Icona Pop is one of the buzzier acts at this year’s South by Southwest. Before coming to Austin, their collaboration with Charli XCX, “I Love It,” became an instant hit and was featured on HBO’s Girls and as the theme song for Snooki & J-Woww. But the synth-pop DJ duo worked hard to get here, and they’re still joyously clawing their way to the top of the pop pack: the Swedes recently finished touring with Passion Pit and Matt & Kim and will continue their live performances after this week with stints at the Ultra Music Festival, as well as some gigs in the UK.
Despite the crazy schedule, Idolator had the opportunity to chat with Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo about their first SXSW experience, including their thoughts on fans hitting on them and the essentials when you’re living out of a suitcase. Find out what it means to do SXSW “Icona Pop style” below.
How has your SXSW experience been so far?
Aino: Oh my God, we’ve been working our asses off. We’ve been trying to catch all of the bands, but it’s really hard. And it’s hard to get into the venues also because it’s always full. But I love it – I love that there is a festival for upcoming bands. It’s amazing to find new music.
Caroline: It’s such a good vibe.
What gigs have you successfully gotten into? And which ones have you enjoyed?
Aino: We saw K.I.D.S., which was amazing. But now we have more time off so we’re going to try to see some shows. We want to see Alt-J. There’s so much. We’ll just live for the moment I guess.
Anyone you want to see, Caroline?
Caroline: Maybe Zebra Katz and Alt-J.
What’s the biggest challenge you encounter when you’re here?
Caroline: I think it’s the time that’s working against you. There’s so much stuff you want to do. Then you realize – time just flies by. But I guess that’s a positive thing because there’s too much good stuff to do.
Aino: It’s the time, the weather. I think it’s a little bit the charm that you don’t really have the time to do stuff and run between venues. I think it’s great and not really a bad thing because people are drinking a lot of beer, and it’s so much more chill and nicer.
Since it’s your first SXSW, did you do anything to prepare yourself?
Caroline: To be honest, the day before we got here we ended our tour with Passion Pit and Matt & Kim. So we have been doing it proper Icona Pop style by not preparing at all and just going with the flow and give it 100 percent.
Is there anything that you have to bring on the road with you when you’re touring?
Aino: There’ so much. We don’t own that much stuff anymore because we don’t really have a home. We’re living like gypsy people and carrying everything in our bags; so you mainly have your whole life in 23 kilos (50 pounds) which we can fit on an airplane. But we have to have a computer, headphones and always sunglasses.
Caroline: That’s important.
How have the SXSW crowds reacted to your shows so far?
Caroline: So far it’s been fucking amazing. We had a show yesterday. It was so good. People were with us from the start till the very end – just jumping and feeling. It’s such an important thing for us, the live show. When you can connect with people like we’ve been doing here, it’s amazing.
You’re on almost every “must-see at SXSW” list. How did you feel about that hype?
Aino: Really, really excited. I mean for a band from Sweden who sat on a sofa and wrote a song four years ago to be travelling America right now and also having all these cool things being written about you, it’s a dream situation. The only thing we do on stage is that we have to have fun, and we’re so happy that we can transfer it so well so that people can understand it and join in our fun. It’s all about working with the audience.
Since Icona Pop shows are always full of energy, has anything weird happened during a performance?
Caroline: We blew up our sound system at our second show. So we couldn’t play.
Aino: That was so fucked up. But yeah, we couldn’t play. We’re standing there, trying one song, and then we said we couldn’t do it without the bass because that’s the whole shit, you know?
Caroline: Icona Pop without bass is like comparing good whiskey to a Bud Light or something. It doesn’t work.
What’s the best thing you’ve eaten in Austin?
Aino: We were here a couple of months ago, and we found this taco stand. Oh my god, the food melted on my tongue. I don’t know where it is, but we were searching for it yesterday. And we just hope it’s still around here. Hopefully we’ll find it. And the fish here is amazing.
You two are beautiful girls, and I’m sure the guys love you. Has anyone hit on you during your time at SXSW?
Caroline: I think people get kind of intimidated by us sometimes because there aren’t a lot of guys who come up to us. To be honest, it’s zero. So I would love to some come over. People tweet and say, “Will you marry me?” And I reply, “Yes, where are you?”
Aino: When you go up onstage, you’re so into your mode then it’s hard to relax after performing. That’s when we go backstage, drink a couple of beers and then go out, like I was the artist and now I want to get back to being Aino and Caroline again and not Icona Pop. But usually by the time we transform back to Aino and Caroline, it’s too late – everyone’s gone.
With all the other artists here, is there anyone who you’re hoping to bump into and hopefully talk collaboration?
Caroline: That’s the best way. Normally we meet people when we’re out. And I think it’s important to be out there. When we didn’t have anything and we lived in London, we met DJs and producers, and we started writing music with them. I think it’s very organic when you do it that way.
Aino: There’s a lot of artists here. We have The Knocks here who we did a collaboration with and also Charli XCX, who we’ve met up with.
How do you keep your energy up with all the stuff you’re doing?
Caroline: We have something wrong. I mean there’s something wrong up here. Definitely we give each other a lot of energy, and the energy you get from being happy and being creative in the way we want to be and knowing we can do what we want to do, that’s what we don’t take for granted in this business.
So what’s next for Icona Pop?
Caroline: We’re going to Ultra Music Festival this weekend then to London then back to Ultra then to New York and just tour a lot.
Aino: We’re going all over the world.