interview by Michael McCarthy
If you love pop music and keep up with the global pop scene then chances are you’re already quite familiar with Stockholm-born Rebecca Scheja and Fiona FitzPatrick, better known simply as Rebecca & Fiona. Ever since 2007, they’ve been making a name for themselves both by DJing and releasing their own exquisite pop music. Their first two albums, I Love You, Man! and Beauty is Pain, have both won Grammy Awards here in the States and in Sweden. That’s quite the accomplishment. The list of artists they’ve toured with is mighty impressive, too: Robyn, Avicii, Tiësto, Kaskade and Axwell, just to name a few.
The dynamic duo’s third album will be out on September 7th, 2018, the day after this is posted on 9/6. It’s called Art Of Being A Girl and it’s being released through the independent, Stockholm-based label Stereo Stereo. This time around they’ve done something different. Where their previous releases were a mix of electro-pop and club music, the new album is heavy on synths and harkens back to ’80s and ’90s pop while still sounding modern. It also feels more like an album a band would make than what you’d expect a pop duo to sound like. That would seem to be because the girls’ vocals aren’t as prominent in the mix and it’s heavier on live instruments, which they give the opportunity to shine as one would give each member of a band. You have to applaud them for doing something unique and not giving us more of the same. Of course, there was diversity between their earlier songs, but they were similar enough that we came to expect a certain sound from them; punchy beats, throbbing bass, vocals at the forefront. In some ways Art Of Being A Girl is the antithesis of that, subtle and laid-back in many respects. But their hooks remain as infectious as usual, so they’re sure not to lose any fans while earning themselves many new ones.
MM: First of all, since you’re Swedish but release music in English, I’m just curious, are you both fluent in English? If so, how old were you when you started learning it?
F: My father is American so I grew up speaking English with him and his relatives. I had an American accent and everything, but in Swedish schools they teach British English, so that messed up my accent lol
R: I learned it quite early, from listening to music with English lyrics.
MM: Until I researched you for this interview, I actually wasn’t aware that you were DJs. I just thought you were a really talented pop duo who produced your own stuff. Were you both DJing at the time you met? Or did you meet and then one of you mentored the other?
R: We started DJ:ing together, but I was already a booker/promoter for a big night club in Stockholm when I met Fiona, so I knew what it was about.
F: The first summer we spent together, we were practicing everyday on a scrappy equipment we borrowed from a friend.
MM: Are you laptop DJs or do you prefer to work with vinyl or CDs?
Fiona: USB all the way, baby! But when we started out it was CD. Oh my god, all those scratched CD-R:s. I am glad that technology is much nicer now.
MM: When you write songs, are you composing them using turntables to make beats or do you use a program like Ableton or Pro-Tools and work with loops and samples and such? Or do you use live instruments?
R: We have never used turntables in our music-making!
F: We have a lot of songs with live instruments, but we often style it up digitally in different ways.
MM: Have you sampled many, if any, other artists in your songs? If so, which songs and what did you sample?
F: We actually have two songs that contain samples, but we disguised them so well that we never even bothered to clear them. So I can’t tell you which songs! I don’t want to go to jail lol.
MM: When you perform live today, are you behind the DJ tables or are you at the front of the stage performing?
F: If we do a DJ-set, and play one of our own tracks, sometimes one of us will jump to the front of the stage and sing it.
R: And we also did a tour in Sweden completely live, performing only our own tracks together with a great band. It was the best summer ever!
MM: Are your DJ sets today all original material or do you mix in other artists, too?
F: We mostly play other people’s music and then sprinkle some of our own stuff over it!
R: We do quite a few mash-ups of tracks we like and our vocals. Like live-remixing!
MM: What is more profitable, DJing or your original music?
F: DJ:ing is definitely more profitable if you by profit mean money. But creating your own music and molding something from scratch into something that will touch other people is by far more rewarding for your soul and spirit.
MM: Robyn has finally released her first new single in years recently. Any chance you might tour with her again?
R: Call us, Robyn!
MM: When you’ve toured with Robyn and opened for other acts, were you doing your own songs exclusively or were you behind the tables doing a DJ set? Or a mix of both?
F: We did what we always do: A mix!
R: I think actually back then we didn’t have many songs of our own, so I think we played a DJ-set and finished with something we made ourselves.
MM: If you could do a headlining club tour of the U.S. or open for someone big – like Katy Perry or Ellie Goulding – here in the States, which you prefer to do?
R: I don’t think she would ever let us, but Lana del Rey for sure! She is wonderful.
F: Yes Lana! Maybe our genres don’t mix, but we hope to someday get to do a remix of one of her songs!
MM: If you could open for any artist in the world, who would you pick?
R: Britney Spears.
F: Omg yes Britney!
MM: Your new album has a very different feel than your previous work. At least to my ears. Like on “Fade Out” when your vocals are slightly lower than the synths and it’s a much more laid back track than most of your previous output. Even with the other songs, the beats aren’t as punchy for the most part. They’re subtler. I think the synths are even more prominent than the beats this time around. Getting to my question, how did you approach this album differently than your previous albums?
R: Thank you for listening and noticing! We definitely went for something more atmospheric on this album.
F: I do a lot more leadsinging on this album, and my voice is often lower. This album has been our little baby, we worked much more thoroughly on it than the previous albums. I think it took us more than two years to finish it actually.
A CLASSIC AND ONE OF THIS INTERVIEWER’S FAVORITE SONGS:
MM: You’ve released a handful of singles during the past couple years, but I believe only “Different” is on the album. Was important to you that the album all be brand new material, as opposed to a collection of your singles with a few new songs?
R: From this album we have released ”Need You”, ”Fool’s Gold” and ”Different” as singles.
MM: “Different” has an ’80s vibe, to my ears. Particularly with the keyboard part that dominates the song. Were you inspired by any ’80s artists when you were making that one?
F: We are always inspired by lots of ’80s artists. Ultravox, Eurythmics, Giorgio Moroder. There are also lots of Swedish music from that decade that we always hold near our hearts.
MM: Who are your all-time favorite ’80s and ’90s artists?
R: Ace of Base, Leila K and everything by Swedish producer Denniz Pop.
F: I like a lot of the stuff Stock, Aitken Watermann produced, it’s great for dancing! And the handbag era of the ’90s. Motiv8 and such.
MM: Will Art Of Being A Girl be released in any physical formats, such as on CDs or vinyl?
R: We are making a limited edition-vinyl!
MM: Do you pick out your own wardrobe and do your own make up for your album covers and videos or do you have stylists who do that for you?
F: Our long time collaborator Tommie X always have a say in creating all the official looks for everything, from album covers to music videos. He made most of our videos and came up with lots of outfit ideas, but we have no stylist in the traditional sense. We have been working together for so long so we mostly just go to shops together and discuss a little, then go drink a glass of wine. But for this album we have worked with stylist Adam Pettersson for looks and with great photographer Angelina Bergenwall.
MM: Do you feel like you’ve got your shit together at this point in time? If not, do you feel added pressure to do so now that you’re getting older?
R: We always have each other’s back so whatever shit that happens we always find a way though.
F: I think the key really is to not care about society’s expectations. Focus on what makes YOU happy.
MM: You’ve collaborated with a lot of different artists, but do you write songs for other artists to do on their own or do you only collaborate on songs that you appear on?
R: We wish we had the time and opportunity to do it more, but maybe we will get the chance to do that after the album release.
MM: Have you written any songs for other artists that became hits yet?
F: We co-wrote some songs with our best friend, Swedish artist Little Jinder, and it was a lot of fun!
MM: Your music is very positive and I get the impression that you’re optimists from everything I’ve seen and read about you. Is it hard to stay positive in the music industry today?
R: I am more rational than Fiona, I like to focus on OUR goals and move on when bad stuff is weighing us down. I go like ”Let’s find the best solution here for us”.
F: And I’m more critical of patriarchal structures and often get sad.
R: I am critical too, of course. Together we are the best team for fighting everything we think is wrong with the industry!
F: And all on all, I think we are quite positive people the both of us.
MM: What was the worst day job you’ve ever had? How long did you work there?
R: I was a hair model once, it was not fun. I had to stand up for 10 hours straight while some hairdresser student ruined my hair more and more.
MM: If a genie offered you three wishes but you couldn’t ask for more than 1 million dollars and you couldn’t ask for more wishes, what would you wish for? Tell us what you’d use your three wishes on.
F: I’d wish for a beer, a fully charged cellphone and a nice conversation with a good friend.
MM: Are you currently binge-watching anything? If not, what are the last few series that you watched?
R: Sharp Objects! Recommend it highly.
MM: What’s a favorite movie that you can watch again and again?
F: Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion!
MM: If you could resurrect any one musician from the dead and they’d be happy about it, who would you bring back?
R: Amy Winehouse of course.
MM: If someone was giving you a million dollars to give to charity and it all had to go to the same chairty or cause, which would you give the money to?
F: Swedish organization Kvinna till Kvinna (Woman to Woman). They’re a global network working for women’s rights. We donated all the proceeds from the false eyelashes we created for our friend Gabriella’s brand Sweed Lashes to them.