Hard partying young bands have a long tradition of trashing hotel rooms. On their most recent tour, however, Icona Pop’s biggest offense wasn’t throwing the TV off the balcony or throwing up in the ice bucket. It was scaring the crap out of the maid.
“In the closet of a hotel room, we built a little singing booth,” says Caroline Hjelt, one half of the Swedish synth-pop duo. “And we were just in there screaming and singing together. We heard that someone was in the room and we stepped out and it was housekeeping. She got so scared, she didn’t know what the f— was going... and then two girls come out from the closet. She was like, ‘Oh my god, what’s going on here?’”
What was going on, explains Hjelt, was work. She and bandmate Aino Jawo have been on the road nonstop, touring behind their irrepressible dance party jam “I Love It” (off their 2012 EP “Iconic”), and have had almost zero time to spend in the studio recording their upcoming debut album “This Is Icona Pop.” So they’ve had to get a little creative.
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“This album has been hustling, we’ve been everywhere recording it,” she says. “So we always make sure that we have a microphone, and we have our computers that we can work on, or cell phones, or whatever, that we can just record if we get quick ideas.”
“We’ve been writing the album for such a long time so I think people are going to hear the journey that we’ve been through,” she continues. That journey has included recording sessions in countless cities across the world — in the backseats of cars, in parking lots and, yes, hotel room closets.
This DIY, devil-may-care aesthetic reflects the duo’s sound, as well as their outlook on music. These are two girls who, frankly, just want to have fun. The two met at a party while in college and, Hjelt says, it was “love at first sight.”
“It was just weird energy. We just started writing without even talking about what kind of music we wanted to do,” she says. “And when we started, we just looked at each other, kind of like, 'Oh my god, we have a band and it’s the best band in the world.'”
They’d written their first song (“Sheriff Came to Town on a Big Black Horse”) by the very next day. Two days later, they’d booked their first gig. And they’ve been partying together ever since. Unlike a lot of other young musicians, who will demur and say that their stage persona, or their music, doesn’t reflect their personal life, Hjelt is blunt about her lifestyle.
“I would lie to you, if I would say that I don’t like to party,” she laughs. “Because we love dancing, we love good music, we love hanging out with people. And we’ve been having the best parties! We always have such a good time.”
But, she cautions, their music isn’t all about the next good time. "Our goal is to make music that makes people feel. We like bittersweet music that you can both cry and laugh to, that you can have a little bit for every time,” she says. That's reflected in the new album which, while still chock full of ruckus-bringing club tracks, has its share of quieter, emotive ballads (not to mention a Jay Z/Tupac cover, “Girlfriend”).
And actually, Hjelt explains, “I Love it” isn’t really a party song at all. At its heart, she says, it’s about hitting rock bottom and starting over — a sentiment that’s admittedly easy to miss amid the rafter-rattling synths and irreverent lines like “you’re from the '70s, but I’m a '90s bitch.”
“That song is about coming out from a really, really bad heartbreak, when you feel like you’re never ever gonna be able to smile again, or to enjoy anything again,” she says. “But then, after awhile, you start getting a little bit stronger and a little bit stronger, and then you wake up and you feel like, you know what? I deserve better. I don’t care anymore, I love it. And that’s such an empowering feeling — and it’s a very emotional song.”
Still, don’t expect too much heartache and darkness from “This is Icona Pop.” After all, this IS Icona Pop and, at its glittery heart, Icona Pop is about two best friends having the time of their lives.
“The night we met, that was such an epic night,” Hjelt says. “She came to my party, and we were all just great friends hanging out, everyone was welcome. And then we went out to this big club and we were just jumping around on the couches. The night never ended."