Photo c/o Bonjour Girl.
Alright, we’re going to get first-personal here. I just got off the phone with Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, one of the four dudes in a Danish punk band called Iceage. They rip. There’s no question about it. Their debut in 2011, New Brigade, was a slap in the face. No one had heard of them in the States (they’d been gestating in Denmark since at least ‘09), and everyone went nuts. It made its way to a bunch of Best Of The Year lists, and our friend Brian McManus wrote this great story about them after a Barbary set way back when. It was in anticipation of an impending Kung Fu Necktie date, and today, our conversation was in anticipation of their April 19th gig at the Church. I definitely was curious about how challenging an ‘interview’ with a 21/22-year-old punk whose first language isn’t English would be, but as it turns out, the problem wasn’t a language barrier or a punk mindset. It was that I didn’t ask “interesting enough” questions. He hung up on me after five minutes.
I did, indeed, anticipate this intellectual challenge. As a writer, we like to be prepared for an interview. Some writers might have over a dozen perfectly typed-out questions, maybe they’re even strategically ordered. I don’t like to do that. I think it takes away from the naturalness of a conversation if you’re just running through prepared questions and spending a lot of mental energy figuring out what questions were already answered in the previous questions, or which ones you should jump to next or scratch all together. That being said, I put together about 10 bulleted topics/ideas that I thought appropriate to ask about. Mostly because of this publicist’s threat:
“Also, we really appreciate when people do a bit of research before interviews. Iceage isn’t so into answering the same questions they’ve been asked over & over again (as with any artist) — i.e. how did you start the band? what are your inspirations? how do you like touring the states? We realize some of those are more ice breaking questions, but they’ll definitely give a better interview for those who delve a bit deeper.”
Then I was given these six links: a Pitchfork feature, a New York Times review, a Rolling Stone feature, a Fader feature, a SPIN review and an MTV piece. Read em’ all. Read the full Pitchfork reviews of New Brigade and You’re Nothing. As I did this I listened to their, on average, 20+-minute albums on repeat. I watched their videos. I thought I was ready. I was supposed to talk to another member, Johan Surrballe Wieth, but he was asleep. Elias got on the phone from New Mexico and gave me five minutes of his time before I failed to pass the “interesting” test.
Most of the features linked above talk about their press prickliness. I tried to prepare myself. And after I got hung up on, I had to push the negativity out of my heart and refute the inclination to say to myself, Am I not capable of conducting a compelling interview with a buzzed-about band of young Danes who thrash like Wire, Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Nirvana and Metallica combined? Nah, fuck that. Looks like this youngblood Copenhagen intellect thinks he’s above fielding writers’ questions that aren’t challenging or entertaining.
Real quick, let’s run through the questions I did get to ask and the nearly unintelligible answers he gave.
Me: So everyone tends talks about these records with certain terms – the first record we all talked about how young you are, with the second it’s about how mature the sound’s become in two years. So what’ll we be talking about with the third record?
Elias: We’ve already started recording new material and it’s more of a departure than the change you saw between New Brigade and You’re Nothing. It’s definitely violent.
Punk music and your records aren’t typically the kind of music one wants to listen to all day. You definitely have to be in a mood, be it angry or frustrated, to connect with the sound. Do you guys have to get yourself in a mood to perform or write or record?
You definitely have to get yourself in a mindset. [hard-to-understand mumblings]
As a listener, it’s hard to pull out specific lyrics if it’s not a chant, a refrain or a chorus and you just tend to hone in on the drum part or the guitars. Is that bothersome to you?
If you don’t pay attention to the lyrics, I don’t care. You can read it if you like.
You’ve said your lyrics on the newer one have been informed by certain books (from the Pitchfork review: “Rønnenfelt has said You’re Nothing was inspired in part by his readings of Bataille, Genet, and the like.”). Does Denmark have more readers than in the U.S. and do you think the references are lost on Americans?
Maybe not your friends.
Much has been said about your shows being bloody and violent. What can we expect at your show at the Church? Lots of moshing and fist-pumping?
If you’re not going to ask interesting questions I’m going to hang up.
Alright, can you tell me about your new project Vår? The video for “In Your Arms” is awesome.