icona pop
photo: Yoye Lapogian / press

Icona Pop

The Ultra Nate classic “I’m Free” has been a favorite of Swedish techno-pop duo Icona Pop for years. “We’ve always loved Ultra Naté’s original ‘I’m Free’ and used to play it in the clubs as DJs in Stockholm, even before we started Icona Pop!” The duo’s two members Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo enthuse. Icona Pop have a talent for creating upbeat, catchy club hits but their sound always includes their own unique brand of authentic vocals combined with their signature euphoric breaks. By remixing a classic in their style, Icona Pop plays right into the spirit of the track, the freedom to be yourself and do what you want.

I have been a fan of Icona Pop and will forever associate them with the joys of nightlife and the freedom of dancing your heart out to your favorite song. I was so excited to speak with Icona Pop about their new single, out just in time for the 25th anniversary of “I’m Free.”

 Your new single is giving me queer 70s disco vibes (perfect pride anthem I feel) could you talk about the thought process behind the new single? Are you getting the queer disco vibes or is that just me?
First of all, thank you! We had so much fun with this song, and yes we definitely agree about the feeling of freedom and the importance to be able to express yourself. Don’t hold back!

You guys loved to play the original “Free” even before releasing your mix, what does the song mean to you?
We’ve been putting that song in our DJ set for a long time and listening to the original for decades, so a lot of great memories come up when we think about it. Everything from when we were babies dancing around to super cool disco clubs and festivals. Hopefully we can be a part of other peoples memories in the future with this version of the song.

Can you talk about partnering with Ultra Nate?
We are big fans of Ultra Nate. Her music has been in our life for a very long time. We were sitting in the studio vibing to some music and her song “Free” came up and we were like “Hey, we should do something with this song. It’s still so good and timeless.” We wrote some new parts to it and told our management to reach out to her and ask if she wanted to join us. And when she said yes we started to scream in the studio. It’s so cool to be remaking this song.

I am also reminded of your single “All Night” which was an ode to New York’s ballroom scene. You guys are such a presence in the queer community. Are you aware of that? Is the inspiration something you guys think about or was it sort of a happy accident?
We’ve always felt very at home in the queer community. For all the love and support, we can’t thank you enough! We get so emotional when we talk about “All Night” and that time in our lives. Everything was so chaotic, from heartbreaks, newfound love, and forever friendships. But also a big part of who we are today was formed back then. We were so young and lost and our families and friends were back in Stockholm. But then the beautiful House of X-travaganza (that also was featured in our video for ”All Night”) invited us to be a part of their family. So suddenly we had a huge family back In NYC and they welcomed us with open arms.  And we even got to be judges at a ball. To get to hear their life stories and the struggles they went through to be accepted for being themselves and then they started a movement. So brave! So cool! We get so inspired by them.

 Im just so obsessed with the fact I get to interview you guys because I remember being 19 years old, explaining to my friends that if “I love it” came on in the nightclub I had to do at least one shot and then get on the table to dance. You guys are so iconic (pun intended) how does it feel looking at where you started vs where you are now?
Hahaha love it. We absolutely LOVE to hear everyone’s personal Icona Pop experience. We always have new goals and I guess that’s what keeps us grounded and really appreciating every single day we get to perform in front of people. That’s nothing we take for granted.

What has creating been like for you post quarantine? A lot of people left that time with a new creative outlook, was that the case for you?
For us, it was the first time since we started Icona Pop that we were able to return to our old studio back in Stockholm and to sit down and reflect. Of course, it was a scary and strange time, but that’s why we felt that we needed to make even more dance music and do DJ sets on our Instagram live so people could feel a glimpse of hope. For the creative side, it was at first hard and very quiet but then when you accepted that life was different and you could not plan anything, we kind of just relaxed and the result of that was that we almost wrote a whole album.

There have been so many new faces in the industry lately, is there anyone you guys are listening to? Any new goals for collabs?
Hmm, that’s a good one. Well, there is a band that’s called Jungle, and also we love Baxter Dury. That’s been on repeat for a while. Also a lot of meditation music. And of course old house music

Quarantine was a break from performing live for musicians, what is it like to get back to that?
It’s been awesome. You can really feel that the audience is so alive and with you in a different way. But you can definitely feel that you have not done it for a while. We have always been nervous before the stage but this is another level. It’s truly a mix of super excitement and super very scared. A very strange feeling

What is freedom to you?
Freedom to us is when you have the right to make your own choices in life and be exactly who you want to be. Love who you wanna love and express yourselves in any way you like.

What are you working on next?
We are finishing up our first album in 10 years. So exciting. So you can expect a lot of Icona Pop in the near future.