photos / Katy Pritchett
story / Erica Russell
Petite and fairylike in person, with their candy-colored hair and dollish features, onstage Rebecca and Fiona – the Swedish electronic-pop duo that spins high-octane EDM and performs original music for crowds of thousands at music festivals around the globe – are towering behind their DJ booth. And sure, a little of that stature might owe some thanks to the girls’ signature Buffalo platform boots, but for the most part standing tall is all about supporting one another.
Since forming in Stockholm back in 2010, Rebecca Scheja and Fiona Fitzpatrick have become best friends, forming a strong sisterhood in what many consider a bro’s playground. But taking over the dance music world as BFFs is just the icing on the cake.
Of their relationship, Fiona gushes, “We love everything about it. Getting to work with your best friend is the best thing, but it’s also a responsibility that people don’t always understand. You have to work hard to keep the friendship alive, but working with someone you love and like to share everything with is amazing.”
Their friendship also serves a critical role in the music-making process, providing endless lyrical inspiration. “Our friendship is a key element for us when we’re working. When we’re together, having so much fun, that’s when we get really inspired. We always have another album in our bodies that wants to come out! We write about society, but also about the friendship between us and our experiences.”
These “experiences,” of course, often involve being women in an industry largely dominated and controlled by men, a subject which the highly successful triple-threat DJs/singers/producers heavily explore on their recently released sophomore LP, Beauty Is Pain (Ultra Records).
“We wanted to tell a whole story with the album,” Fiona reveals. “When it was finished, we felt that the main subject was about being female in the industry. We were telling stories about our fears and experiences, and also exploring the stories of girls like Marilyn Monroe – girls who have suffered from the industry and the pressure of the men in it.”
As producers, Rebecca and Fiona are constantly feeling the pressure to hold their own, but they don’t let the stigmas and expectations deter or divide them. “We don’t like to define gender as a prefix to our music, since it’s not specifically male or female. But of course everybody wants to see us as ‘female’ producers.”
Musically, Beauty Is Pain is both a continuation and shift from the artists’ 2011 debut, ‘I Love You, Man.’ Heavily inspired by Swede-pop royalty Ace of Base, their second album contains many of the pulsing beats, atmospheric electronics, and dance-floor synths that made the first a massive club hit, but this time with more pop thanks to a mixture of groovy disco, 80’s synth-pop, and 90’s bubblegum hooks.
The girls note that this evolution in sound is, logically, the result of a progression in their skills as producers and artists. “We’ve grown a lot since I Love You, Man. We didn’t have the same responsibility when we made our first album. We were much better prepared for the second. Also, for the first album we didn’t have the same patience, so we worked faster. But this time we knew how much better we could do, so I think we worked harder and weren’t satisfied quite as easily.”
Visuals are also important to the girls, who admittedly prefer thrift shop finds over designer names, and like to explore the dark side of glamour and femininity in their work. Lurking beneath the sky-high faux lashes and My Little Pony locks, there is much more depth and poignant commentary than the unabashedly girly and seemingly superficial motifs might typically suggest.
“The ‘Holler’ video is about young girls breaking the rules, and ‘Candy Love’ is about these women in the industry, pushing through things that they’re uncomfortable with. One of them is going bad; the other is becoming an alcoholic. They can’t do what they want because society is pushing them too hard into something they’re not. The videos and images all tell stories about girls who have suffered in the system of society,” she explains.
This ongoing narrative of fighting against all odds positions the pair as rebels continuously daring to stand out on their own terms. “It’s a true story,” Fiona muses. “We feel that we broke through by being ourselves and by not trying to do what everyone else wanted or expected us to be. We made up our own world where we decided what was pretty and no one else could tell us what to do. We feel strong enough just as ourselves.”
And for other young girls looking to break into the music industry, Rebecca and Fiona hope to inspire other women through their music. After all, she adds, “There’s nothing that you couldn’t do.”