebriated fist-pumps. “I Love It” is classic Icona Pop: an addictive pop gem in the bubbly (albeit with a bunch of ‘tude) department, with Tweet-friendly lyrics like “You’re from the ’70s, but I’m a ’90s bitch!”
During our chit-chat, the admitted party animals, who met during a night out on the town, both sip cold beers whilst admitting to sharing clothes. They also unsurprisingly and adorably complete each others sentences. ELLE.com got the lovely ladies to spill on their forthcoming debut (expect an onslaught of “dance-cry” urges) and their shared cuckoo year, complete with wardrobe malfunctions and grinding the night away with Phillip Lim.
ELLE: The album is (almost…!) finally here.
Caroline Hjelt: We’ve been writing and writing and not showing anyone for such a long time now. And now we’re ready.
ELLE: Describe the sound of the album in five words.
Aino Jawo: Bittersweet…
AJ: Punk-pop! That’s one word.
CH: Bittersweet, chaos, electronic, punk-pop and… epic!
ELLE: If we were to judge you based on your dance floor-ready music, we’d assume you’re quite the party animals.
AJ: Yes, I would lie if I told you something else. We DJ, so it’s a lot of partying involved. But you can choose if you wanna party sober.
CH: We come from the club world. That scene is very important for us.
AJ: That’s how we met! We’ve met a lot of good people. When we moved to London, we saw this amazing music scene that we never saw before, and we got so much inspiration from that.
CH: What I like about the club scene is that it’s kind of available to everybody. People are out to just have fun. You travel, you go out, you dance to the same song that you danced to in another city.
ELLE: What would you say has been your absolute favorite party experience?
AJ: Our best DJ gig was at Social Club in Paris. That was mental. People were trying to climb the DJ booth!
CH: And festivals. We’ve both been to festivals since we were small. People are feeling free, they are feeling love, the music, the beer. It’s just this vibe where everyone’s there just to have fun.
ELLE: It seems obvious that you want your listeners to let go on the dance-floor…
AJ: We want to make people dance. We want them also to be able to cry. Cry dancing!
ELLE: Okay, let’s discuss your new single “I Love It” being the theme song for Snooki and JWoww’s spin-off!
AJ: It feels like it’s the perfect song for them. They are crazy. All of the words we sing fit them very well. I wanna see Snooki stumble when she’s drunk while listening to “I Love It.”
ELLE: Have you met them?
CH: I would be scared.
AJ: I would be scared too. I want to meet The Situation. I want to party with them.
ELLE: How do you feel about the fashion world’s growing infatuation with you two?
CH: We just go to places and have fun. I mean, of course I’m flattered if people think we can dress. But we don’t follow trends—I’m not a slave for trends. But we love expressing ourselves through clothes, and we love clothes, of course.
ELLE: Is it true you made those amazing capes in the “I Love It” video?
CH: We had the idea, but we didn’t have enough time to make it ourselves.
AJ: But we do cut stuff and sew it together. It’s fun to be able to recreate stuff. Like if you have a pair of jeans that you don’t like, you just rip them apart and glue stuff on them.
CH: We’ve been working for three years together, and it’s not like we’ve had a lot of money. It kind of puts you in that situation where you have to be creative. You get tired of using the same jeans everyday, so what are you gonna do? You remake them. Like, can you use the legs for our arms? That kind of stuff. We were playing the Kitsune Christmas party in Paris, and the airline lost our luggage. So we didn’t haven’t any money, and we couldn’t buy new clothes.
ELLE: Uh oh!
AJ: We had a survival kit from Air France with unisex underwear and a blank t-shirt.
CH: So we went to the Red Cross store and Aino bought very nice fluffy pants…
AJ: I looked like George Michael!
CH: No, you were George Michael.
AJ: I was George Michael. It was raining so my hair was so big. I never felt so pretty in my life.
CH: I had this jumpsuit that was for kids, and it was a little bit too short for me because I am quite tall. In the middle of the gig, this guy comes up to me and says, “Sorry, I don’t want to be rude, but I can really see your boobs.” I was standing there and was just like, “Oh fuck.” We were supposed to be in Paris for three days. We were drinking a lot of wine in our apartment, and we were cutting everything and kind of drunk. We only had the jumpsuit that was broken, a white t-shirt, and Aino had her George Michael outfit. So we had to make three outfits out of that. But that was so fun. We were drunk and cutting and everything just kept getting shorter and shorter.
AJ: It’s kind of like meditating when you’re sewing and stuff. You just disappear somewhere. It’s like painting in a way. I think it’s important to be creative in different ways. We don’t only write music—we love to look at art, check out street fashion…
CH: And also, I think nowadays, people just buy and buy and things end up hanging in their wardrobe, and they just throw it away instead of realizing you can rebuild stuff or color it another color or you can put the t-shirt on your head.
AJ: You can make a fucking do-rag from the t-shirt!
CH: People use a dress once and think it’s not okay to wear again. All of my clothes I’ve been wearing a million times in different kind of shapes and constellations. It’s also a luxury since there’s two of us.
ELLE: Do you share clothing?
AJ: We have our own clothes, but sometimes when I get really bored with my dress or something we just swap and we do something totally different. Because we have two different bodies but the same height, it looks like a totally different piece on her. It’s great.
ELLE: In “I Love It”, you enthusiastically boadt about being ’90s girls. Let’s talk about your favorite ’90s fashion-y moments.
AJ: The Spice Girls! Victoria almost looks the same now with her black dresses. We loved the boy bands and the girl bands. But we also loved the one-hit wonders.
CH: Style-wise, it’s so fun to look back at Courtney Love or Drew Barrymore…
AJ: And Baywatch! What was up with those bikinis? They were like up in the tits! But our favorite ’90s thing was The X-Files. Mulder… I mean c’mon! He’s the inspiration for all of Icona Pop’s music ever made.
CH: When he’s pulling up his pants a little too high.
AJ: And Scully, C’mon! [To Caroline] You look like Scully. I’ll be Mulder.
CH: We are Mulder and Scully!
ELLE: Buzzed-about electro-pop singer Charli XCX wrote “I Love It”… How did this come about? Do you relate to the lyrics?
AJ: She wrote it with Patrik Berger. We were in the studio writing a totally different song, and Patrik’s like, “Yeah, I made this song with Charli,” and he showed us a really rough cut and we heard it. We were like… “Is this our song?” We were kind of going through the same thing that’s in the song—age difference, the love story… It’s really strange to feel like it’s your song when someone else wrote it.
CH: We adopted the song. We were like, “No, no, no! This is our song.” It feels like we wrote it with her.
AJ: She wasn’t gonna use it and she was very happy that we liked it. So we made it more “Icona”—we wanted it more shout-y.
CH: That punk fucking feeling.
AJ: You don’t wanna sing it cute—you wanna scream it in his fucking face. “Fuck off!”
CH: You know that feeling when you’re tired of being sad? And you rise up and you feel kind of strong. You’re like “I’m good. I’m very good actually. And I’m proud. And I love it. I don’t care. Fuck it!”
ELLE: Have you two ever gone on a double date?
DJ: No, but we should go on a date with someone. Can you hook us up?
ELLE: What’s your type?
AJ: I would say Mulder in X-Files. Or the lead singer of Joy Division.
CH: Prince! When I was younger, I thought my mom would get married to Prince. My mom and dad broke up and we had all of these LPs on the wall. Prince was always up on the wall. And I was like, “Mom, when are you going to marry Prince?” And she was like, “No honey, he’s too short for me.”
AJ: I love that she made the decision to not marry Prince!
CH: And then I said, “Mom, he’s already wearing high heels, he can just put on some that are higher.”
ELLE: So, is Prince on your dream shared concert line-up? And who else?
CH: That’s our dream. Without a doubt. Then I could go and die. And Beyonce.
AJ: Oh yes, Beyonce… C’mon!
CH: She’s such a powerful woman and she’s so beautiful and everything she does, she does it with grace.
ELLE: Let’s get back to fashion. Favorite designers… Go!
CH: Helmut Lang, Givenchy, Alex Wang.
AJ: Phillip Lim! He’s the best grinder.
CH: He’s the best dancer. He’s always the last person standing. Dancing with us, drinking beer—he’s the best!
AJ: We met him at his show, and he told us we looked like superheroes in his clothes. He dressed us for his show. And he’s so kind. When you see him, he looks kind of reserved and then he starts to dance. He’s the best dancer!
CH: And the Swedish brand, Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair.
AJ: They have such cool stuff. Dark stuff.
CH: And House of Dagmar! We’ve been working with them.
ELLE: We hear you also have a serious Dr. Martens penchant…
AJ: Oh, Dr. Martens! I don’t have mine on today, but I’ve been wearing them a lot. They smell right now.
CH: It’s like jeans. I hate when they look new and shiny.
AJ: I got these lovely white Dr. Martens and the shape of them is not too feminine. I love them, but I’ve used them like five times, and it hurts more to walk in them than high heels. It’s terrible.