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photography / SANTIAGO FELIPE

set design / GEORGE OH
hair / ERIC ALT

hair assistnat /ASHLEY FRATO
makeup / COLBY SMITH
stylist /SHEYNA IMM

“I think we give each other superpowers. We feel invincible when we’re together,” says Caroline Hjelt of the irresistible Swedish group Icona Pop about her bandmate Aino Jawo. She further explains, “We share something that we don’t share with anyone else.”
After having met at a house party in February 2009, both Hjelt and Jawo described the moment as “love at first sight” in the form of a “friend crush”. While it’s understandable that there would be an immediate pull between the two of them because of their unique looks, including Hjelt’s vibrant red hair against her creamy pale skin and Jawo’s raven hair framing her sultry eyes, there was something more. Jawo reflects on the powerful chemistry that they both felt at that moment in time, recalling, “It was like I had known Caroline for my whole life.”
Since the both of them happened to be at a difficult crossroads in love and music at their initial meeting, they had both been looking for something to propel them out of their discontent. That something ended up being each other. Knowing that they had to immediately work on music together, they soon thereafter formed Icona Pop. “The fact that we were both kind of down, we weren’t scared,” says Hjelt. “We didn’t have anything to lose, so we just gave it our all when we met, giving it a true, real chance.”
This chance has led them to leaving their impression on the industry with strong pop hits like “I Love It” (featuring another rising artist Charli XCX) and “Manners” that are on their Iconic EP, out now. They’re what a 2013 version of Cher and Dionne from the film Clueless would have been if they also had a band. With a lyric like, “I threw your shit into a bag and pushed it down the stairs”, those going through breakups will find solace. “It’s kind of like an open diary,” Jawo admits.
Since most of their songs are about personal experiences or experiences of those around them, those that have become the subject of a song usually know who they are. “You can see it in their eyes,” says Hjelt. “You don’t say anything, but they know.”
With all the heartbreak that fills Icona Pop’s songs, neither of the twenty-somethings have fallen bitter over the concept of love. “Most of the time when you can experience love with someone, even though it doesn’t last, you have to try to see it as a beautiful thing that you [once] shared,” Hjelt insightfully mentions.
Hjelt and Jawo both give credit to their mothers for this mindset and strong sense of self, as well as the encouragement that they needed to pursue what they love: music. And since the primary message that they’ve been taught is “girl power”, it’s natural that Hjelt has had a fascination with Tina Turner over the years while Jawo adores Beyonce as well as Patti Smith.
In an industry where the common misconception is that any woman on stage is either lip-synching or any woman near a stage must be “with the band”, the ladies of Icona Pop have definitely had an unfair amount of these assumptions directed towards them as well. During their live sets, the mega babes DJ and sing, and their energy alone has a massive impact on why their shows feel more like a rousing party. “We often hear ‘Oh, we never thought you were playing for real’, just because we’re girls,” Hjelt laughs, not letting it offend her.
Jawo also maintains a positive attitude, adding, “I don’t care about the people that try to put us down, because sometimes it’s just a lack of knowledge.” Mindful of the tough road they’ve been on as women and artists, she affirms, “We still have a long way to go.”
But hopefully it won’t be a long way to go before their U.S. fans finally get to hear their forthcoming self-titled debut that has already been released in Sweden. Promising even more love and heartache turned into potent dance anthems, the ladies also reveal that honesty exists within these songs because it can sometimes be difficult in playing cool and putting their feelings away on a subject matter. Having proven to be a favorable attribute rather than a limitation, Hjelt says, “You have to be very close to what you feel all the time. That’s part of being an artist.”


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