Icona Pop: From Cowbell to Times Square

Tiffany Lee
Stop The Presses!

Right on the heels of an exciting performance in Times Square to celebrate the launch of Samsung's new GALAXY Gear smartwatches (think James Bond swag for the rest of us), Caroline Hjelt of Icona Pop jumped on the horn with Yahoo Music to talk '90s, dancing the pain away and their obsession with Prince.

Tiffany: I saw on Twitter that Aino went to the hospital recently...

Caroline: She got sick, but now she's almost up and running. She had to spend some time at the hospital but she's better now.

What was the performance for Samsung all about?

It was so fun. It was in the middle of Times Square. They were launching their new product. We've been friends with Samsung for a long time, doing collaborations and playing at events, so it came very natural that we wanted to do something together and be partners. They launched their super cool new Gear, we played a couple songs, we also have a song where we mix our song "In the Stars" and their song "Over the Horizon" up together.

What was it like to perform in Times Square?

It was great, the sun was shining and you could see us on the huge screens. It was surreal.

What was it like to hear your song "I Love It" on the radio for the first time?

That was crazy, I'll never forget that moment. We were actually in Las Vegas for the first time doing a show, and the promoter was driving to show us around. We just entered the strip and our song comes on the radio, and that was the first time, we were just screaming. Really, really cool.

How did you guys meet for the first time?

We met almost five years ago at a party at my place. Aino was heart broken, really really devastated and she was lying in bed for like, two weeks. We had a mutual friend who forced Aino to come to my party saying, "Girl, you need to have fun." And I was pretty down at the time too, nothing was working with my music and my love life, so I just kind of danced my pain away, disguising everything in neon lights with my friends. We had the best crew, Aino came to my party, and it was love at first sight. We instantly felt like, "wow, we have something special" and next day Aino came with a bottle of wine and a computer and we wrote our first song. I remember calling my mom, "Mom! I'm in a band!" She's like, "What? What are you doing..." So since that day we've been inseparable.

What was that first song you wrote?

It was a song called "Sheriff Came to Town on a Big Black Horse." I hope we can release it when we're 85-years-old on our golden record or something. It's on our old computer somewhere. We should really save it somewhere so it doesn't disappear.

You said that your music before Icona Pop wasn't really working out. What were you working on then?

We've been musicians for a long time and I was trying out so many different ways of writing and writing with different people. I went to New York for a while to find my way, and but I was frustrated because I felt like no one understood what I wanted to do. Aino was in a band with six guys singing, playing the cowbell. That was great, but she still felt like there was something missing. We both did and we couldn't put our finger on what it was until we met each other. Then everything was so easy, so natural and how it was supposed to feel like.

Who are your inspirations?

We're so inspired by so many different [artists], we listen to a lot of old music. When we first started, we were listening to a lot of Prince, he was a huge inspiration. But then of course, the Chemical Brothers and Kraftwerk, or Patti Smith. It's such a music and I feel like you can hear that in our music as well. We're not scared of mixing and having fun with different genres. We just go into the studio and we feel, and we then do whatever we want and call it our pop music.

When did you start obsessing over music? Did you have a moment when you heard a record or saw a show and thought, "This is it"?

We're both from kind of hippie families where we're listening to music and dancing around with everyone in the family singing. It's been a very natural part of our lives the whole time. But then I remember watching MTV, all the videos were like a religion to us. You just sat there and were amazed by all the girl and boy bands. I mean, we became human beings in the '90s. But it was funny, the first concert we ever went to was the Spice Girls, but we didn't know each other then.

What does it mean to be a "'90s Bitch"?

Being a '90s Bitch means loving all of that stuff, the girl bands, the one-hit-wonders, the movies, there's so much great stuff, inflatable backpacks. Again we became human beings the and started to decide what we like or don't like. You know when you start to build your personality more and decide what you're all about - that was in the '90s.

What kind of style did you have in high school? Personally, I was really goth and punk.

I made my own clothes. I tried so many different styles. I was into hip-hopper for a while, then I was into the more rockabilly style for a long time when I was younger. When you look at pictures, I'm like, "What did I do?"

What's your style now?

I think that me and Aino aren't the best at following trends, but we love clothes and love to express ourselves with clothes. We love contrast - playing with feminine and masculine, or preppy and punk. We love suits.

What's the difference between your first two albums Icona Pop and This Is... Icona Pop? I noticed they share some of the same songs.

I see This Is... Icona Pop as our first album. We only released [Icona Pop] in Sweden because it started off so much earlier in Sweden and we had fans out there. We thought that they deserved to get some new music and we had so much music. So we decided to release an album for our fans to show them where we are right now. The reason we have some of the same songs from the last album was because we felt it was so important to show people our journey and what we've been through. We've been writing on this album for four years now. I think people will hear the journey.

What songs on the album would you say is the latest part of that journey?

It's so hard to say. I love the "All Night" track. For me, the whole album. We have a track called "Then We Kiss" about a blurry night in L.A. and how much we love making out with people. There's so much personal stuff on the album, that in Paris, when that guy came up to you, all those memories. So when we listen to that song, we get all emotional and stuff.

What is the craziest night you've had on tour so far?

It's hard to tell the craziest moment because there's crazy stuff happening all the time… but it's meant to stay on that crazy tour bus [laughs]. But we have a great crew and a beautiful tour bus. I hope we get the chance to invite your to some of our crazy tour bus parties sometime, hopefully soon!

I'll hold you to that! Where are you guys off to next?

We're going to a bunch of places, then end the tour [in New York], then release the album, then tour Europe, then Asia for a month.

Anything else we should look forward to?

We're really excited for the iTunes Festival where we're supporting Katy Perry. We have a lot of fun stuff coming up.

Who's the most exciting person you've shared a stage with?

I think it was at the Billboard Awards. We were very close to Prince and we could feel his energy. We were just like, "God, this is so cool!"

This Is... Icona Pop drops on September 24. Check out their tour dates on Iconapop.com and socialize with Caroline and Aino on Twitter at @iconapop.

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