Hot Shots: Rebecca & Fiona on ‘Beauty is Pain’ & Their Swedish Musical Family

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Anyone who’s caught a DJ set from Swedish pair Rebecca & Fiona is aware that these two know how to start a party. With a DJ style that channels the energy of 90s rave culture through a uproarious Swedish electro filter, the girls have torn up festivals and clubs alike since taking up DJing together following a chance meeting at a party in Sweden six years ago.

The duo—often decked out in mile-high Buffalo platform boots and neon hair—balances those energetic DJ sets with dark recordings pairing their Lolita vocals with intricate production steeped in influences from both the dance and pop realms. Even their approach to releases is unique within the DJing world: they’ve managed to release two full-length studio albums in between a never-ending series of tour dates and a series of five thematically-connected, politically charged music videos.

We chatted with the eccentric pair—who are playing alongside Sunnery James & Ryan Marciano on Governors Island in New York City this weekend—about their recent album Beauty Is Pain, the difficulties of balancing recording with touring, and their Swedish musical family.

DJ Times: How did you two meet and decide to make music together?
Fiona Fitzpatrick: We were both extremely interested in music; always searching and looking for new music. We were really into blogs and always going to festivals together, so we were really interested in doing it.

DJ Times: One of your big breakthroughs came from being featured on Kaskade’s single “Turn It Down.” How did you connect with him?
Rebecca Scheja: We worked with my ex-boyfriend Adrian Lux a little bit, and [Kaskade] heard some of our stuff together. He was like “Wow, who are these singers?” We then met him at a festival he was playing, and Adrian introduced us to him and told him that he should do something with us. He heard some of our songs and really liked them. At one point we were in LA doing some other random work while he was recording the Fire & Ice album
Fiona: We went to his studio. We were like, “What are you going to do with us?” He played us the demo of “Turn It Down,” and we gasped and said, “What can we do with this one?”

DJ Times: And were the lyrics a collaboration between him and you two?
Rebecca: Yeah, we did everything in the studio. We had some drafts from lyrics that we were writing for ourselves, so we developed the story and wrote it with him in the studio. That same day, we recorded it.
Fiona: Everything happened really fast for us. We’re used to working with a song so much: from the first chord to recording the vocals. It was different progress for us, and it was really exciting to work with somebody who works like that.

DJ Times: You’ve got a distinct pair of voices, both literally and in a lyrical sense. What’s your approach to vocals and writing?
Rebecca: We don’t like to do big, commercial-type singing styles. We like it when the music is focused, as well; not just the music and then the vocal mixed really loud and in your face. Knowing that we like that, it’s just how they come out. We write songs about friends or things from our own perspectives.
Fiona: We like to add the ‘poetic deepness’ or darkness to the EDM scene. We don’t like to write about “The Club” or drinking. We like to talk about something deeper.
Rebecca: So you can find your own story within the story, but you’re not literally being told a story. You can read it with your own thoughts.

DJ Times: Your DJ sets are high-octane electro while your albums straddle the line between indie dance and pop. How do you reconcile the differences?
Rebecca: We don’t really care what kind of music or genre we’re in, we just create the music that we like. We also play the music we like, so we may play a little bit harder than what we produce. The music that comes out of us is darker, deeper, and more pop; more feelings put into it. The music we play is much more suited to just partying. We don’t have a thought about it. We just do whatever we think is fun.

DJ Times: The Swedish dance community seems very close and tight-knit. Why is that so?
Fiona: We feel like we have our friends and family who we like to work with, and we only have tight relationships with people we trust. As soon as you go out of that comfort zone, people can fuck you. The ones we trust are like Nause, John Dahlbäck, Carli, Otto Knows. We like to keep it in the family because then you know you’re safe, and you can send stuff and know they’re not going to steal it. When you start working with people who are a bit flaky—and money comes around—they can suddenly have given your track to Beyoncé or something like that. Also, we feel like we have so many talented friends that we don’t have to reach outside of that circle. We’re happy how it is.

DJ Times: How did you find time to produce Beauty Is Pain amongst such a packed touring schedule?
Rebecca: It’s been so hard. We’d been telling our bookers and managers, “How the fuck are we going to be able to produce this work of art?”
Fiona: It was our dream to be home and work on this album, but they had not been giving us time to do it.
Rebecca: We took all of the free time we had back in Stockholm to be in the studio, and we had been producing a lot of demos on the road.
DJ Times: So how long was the actual process?
Rebecca: We worked on it for two years. Every other week when we came home, we’d be in the studio. With a band, they’ll tour for a year and then they go home for a year for an album. For DJs, it never ends; you can go on tour forever.

DJ Times: What inspired the concept behind the album?
Fiona: We’re inspired by lost souls like Britney Spears and Anna Nicole Smith: the exposed female gone mental. That’s a huge inspiration for us, and that’s one of the reasons it’s called Beauty Is Pain.
Rebecca: Like, Leila K., the 90s Swedish rave singer.
Fiona: She was the best rapper in the world, and she’s mental now and she walks the streets homeless. She used to be the biggest star in Sweden. So for Beauty Is Pain, the biggest inspiration is the idea of strong females that have had their minds twisted by society.

DJ Times: Did you feel pressure to make an album of dance bangers?
Fiona: No. We know that when we make stuff like “Hit The Drum,” the label doesn’t listen to it or remember that we even have the track on the album. There’s a sample in it, and I first asked Universal in 2012 to clear the sample. I asked five times. Then a week before the masters had to be submitted, they called and asked, “What’s the name of the sample?”
Rebecca: They’re so focused on the dance music, but we’re not. We’re focused on making good music, and if it ends up being a hit track that people really like, we’re happy.

Stream their new collaboration “Honors” with John Dahlbäck below.