There are plenty of bands that I could tell you to check out, or bands that I'd suggest that you should catch while they're in town on tour. But, at the top of the list of indie bands that'll be here sooner rather than later, I'd definitely have to place Danish group ICEAGE as an act everyone needs to catch. Though they don't come this way often, they're on the heels of their most ambitious release yet with the newly released album Beyondless. While keeping some of the punk and post-punk elements of their past, the new record adds lush instrumentation and melody to the groups already intriguing sound. The Houston Press chatted with singer and guitarist Elias Bender Ronnenfelt, about the band's past, how they made this new record, and what they have planned for their show here on May 25.
For years, ICEAGE was at the top of every critic's list, with insane live shows and just the right influences. Starting off in their teens, the band quickly got the attention of labels who caught their engaging live shows. When asked if they'd change anything from their past, Ronnenfelt says, "that implies that's something I'd wanna' do. I don't really think about the past that way, and we didn't really make mistakes in my mind. Even when you do make a mistake as a band, there's a lesson hidden there that you can learn from so it might have been the best for it to happen in the first place."
The band's first three albums all had growth from each one to the next. Their debut, New Brigade mixed punk and post-punk with one of the most interesting approaches I'd ever heard. They followed that up with You're Nothing, upping the ante of their sound while growing in the process. By their third release, Plowing Into The Field of Love, the band had been recording and touring nonstop, leading up to a much needed break. When asked if all of that momentum and work led to the band taking time off, Ronnenfelt replies, "I think, well I can't speak for other bands, but for me, the kind of musician I am; life is short and I can't really sit still. I can't feel stagnant, but I also can't work on something that isn't ready to be worked on. We did creative stuff in-between, but we didn't wanna' force this new record either."
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Asked what they were listening to, what influenced the new album's sound, and if they changed how they recorded, Ronnenfelt replied, "I mean, we composed over a small year, we listened to a ton of stuff and we have a ton of eclectic tastes. When you break apart influences, it's fractured enough to where we can't put a finger on it. It's hard to tell what came from where."
"We didn't change how we recorded, the core of it is just writing our best songs. Every record is about state of mind, life experiences, and where we're at in our lives. Each time you go to make a record, you're not the same band, but the desire is still the same."
Beyondless incorporates new instrumentation, and in many ways, it's a vastly different album than those the band made when they began. When asked what caused the change in direction, and if there were ever moments that they thought, "we shouldn't do this or that," or was it just full steam ahead, the singer replies, "it was the latter. I'm not sure it was one particular thing, but we weren't interested in doing the same from our earlier records. We wanted to push ourselves. We try to restrict saying no to things, and just act on every impulse. At the studio, there were these raggedy old instruments lying around, so we used them and they became happy coincidence. But, we had the intentions of the horns when we went into making the record."
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ICEAGE is no stranger to touring, but looking at their North American tour, it looks like a grueling string of dates. While the live show has always been mesmerizing to the point that they can make fans of anyone who sees them, it made us wonder how they're touring without what appears to be one day off, as well as how they'll incorporate what's on the album into their set. "For the U.S. we don't have the horns, but we do have the violins with us onstage. These songs and this tour are a good place to be in, cause' we've gotten familiar with these songs and they're still interesting to us, but we can explore with them too. As far as not having days off, the U.S. is a lot of space to cover, and as a band, we don't have the luxury of time off," says Ronnenfelt.
When asked what the band has planned for their show in Houston, Ronnenfelt doesn't mince words. "I'm not a good salesman when it comes to stuff like that. So, show up and expect a good time."
While ICEAGE is a band that everyone should see live, and their discography is not only beloved by critics but worthy of everyone to spin, their growth as a band is also just as refreshing as the music they make. You can stream the band's catalog in all of the usual places, or purchase Beyondless from Matador of from digital outlets. You can catch ICEAGE live and in person here in Houston at Rockefeller's on May 25. The all ages show will feature a direct support set from Austin's Temple of Angels, who will be opening the show as well. Doors at 8 p.m.; tickets $13 to $15.