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Icona Pop on releasing a new album, 10 years after their debut

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

If you happen to drive down the freeway and see two sleekly dressed Scandinavians cruising by sticking their tongues out at you, just might be Icona Pop.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STICK YOUR TONGUE OUT")

ICONA POP: (Singing) Stick your tongue out. Lick it.

SIMON: The famous Swedish music duo consists of Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt. They are best known for their multiplatinum hit "I Love It."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LOVE IT")

ICONA POP: (Singing) I love it. I love it.

SIMON: Now, more than a decade later, Icona Pop has released its second album. It's called "Club Romantech." Band mates Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt join us now from Los Angeles. Thanks so much for being with us.

AINO JAWO: Thank you.

CAROLINE HJELT: Thank you.

SIMON: Well, it's absolutely our pleasure. Let me ask Caroline, 10 years between the release of albums - why?

HJELT: Wow. It's just been so much going on. We've been touring constantly, and we wanted to make an album for a long time. And we actually had an album almost done when the pandemic hit. That was a little bit like, oh, no, what are we going to do right now? But then we went back to Sweden, and we just started writing a lot of music and felt, OK, you know what? This is the real album.

SIMON: Aino Jawo, what was it like to be back in Sweden during the pandemic? - because you've been all over the world.

JAWO: Yeah. It was definitely special. I mean, we've been in the States for over 10 years, so it felt very weird to be in Stockholm. But that's also why our album sounds a little bit more different as well, because we got to return to the studio where we first started and we wrote offer songs.

SIMON: What had been in Sweden in that old studio remind you of, or how do you think it affects the material on this album?

JAWO: I mean, Sweden is a mecca for dance music in Scandinavia, so I think the weather definitely does a big part of, like, getting into a certain vibe and write those melancholic songs that we usually do.

SIMON: It's like you only get light - what? - five minutes a day or something, right?

JAWO: In the whole December month, we only had 40 minutes of sunshine. So it gets dark. You have nothing to do. You get pretty bored. And I definitely think that when you get bored, that kind of makes you inspired

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FALL IN LOVE")

ICONA POP: (Singing) Fall, la-la-la-la, fall in lo-lo-love. Fall, la-la-la-la, fall in lo-lo-love. Breathe me a thousand miles an hour, baby. It's like you strip me off my powers.

SIMON: The song "Fall In Love," that's a nice song. Your album captures a lot about love. I have seen, though, in interviews you've said that you like to disguise heartbreak with uplifting songs you can dance to.

HJELT: We like to do that. We always say the best songs are songs that you can both dance and cry to.

SIMON: What can dance music do to touch that range of emotions, do you think?

HJELT: I think dance music - it's just liberating. I also feel like dance music have that thing where it can give you that nostalgic feel. Even if you hear a song for the first time, it can really bring back those memories of something great happening to you or something sad. But it's just that little superpower of tickling the nostalgic nerves.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FALL IN LOVE")

ICONA POP: (Singing) You make my senses come alive. Oh, oh. So this is how it feels like when you fall, la-la-la-la...

SIMON: Let me ask you about the song "Stockholm At Night."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOCKHOLM AT NIGHT")

ICONA POP: (Singing) Baby, I can't decide if I'm drunk or I'm high on the city lights. Wanna laugh, wanna cry. Stockholm at night makes me want to turn this cab around.

JAWO: That song is about our friends, you know, because we were abroad for such a long time and we kind of came back and we thought that everything was like it was for 10 years ago. And, you know, your friends have - some stopped doing music. Some people started to do totally other things. And it was, like, this very beautiful but sad moment when we came back to Sweden and realized that, wow, things have really changed. Like, we have grown up, and we're so different, thinking about the beautiful things and wishing sometimes that you could stop time and just be in that moment.

SIMON: As you take a look over the last decade, you both became parents, didn't you?

JAWO: We did.

SIMON: What? - gave birth within weeks of one another?

JAWO: Insane. But, yes, that's true - not planned. We talk about that a lot, that we changed a lot, grew a lot as persons. You can be - have a really bad day, and - but as soon as you see this little beautiful person...

SIMON: Yeah.

JAWO: It just changes you, you know? It's not about you anymore. And I think that's very healthy a lot of times.

SIMON: Caroline, how do you feel about that?

HJELT: I just know that it's the best thing in the world. It's challenging. It's fun. And it is very beautiful to be able to do this alongside your best friend and to see our kids growing up and they love each other. We always joke about that they didn't have a choice.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: Well, it would have been awkward otherwise.

JAWO: Yeah.

HJELT: Yeah.

SIMON: Do does having children cut down on your dance club time?

HJELT: I feel like we're just more effective.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE FREE")

ICONA POP: (Singing) 'Cause you're free to do what you want to do.

HJELT: We make much smarter decisions. We trust our instincts better, and then we make sure to have time to work, dance and family time. The biggest challenge in all of this in our lives right now, it's scheduling, but we have a great team, so we make it work.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "YOU'RE FREE")

ICONA POP: (Singing) Give me, give me all that I like. I've been waiting for this feeling that I'm feeling tonight. Hands up to the ceiling, so high, so high. Come on and try 'cause now's the time 'cause you're free.

SIMON: Aino, do you think it'll be another 10 years for the next album, or do you have things in the works?

JAWO: Well, the thing is that we actually already started our third album. We just wrote so much music during the pandemic 'cause in Sweden there wasn't a lockdown.

SIMON: That's right. There wasn't a lockdown in Sweden. And it was dark.

JAWO: It was dark. There was not a lockdown. And I mean, we were super pregnant while we were writing that album, and we kind of talk about it a lot, that it's so weird how we wrote our clubbiest album during such a quiet time, but I guess that just sparked a nerve in us to kind of create our little getaway...

SIMON: Yeah.

JAWO: ...Which was "Club Romantech." And we did a lot of livestream stuff with people, and we could see how the dance music really made people feel alive. Even though they couldn't go out, we could, like, actually talk to them and play them some dance music to kind of escape from the reality for a second.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE")

ICONA POP: (Singing) So where do we go, where do we go from here? Put your arms around me.

SIMON: Aino Jawo and Caroline Hjelt, of course, of Icona Pop. Their new album is "Club Romantech," released this week. Thank you both so much for being with us.

JAWO: Thank you.

HJELT: Thank you for having us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE")

ICONA POP: (Singing) We got blood. we got luck. we got money. So where do we go, where do we go from here? We got love. we got touch. we got honey. So where do we go, where do we go from here? Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.