Q&A with Icona Pop: 8 Questions on Female Role Models, Life During COVID and Having Fun

“We just put on even higher heels and said that we would show them.” – Swedish dance-pop duo Icona Pop keeps pushing for inclusion and positivity armed with dance-pop, humor and a take-no-bullsh*t attitude.

Icona Pop
Icona Pop

For more than a decade, Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo have been doing exactly what they want, no matter what people have been telling them. Because of that, we’ve been gifted with music to feel to, laugh to and maybe most importantly – dance to. We need that.

As Icona Pop, the two Swedes took the world by storm in 2013 with their critically acclaimed debut album This is…Icona Pop, and since then, they’ve been sharing their important message of inclusivity and self-acceptance through several records and high energy live shows all over the world. Our karma must be amazing because we scored a Q&A with them about their new releases, life during COVID, and the expectations the industry puts on them as women.

Take a moment to check out their killer SOFI TUKKER collaboration “Spa” below, before you take in their reflections on people thinking that they, as girls, couldn’t be playing live or DJ for real, or how grown ups aren’t always right.

Can you tell us a bit about what 2020 looked like for you and point out a few highlights that you’ll look back at with joy 10 years from now?

– It’s definitely been a different year. Usually we tour and travel constantly and now we’ve been in Sweden for 7 months. Its gonna be our first winter here in 10 years so we will have to get used to the darkness and the cold but its a little bit cosy as well. If we have to choose some positive things out of this COVID situation it’s that we’ve been having more time to spend with friends and family and also more time in the studio. We are so excited to release it all next year!

Highlights of 2020 must have been:
– Releasing “Feels in My Body”.
– The last live show we did before the world shut down was in Mexico and it was magic.
– Doing Rave Spa with our fans on Fridays.
– Releasing “Spa” with Sofi Tukker was soooooooo much fun.
– Recording the music videos for both “Feels in My Body” and “Spa” have been both challenging and amazing during lockdowns.

You’ve always encouraged a message of inclusion, positivity and acceptance, but you’re doing it with joyous dance music and humor – What is the power of dance music and humor when it comes to touching upon quite serious topics like these?

– We believe it’s so important to use your voice and stand up for what you believe in. There’re so many different ways that you can do that but we love when we can get the message in there through our lyrics, videos and other expressions. Sometimes we are super serious and wanna deliver a message in a very direct way. But we also like when we manage to disguise heartbreak stories and more serious subjects in happier melodies and dance tracks. In that way it can become very uplifting and it’s important to not take yourself to serious all the time. 

You recently did a post on Instagram about the skepticism you were met by when you first started making music. Can you tell a bit more about the prejudices you encountered and your experiences from back then? How did you keep trusting your guts despite what everyone else was saying?

– We’ve been through a lot since we started and we’re so happy that we always had each other. It’s always been us against the world. People who thought that we didn’t play live or DJ for real just because we are girls, didn’t want us to wear high heels because it could be intimidating for the guys if they where shorter, record label people who have been drunk and wanting to have sex… and so on. But we just put on even higher heels and said that we would show them. It gave us the fire to prove them wrong and we wanna be a part of changing this industry that’s been stuck in the same dusty patterns and so male dominated for way too long. It’s moving forward but it takes time.

Sticking with Instagram for a second, we came across a post where you’re comparing an old press picture with the newest one from “Spa”. How do you feel like you’ve changed in the time between the two? Both personally and in your music?

– I don’t know if our personalities have changed that much, of course you grow and maybe get a little bit wiser but we are still two best friends doing what we love. Our music is still a mix between Pop and Electro/Dance but I think we write about different things now than in the beginning. Maybe we are a little bit more dance driven now. We’ve been so inspired by great Club music lately. Maybe it’s because we’re not allowed to go clubbing at the moment. Can’t wait to show you what we’ve been doing this year! 

At Girls Are Awesome, we’re all about showcasing talented women and female role models. Who are your biggest role models right now and have they changed over time?

– Our Moms are the most amazing strong independent women that we know. Also admire everyone who dares to fight for their rights and believe in making a difference. Aretha Franklin, Greta Thunberg, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Lizzo, Betty Friedan, Adwoa Aboah are just a few that we admire. It wasn’t until we started traveling the world that we really understood how privileged we were growing up surrounded by feminism and grown ups that told us that we could be exactly what we wanted.

It’s the opposite in so many parts of the world and that’s why it’s so important to talk about it, ask questions, educate, be loud if not for yourself maybe for someone else and fight for a change. We feel that things have absolutely moved in the right direction but we still have a long way to go.

What expectations do you feel are put upon you as women? Both from society, your industry and yourself – if any?

– I feel that a lot of women we’ve talked to feel the pressure from a very young age to look a certain way to fit in. A constant need to prove yourself as a woman and that you have to be twice as good as the guys to get the same job. That emotions and compassion are seen as a weakness in work related situations and that is so wrong. It is a superpower and you don’t have to be cold to reach success.

What would you tell your 12-year-old selves?

– We would tell baby Caroline and baby Aino that you are amazing and we are so proud of you. Keep on using your voice and questioning things, listen to grown ups but know that they are not always right. Listen to your voice within, dare to take chances, don’t try to be perfect, don’t change for anyone, do what you love, fall in love and have fun. Don’t be so hard on yourself!

Finally, what do you have in store for the future? What can we expect to see or hear from you in 2021?

– We promise that you will see a lot of us! We will release a lot of new music and prepare for when we can tour again. Can’t wait!

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