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“I Don’t Care (I Love It)” may be Icona Pop’s breakout hit and most well-received song during a live show, but the title lyrics of the track also accurately describe the Swedish indie pop duo’s attitude toward their time outside their home country so far. After opening for Miley Cyrus in the U.S. and Katy Perry in England — and continually combating rumors questioning their platonic friendship — Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt are hitting the European festival circuit this summer, while their top moments of the past few months are released in Refinery29’s weekly docuseries, I Am Icon.
“This is our way of putting out the truth; it’s time for you guys to get to know us,” Hjelt told The Hollywood Reporter of the new project, helmed by Fredrik Etoall, the acclaimed Swedish fashion photographer who also directed all of the duo’s music videos. “I just remember the chaos, the meltdowns, the extreme happiness, being onstage, and onto the next place. It’s so cool to have it.”
Jawo added, “You see the real Icona Pop, and it’s not happy faces and party all the time. Everything from between the shows, the good and bad. It’s the calm before the storm and the silence after the storm, I guess.”
Watch an episode of I Am Icon below, followed by THR’s edited Q&A with the duo about opening for Cyrus and Perry, clarifying their misunderstood friendship and getting used to America’s music industry differences.
What was your first reaction to debuting the series?
Caroline Hjelt: This is our way of putting out the truth; it’s time for you guys to get to know us. … We had full control, so it becomes a way of expressing ourselves. There’s so many ways to do it, but we decided who we wanted to do it with. Fredrik, he’s been with us for such a long time, so we dared to let him in. When I saw it, it’s just a couple of minutes, but you reflect on what you’re going through, which you never do otherwise.
Aino Jawo: And we also get very emotional because Fredrik was with us before “I Love It” started, so when you see all that, you see how far you’ve come.
Hjelt: We have all these things from really shitty situations — where’s our bags? We’re stuck in this car, what do we do? Or getting your heart broken, and we have that. It’s weird looking at yourself, but I remember all those moments and how I felt. … And it’s fun. Did we do that? I just remember the chaos, the meltdowns, the extreme happiness, being onstage, and onto the next place. It’s so cool to have it.
What will people be surprised to learn about you two?
Jawo: You see the real Icona Pop, and it’s not happy faces and party all the time. Everything from between the shows, the good and bad. It’s the calm before the storm and the silence after the storm, I guess.
Hjelt: Our friendship — a lot of bands are put together, but I think they’re gonna see something super genuine in what we’ve been through. How close we are — as friends — and how important it is for us to have each other in this.
What have you learned from opening for Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry?
Jawo: [Cyrus] is, first of all, one of the most hardworking women I’ve ever met in my life. She is in charge of every decision of the tour.
Hjelt: And it’s her creative vision, but still, the balance between having a fun life. And backstage, it was such a family vibe. It’s the feeling of girl power. … We’ve seen her work so hard, and she loves being out there, and she would never go out before a show or risk a show. I hope people are not too mean to her because it’s not fair.
Jawo: We just finished the tour with Katy Perry in England, and now we’re doing our own tour of festivals in Europe. The festivals are similar to the crowds in the U.S. — they’re loud, crazy and really good dancers, and it feels like it’s the last night of their lives. We haven’t had a bad crowd in a long time.
Hjelt: It was very inspiring — [Perry] is a great performer and a lovely person, and her production is huge. To see every detail — the little butterfly moving in her hair when she’s singing. It’s very professional, and being around that was great.
What’s your most satisfying song to perform?
Jawo: “Girlfriend.” That’s a Tupac [Shakur] song, but we transformed it from instead of Tupac singing about his gun, we’re singing about our friendship — two best friends on the road — and you can really see how people respond to it, which is such a cool feeling. Even though we’re standing onstage, we’re celebrating all the friendships in the arena.
Hjelt: I love “Then We Kiss” as well. A lot of people haven’t heard that one, but we’re playing the kazoo and [shouting]. Everyone loves kissing, so everyone starts dancing, and it’s a very positive vibe.
What do you wish you could have shown more in this docuseries?
Hjelt: A little bit, maybe, from Sweden. Now, it’s all about when we’re here [in America], which is a big experience for us, but sometimes I think for people to understand us a little bit more — we come from a very small place where everyone knows everyone. I would love to show the apartment where we met, and the coffee shop where we started all of our creative ideas.
Jawo: For example, in Sweden, the biggest music is indie pop. Pop is a big genre, but we definitely come from the more indie side.
Hjelt: We’ve always had our visions and goals to come over here and do what we’re doing now. That was always the goal. But no one around us had done it before. We couldn’t talk to our friends in Sweden because we were the first ones. … Maybe, I think, that explains a little bit about our mentality. A Swedish mentality is kind of different from an American one — not in a good or bad way, but when we first came here, I felt so Swedish. How you do things over here isn’t the same as in Sweden!
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