A few weeks ago, on an episode of Girls, Lena Dunham’s Hannah Horvath snorted a bunch of cocaine off of a toilet seat and then danced her ass off in a club as the song “I Love It” blared. The song, with its references to youthful carefree recklessness (“I crashed my car into a bridge and I don’t care!”), perfectly encapsulated the moment, the show, and probably a generation, to boot. The song has thrust the band that created it, Icona Pop, into a tidal wave of buzz. The Swedish outfit, made up of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, is riding that wave for all it's worth, because while the song may have put them in the spotlight, they have been working for years trying to build a name for themselves in the indie dance pop scene.
Before they played a set at Viceland in front an enthusiastic crowd (including a lot of burly bros getting their dance on), we talked to the dynamic duo at SXSW about that song, developing a taste for Waffle House, and watching Ice Road Truckers.
Noisey: How many times have you been to SXSW?
Caroline Hjelt: This is our first one. We got in yesterday, but it was like, we came with a car and just went straight to a lot of promo. Shit, we want to see some bands and feel the vibe. Everybody’s here for the music. Everybody’s friendly.
Aino Jawo: I love that there are a lot of new and upcoming bands and you can kind of be there and discover them. We have our friend's Kids, who are amazing, and they make this awesome music and people should check them out. We want to see Alt-J. There’s a lot of bands that we want to see, but I’m not sure we have the time.
Caroline: I think we will try and make time or steal time. We are hustlers; we are kind of good at pretending to get sick or…
Aino: “We’re just going to go to the toilet….” and then run off.
Caroline: We’ll sneak off to see a band for 15 minutes and then come back.
Speaking of being hustlers, people seem to have this impression that you guys are overnight sensations, but you’ve been a band for years.
Caroline: We’ve been struggling for a long time. Before we met, we were doing music for a long time. Then we have been working together, 24-7, for four years.
Does it annoy you when people think you’ve been a band for 12 minutes?
Caroline: I think the people that have been with us, of course they know.
Aino: “I Love It” was a good thing for us, because it opened a lot of doors. It’s amazing to have a song that we play live and people sing along to and we noticed that people sing along to songs that we haven’t even released in America.
Caroline: I don’t blame them. How could they know? It’s not like we sit around and tell people, "Three years ago, we did that." I am happy now that it took some time. We’ve been growing a lot and I think we are ready now. Maybe we weren’t ready before even though we thought we were ready. We thought we were ready the first day we met and we wanted to release our album the day after.
How has the fact that your song was featured on Girls a few weeks ago changed things for you?
Aino: It’s a huge thing for us. First of all, we love Girls. When we lived in London, it was a religion for us. Every Monday, because it came out on Mondays there, we would get together with the girls from Kids and cook dinner and watch it. Really geeky! But we tweeted at them about a year ago and said, “We love your show you should use our music in one of your shows!” and now one year after we are sitting here. I don’t think it’s because we tweeted at them, but…
Caroline: The fact that we did is cool. We are proud and very honoured that they wanted to use our song.
Aino: It’s so fun. A young woman doing what she’s doing in a male dominated world and she’s just kicking ass and that inspires a lot of women to go out there and do this stuff.
Caroline: It opened so many doors for us and helped us reach out to so many more people. We would love to meet Lena Dunham and party with her.
Aino: I think we would have very much fun. She seems to be a crazy girl. Also it’s cool that a country like Sweden is able to produce so many good musicians, like Robyn, and so many good producers. It’s just so cool to see a woman from your country, like Robyn, and people are playing her song.
Caroline: We love Robyn. She’s amazing.
What have these last four weeks or so been like since the song hit?
Caroline: Not that much that we’ve noticed.
Aino: We’re always traveling always working.
Caroline: We have noticed at the concerts that a lot of people sing along. They have researched our music. I love it, I think we’ve been reaching a lot of people and especially because we’ve been on a tour with Passion Pit and Matt & Kim, and you never know when you’re the first out of three bands out, but we’ve been having a good crowd.
Aino: I mean, USA is not only New York and LA, and it’s important for us as a Swedish act to see the whole of America, the smaller places. This country is so beautiful! You have nature. We come from a small country, Sweden, and I don’t think a Swedish person can realize how big a country the US is until they come and travel it.
Caroline: When you fly you don’t realize it but when you go by car and you drive for ten hours and you haven’t moved anywhere on the map. You really think, "Shit! What the fuck?!"
Are you in a van driving around the country?
Aino: Yeah, a family van. Not even a proper van.
Caroline: We’re hustlers.
Aino: We’ve been touring since May last year. Flying to Europe, flying back, doing a lot of different stuff, but I think doing the tour every day singing was with Marina and the Diamonds and we started in December.
And you’ve been in a van since December?
Caroline: Yeah, our van is our home. I feel so safe and secure.
Aino: It’s also embarrassing.
Caroline: It’s nice. I miss our van. It’s also depressing because we rent a car somewhere and it becomes our home and then we have to return it.
Aino: Bye, home!
What music do you play in the car?
Caroline: It’s everything from Talking Heads to classical music to country.
Aino: It’s all by feeling, whoever has the strongest feelings, that’s the way we go.
Caroline: We don’t have a license, so we don’t drive.
Aino: We sleep.
Do you do drive-thru restaurants?
Caroline: Not restaurants.
Aino: Well …yeah, we do. We try to stop at diners.
Caroline: We love the grilled cheese at Waffle House.
Aino: It’s amazing.
Caroline: I am getting addicted.
Aino: I can almost feel it on my tongue.
Wow, you are becoming American road food experts.
Aino: Oh yeah I am fast becoming an American. Like, do you have it in America? We have a television show called Cheaters in Sweden.
The TV show where they catch cheaters?
Aino: Yes, we have that and we have Truck Drivers. Do you have that one?
I don’t think we have Truck Drivers.
Caroline: Of course you do, because it’s recorded here, but they show it in Sweden.
Aino: It’s like this intense action.
Wait, is it Ice Road Truckers?
Aino: Oh, yes, that’s it. Where they have to drive over this intense ice. I feel like that when it’s cold and it’s dark and we’re driving.
Are you reality television fans?
Just Ice Road Truckers and Cheaters?
Caroline: Yes, only the best of the best
Aino: We love really shitty TV, because you don’t have to think and you can just watch. But we love documentaries.
Caroline: Yeah, we are always watching or listening to documentaries about important stuff that’s going on. But if we’re not doing that, we’re watching shitty TV.
Aino: Teen Mom.
Icona Pop’s self-titled EP is available now on iTunes.
Follow Melissa on Twitter - @woolyknickers