A Chat With Stockholm's Coolest BFFs on Tatts, Breaking in the States, and Hot Guys
Ever since Icona Pop’s “Manners” broke on a Kitsuné Maison comp in 2010 and healed breakup wounds around the world, the dynamic Stockholm duo Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt have been dropping perfect pop delicacies without breaks. Melodic, raucous electro-lined followups like “Nights Like This” and “I Love It” kept raising Icona Pop’s grrrl-powered bar, until these completely charming best friends finally decided to put an album together this summer.
They don’t have a release date yet, but they do have a set of impressive producers ranging from Elof Loelv (Niki & The Dove) to Patrik Berger (Robyn) to Burns (kelis) to Avant (Miike Snow). They also have new tattoos, a gorgeous fashion sense, and pretty much the best attitude an interviewer could ever ask for.
We chatted with Caroline and Aino about their ink, their album, their starving artist phase, and their taste for good-looking fellows.
So, you guys literally just got new tattoos.
Caroline: Yeah, this is my first one. I was kind of nervous and excited about that. It’s two Eiffel Towers, one for my brother and one for my sister. I love Paris that’s why I wanted to do this. And this one is a message for myself so i like to keep it to myself — but it’s two bones crossing each other.
And you got one as well Aino?
Aino: I have a lot of tattoos, but, this is my mom. And this is our dog. But it’s not done yet. It was funny, I was so tired and we were having this interview on the phone while we were getting the tattoos and the guy said ‘ what’s that sound?’
Caroline: Bzzzzz bzzzzz. ‘oh nothing.’
Aino: I also have one underneath, but it wasn’t that well done. It’s gonna be amazing when it’s done.
So are there any details on the new album?
Aino: We decided that the first of July everything has to be done on the album. We decided we had to have a date for that or otherwise we’re just so picky we’d keep trying to fix it. You feel like you wanna end this so you can start a new one.
Caroline: Yeah we wanna get it out. When you’re in the studio, you make your own world, you stay there, and you don’t let anybody in. Now we really feel like we’re ready to let the rest of the world in, to get to know us better. To hear our songs. we’re so proud of this album. It reflects so many things that we’ve been through, or friends have been through — it’s so fun to finally get it out there.
Aino: So, we don’t have a date, but Sometime in the summer.
What is it that you hope to achieve in New York and the states?
Aino: It’s so funny. Yesterday it dawned on us that the states…are huge. [laughs]
Caroline: Yeah, you can look at a map and try to compare it to other places, but then when you are here and you realize not only how big is is, but how many people there are, and how different it is. It’s totally different than Sweden. What we would like to achieve is that we would love to reach out with our music. We hope the radio will play our music and reach people.
Aino. Play. We wanna play live.
Once you said New Yorkers gave you the best reception. Is that still true?
Caroline: It depends a lot on the place where you play, but yeah it feels like a lot of people get us here, which is fun. But that was maybe a little bit in our earlier stages. Now we are playing so much and we are better, and a lot more people know about our music. Lately it’s just heaven to play anywhere.
Did you go through the starving artist thing?
Aino: We’ve been working our whole life. We tried to work as hard as we could. We were working and DJing at night, then we went to the studio. Sometimes we slept in the studio just to be there. You have that energy, and then after a while we had to quit our jobs. We had two really tough years.
Caroline: We shared a mattress in London. it would have been easier to just get a job but we didn’t have time, so we had to make a choice. And I think that choice was important for us to be able to make this album that we’re now finished with, to play live, and to DJ, i mean we do that 24-7. It is worth it.
Aino: And you can always laugh at stuff when it becomes really hard. you can always just say “I really hate my life.” [laughs]
Caroline: Then you laugh and realize how much you love it because nobody forced you to do it. And then also I think, if I had been by myself, I would have cried, but now I can laugh about it and say, ‘Okay, brush off…let’s dream about where we see ourselves in about six months.’ And then you try to focus on that instead of what you don’t have.
You have a very synergistic relationship when it comes to making music. What accounts for that, are you both extremely hungry, excitable, do you have the same taste in music…
Aino: When we first met, we didn’t even really discuss music, we just started to write. After that day, we decided we were a band. I can’t explain it. I think the reason is, in a way, music is the first thing you fell in love with, and you’re still in love with music.
Caroline: I think we share that love. It’s like our baby. And I think it’s just weird to explain how I really do get so much energy from Aino, and inspiration. I think you get used to be able to discuss and reflect on stuff all the time and say ‘what do you think of this or this or this…’ you can always speak your mind. There’s constantly a creative process going on. I think that’s what keeps us together, that wherever we go, we’re never worrying, because we have inspiration…
Aino: And so much fun! [laughs] I really realized, you have to be a little bit strange to be able to hang out like we do.
Caroline: It’s a lot of jokes. We hang out with other people who think we’re weird. We have a lot of inside jokes. It’s like we’re this old married couple.
You met when you were on the edge of a breakup, but a lot of your other songs have this grrl power, kick ass and take names kind of attitude. Is that something you foster in one another?
Caroline: All of our friends are like that. It’s important for you to stand up for yourself. And we also have so many good male friends who treat women well.
Aino : Yes we’re not manhaters.
Caroline: Yes We love looking at gorgeous men. And men aren’t always treated well either, you can have a woman treating a man badly.
You’ve worked with so many different producers in a short period of time. What’s it like to have so many cooks in the kitchen?
Caroline: Right… The main producers are Elof Loelv…
Aino: and Patrick Berger…
Caroline: And working with different people is very refreshing and inspiring. Everybody has their own way of working. It’s fun to learn new ways to write. It’s refreshing. We’re very involved in everything we do, the music videos, the pictures…when it comes to writing, you have to have a lot of respect for each other, but still you have to be very sure of yourself so you can really speak your mind and it’s important for everyone in the room to do that. Sometimes you don’t agree, and then you discuss it, but the outcome is the best of the best product. I love to work with producers that have a lot of strong opinions and are very artistic, even though it can be like ‘NO I DON’T LIKE THAT ONE!’ because something good is coming out of it.
As two friends who have come together organically, what is the most unnatural or strange part about being in the music industry and dealing with all of this? [referring to the interview]
Aino: Good questions!
Caroline: Yes fun questions. The weirdest part is when you realize, when you step out of yourself, and realize, that you’re sitting and talking about yourself. That’s weird. You’re like, ‘is someone interested in what I’m saying right now? I’m sitting here talking a bout myself! And our thing! And what we’re doing!’
Aino: We’re two girls from Sweden, we had a dream and we followed it, and we are here.
Caroline: Sometimes we really have to pinch ourselves. I also think we laugh about a lot of situations and try to soak it in. We’re having so much fun. Everytime we go somewhere, we just laugh and say, ‘okay…are we actually here now.’ It’s a little bit surreal sometimes.