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Hello, My Name Is: Aino Jawo

| July 31, 2013

Illinois Entertainer: The other night, New Kids On The Block turned their show into a dance party with Icona Pop’s “I Love It” blaring over the loud speaker.
Aino Jawo:
Are you kidding? That made my day! That’s amazing. [Sings, “Step by step/Ooh baby”]. I was a little too young, but my sister, she was crazy when it comes to New Kids On The Block. She was literally forcing me to like everything with them. I have to call her and tell her.

IE: Robin Thicke’s baby-making take on “I Love It” is also making the rounds. The covers are just as infectious as the original.
“I Love It” is actually a weird song. It’s only three chords and everyone can learn to sing it. But I think people can hear it’s kinda based on a true story. People can hear that we are really angry and we are singing to someone, and people try to convert that to their own words and put their own feelings into it. And it just makes it so interesting.

IE: Do you find it as cathartic to sing as we do listening to it at full volume in our cars?
It is a song about coming out of a really bad time. I think the worst way to listen to it is to listen to it way too quiet. I think you have to . . . like blaze it really high in the speakers so you really feel the pump vibrating through your body.

IE: HBO’s “Girls” really put “I Love It” on the map here, even though it’s been in Europe and your native Sweden for ages. Is there one character on the show you identify with most?
I love that show, and I love Lena [Dunham]. I think she’s one of the coolest women on earth. I think that you are a little bit of everyone, and that’s what, I think, is fun. I feel related to all of them in different ways.

IE: You release your American debut, This Is . . . on Sept. 24. What we can expect?
It’s going to be so honest. You’re going to learn to know us very, very well. We always say that we’ve been basically in this kind of labor with this pop baby and now it’s finally coming out, and it’s such a relief to get it out. We’ve been working with it for four and a half years now, and you can really hear that we’ve been through a musical journey. Of course, you’re going to hear the punkiness, the Icona Pop shouting, the electric beats.

IE: God help us if we were ever pregnant for four years.
Imagine! Craziness. The baby is coming out. A pop baby!

IE: When did you realize that your relationship with Icona Pop’s other half, Caroline Hjelt, was something really special?
I think it’s such an amazing story of friendship. We still talk about it today. Basically, I was dumped, and we had a mutual friend and she called me for two weeks every day until one day she came to my place and took me out of bed. She took me to a party, and that was Caroline’s party. So, we met and it was instant, this electrical feeling around us. We were kind of talking about music and we were like, “Hey, we should do something,” but that’s kind of usually what you say when you’ve been drinking a little bit. I’ve said that to a lot of people, but there was something about her . . . she gave me so much positive energy, so the day after, I just called her up and she was basically in shock. I told her, “I’m coming over to your place with a bottle of wine and my computer and let’s try to write something.” I went to her place and we started to write, and we wrote a whole song in just a couple of hours. At that spot we decided we were a band. Everything was so natural. When you write with new people it can be kind of scary because you’re really pouring your heart out and you’re telling stories and, especially, I was dumped so I was real heartbroken. It can be kind of scary if it doesn’t work; it’s very sensitive. But it was magic. And two weeks after that we booked our first gig, and a month later we were standing onstage together, so you could basically say that Icona Pop was born the day after we met.

IE: Do you ever feel like you should thank the cad who broke your heart?
We’re friends now, but I’m very happy that he dumped me now. But, at that point, it was so dark. But I’m very, very happy, so I would say thank you to him.

IE: That’s crazy that you became friends with him.
That was my first heartbreak, so that was so painful. It was like someone died, but I guess I got so much stronger from that. Caroline was also very frustrated . . . she couldn’t find the right thing to do with her music and stuff like that. If we wouldn’t have been down at the bottom, I don’t think we would have met each other, because I think we gave each other so much energy because we didn’t have anything to lose.

IE: It’s such a beautiful story. You often refer to Caroline as your soul mate. It’s very rare for women to find a friend like that without all the competition and drama.
It’s a [male] dominated world right now, and there’s so many women out there that are so catty against each other. We just want to fight for equality, and we just want people to help each other out.

IE: Do you ever get sick of “I Love It”?
I don’t really get why I don’t get tired. It feels like every time we play that song live you can really see that people are singing to someone, and you can see it means a lot to them and they have a face in front of them that they’re singing to, which is so cool. I love singing that song because it feels like you become one together with the audience. So I’m not tired at all, actually. But maybe in 10 years, I don’t know.

Icona Pop appears at Lollapalooza in Grant Park on Aug. 2 and at Metro (3730 N. Clark) in Chicago on Sept. 12.

Janine Schaults

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