Icona Pop revels in strange origin story 

click to enlarge Caroline Hjelt, left, and Aino Jawo make up Icona Pop.
  • Caroline Hjelt, left, and Aino Jawo make up Icona Pop.

Most artists can chalk up their success to a combination of talent, inspiration and hard work. But Swedish electro-punk diva Caroline Hjelt attributes the renown of Icona Pop — her duo with best Stockholm buddy Aino Jawo — to a drunken trampoline accident that put her in the hospital for weeks, and then a leg brace for a year.

It was a mistake to attempt gymnastics after losing several rounds of beer pong, she admits. "But I think stuff happens for a reason," she says. "If that hadn't happened, I wouldn't have been home, I wouldn't have been depressed. And I never would have met Aino."

That was four years ago, when Hjelt's horizons were dark enough already.

"I was frustrated because nothing was working out with my music, and no one really understood what I wanted to do," says the singer, who brings Icona Pop to town this weekend, backing the smash single "I Love It" (with the cut's co-writer, Charli XCX) and a forthcoming debut, "This is ... Icona Pop."

"So I was just dancing the pain away with my friends in my awesome apartment, and that's where I met Aino."

Jawo and Hjelt compared notes. Their love lives were in shambles. Sick of the attendant drama of fronting groups, they had resigned themselves to separate solo careers.

But the day after they met, they penned their first dark ditty — the Morricone-meets-EDM "Sheriff Came to Town on a Big Black Horse" — and instantly decided to team up as Death Pop.

By the time they issued their first single "Manners" last year, they had become Icona Pop and a hit-generating force to be reckoned with.

"I think you meet a few people during your lifetime, where you can't really put your finger on what it is, but it just feels like you have a special connection," says Hjelt, who also had a sixth sense about the Charli XCX song "I Love It" when their mutual producer Patrik Berger first demoed it in the studio. (It went on to be featured in TV shows such as "Girls" and "Snooki & JWoww," even a German Coca-Cola commercial.)

"And when Aino and I met, it was just so clear to me that we should be a band," she says.

Now, the singers — who used to hand-sew all their stage and street wear — are the darlings of the fashion world, and designers like Phillip Lim.

Hjelt laughs recalling the year her style was cramped by a chunk of metal.

"I was like a robot in that brace," she says. "But I still went out clubbing in Stockholm. In high heels and a short skirt!"


Icona Pop

Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Friday

Tickets: $25

Contact: (415) 346-6000, www.livenation.com

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Tom Lanham

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