Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt of Icona Pop are like the super talented, well dressed, effortlessly cool and charming best friends you always want to be around. You already knew that—the Swedish duo is like the music industry’s answer to the Jennifer Lawrence Effect. You’ve probably never met them, and yet you’re certain they do care, they love you, and you’ve been listening to their newest track “All Night” on repeat in anticipation of the day you can finally blast their full- length album in its entirety (the day: September 24, 2013; the album: aptly titled This is…Icona Pop).

Aino stepped away from her hectic North American tour schedule (and lovely strawberry-haired soul sister) to talk with SHK about fashion, love, decisions that change your life and the people and music that help you through it. She also erased any lingering shades of doubt clouding my own quarter-life existential wanderings. But this isn’t about me. Or is it? — Mary Grygiel

Your first full-length album is out September 24, but we’ve been singing along to “I love It” for months. What’s it like gaining so much success off a debut EP?

AJ: Our EP was like a little appetizer…I believe the main course is coming next [laughs]. It’s not going to be 11 tracks that sound like “I Love It.” It’s very honest. I think people will get to know us in this album. We’ve been on this musical journey for four and a half years, and you’re definitely going to hear that—from our first song “Manners” to the last song that we wrote—there’s a big difference. We’ve been developing and creating the whole time.

“All Night”

You’ve got everyone’s attention, now we can’t wait to see who you guys are. 

It’s so exciting!

With the rise of digital downloads, it seems like more artists are gaining popularity from EPs. How do you think this trend is changing the music industry? 

I think, for our sake, it’s been amazing. We released an album in Sweden, and suddenly people in Australia were craving [“I love It”]—all because of the bloggers. Suddenly we really had to release an album, because people wanted it. I’m very happy about the way [the internet] allows even small bands to get exposure without necessarily having a label. I think people get more chances.

What are your thoughts on television soundtracks acting as a medium for music exposure these days? Did you watch that Girls episode? 

Oh yeah. It was amazing! We love Girls. To watch it and hear our song, it’s like, a girl power thing.

This is our Fashion Talks issue, and you and Caroline are certainly becoming trendsetters. Do you think there’s any communication between what you’re wearing and what your fans are hearing?

We’re so honored by that. We’re not slaves to any trend, we just like to express ourselves. You can definitely see a connection between our clothes and our music. It’s all about mixing stuff—the masculine with the feminine, the punky-ness with the preppy-ness—and I think you can hear that in our music. That’s why no one can tell exactly what genre it is. It’s more of a spread.

Well, it’s working. 

It’s amazing. You can really play around with the stage outfit, which we also love.


You met Caroline at a party. Can you pinpoint a single moment when you looked at each other and thought, “Ah, yes. We’re going to be best friends”

It’s weird, because I knew about Caroline for such a long time and if someone had said to me five years back, “you’re going to start a band with Caroline and travel around the world,” I would probably laugh. Because, I mean, I didn’t know her and she didn’t know me either. Then [we see each other] and we’re like, “wow.” Caroline’s personality and my personality—we’re having so much fun. And I think it was that fact that made me realize we’re going to have a long, healthy friendship.

It’s funny the way the universe can push you together. 

Yeah! And then you love it. You can just see the signs and you’re like, why would I travel against this? Everything is going my way now.

How would you describe your first gig together, in one word:

…Chaotic. [Laughs]. We didn’t even have songs so we were kind of standing on stage, improvising. That was definitely a very memorable show. It was so bad.

Well, you definitely had chemistry.

[Laughs]. Yeah, it was a lot. It was a weird gig. My friends are laughing as we talk about this…

Your lives have shifted radically since then—maybe even in the last few weeks. Do you feel like you were catapulted into the spotlight, or has it been more of a gradual climb? 

I think from the outside it looks like everything moved really fast, but to Caroline and me, it’s been almost five years. Before that we were having a lot of difficulty with projects so, for us, it doesn’t feel like we came out from nowhere. But then we did get a lot of attention—which, in the beginning, was kind of scary! As you grow and get bigger, you never know if people are going to like or dislike you. But I guess as long as you’re proud of what you’re doing, you can’t really care so much what people are thinking.

So true.  

It’s just amazing, I mean, to release [the album] and “All Night” and find we still have so many lovers on our side. [Laughs].

I had just quit my job, was feeling a little lost and breaking my own heart when a friend played “I Love It” for me. I never thought another song could make me want to drop everything and gather my friends in a group-hug-slash-dance-party quite like that track…and then I heard “Girlfriend.” 

This is exactly what we want to do—the empowerment! I think there are so many women who are catty and against each other. Instead of trying to put each other down, we just want to lift women up. It’s a man-dominated world, so it’s important! That’s what “I Love It” was made for—it’s about releasing your demons, pushing the anger out of your body. When you just have to make a decision at some level…leaving your job…breaking up…anything. Thank you! That meant so much.

No, thank you! It’s like, I should be crying right now—but I’m smiling and I want just want to dance. 


You two seem to have a special bond. What’s the best part about working and traveling the world with your best friend?

There are so many times in life when no one understands you and you kind of feel alone in the world, and then you have your friends. You can always trust your friends. They’ll love you when you’re down. We have a good balance and our friendship is so simple; it’s all about respect and music. If I’m angry at [Caroline] one day, I will say it—and then she knows it. [Laughs]. It’s very simple. Sometimes people tend to make love and friendship very hard, but it’s the purest thing on Earth.

So, there are no bad parts. Caroline doesn’t snore or anything?

Well, actually, we’ve been sharing a room for such a long time…we were so broke when we were living in London. She tells me I’m the one who was snoring. I don’t believe her. In fact, she woke me up a lot of times. But really, I think there are only positive things when you’re traveling around with your best friend. Maybe in ten years I will find something I hate about Caroline. [Laughs]

I think you guys have already passed the ultimate test of friendship and compatibility. 

[Laughing] Yeah, right? That’s so true.


If you could have a conversation with that girl at the beginning of her career—that version of yourself in London before things took off—what would you tell her? 

I would tell her, “Li—sten—to—your—gut.” We’ve been going through a lot of ups and downs, and every time you don’t believe in what you’re doing, or you don’t listen to your gut, it all goes to hell. I was very heartbroken when we moved to London and it felt like I would never love again, but there comes a day when you realize yes, you will. And then a day when that other pig comes crawling back to you and you’ll be able to say, “It’s too late, hunny!”

“The Iconic Tour”

This is Seen, Heard, Known, so tell us one thing we should:

See: The Swedish archipelago. It’s beautiful.

Hear: Pobe Lo, who’s been writing with us on our album. She’s also releasing her own stuff and it’s amazing!


Know: That our album is coming out at the end of September!



Photo cred to  Fredrik Etoall + The Windish Agency.