I’m walking as quickly as I can from Spring street over to Canal in a tourist's rain poncho from Duane Reade; anything to protect my notebook and recorder from the torrential downpour. I’m meeting up with four-piece Danish rock band Iceage to discuss their latest studio album Beyondless.
It’s been a couple of years since I last saw the band play in Brooklyn and I’m eager to hear what members Johan Wieth, Dan Nielsen, Elias Rønnenfelt, and Jakob Pless have to share about their expanded sound and forthcoming tour. Talking over coffees and tea, the band dishes on touring the United States, working with Sky Ferreria, and the creative process behind the album’s production.
So, I love Beyondless which dropped earlier this month. I’ve played it all through at least three or four times at this point. My favorite track right now is Catch It; that’s total makeout music. Perfect for the summer.
That’s the first time we’ve heard that probably. That’s nice!
It’s the first thing that popped into my head as I was listening to it; like I would definitely put this song on and makeout with my boyfriend to it.
That’s what we want. That’s cool.
I also love Painkiller; [speaking to lead singer Elias Rønnenfelt] you and Sky Ferreira performing vocals together sounds incredible. Tell us a bit about the process of creating that song. I recall you guys don’t usually have vocal features on your albums.
It’s our first non-instrumental feature! It was great. Sky was the first person we had in mind for that song and she agreed to work together on it. She just went in with her full presence and really added a lot of soul that elevated the track.
Are there any other musicians you guys would ideally collaborate with; either on vocals or production?
We make most of our music ourselves but we’ll see in the future. We’re not closed off to the idea. Maybe Shirley Bassey!
Are there any songs that crowds have reacted to differently on different nights?
It feels like there’s more dancing going on than we’ve seen before.
You guys are touring the U.S. right now. Even outside of the current events, America is a pretty unique and oftentimes bizzare country. Have you had any “essentially American” experiences while on tour here?
A lot of them! Like every day. In terms of the current climate of the country; we played with another band in a few border towns in Texas and there you really see the immediate effects of politics because people are fearing for their families. In terms of the American experience in general; we went to a baseball game for the first time the other day. We had beers and peanuts and really enjoyed it actually. There’s a lot of different American experiences from town to town; different parts of the country or even neighborhood to neighborhood. We always find it funny here because we’ve grown up with American movies and we have this very ‘clear’ idea of what the culture is like. When America meets those certain stereotypes - we love it.
It’s not that simple! [Dan:] Also, New York City is never disappointing.
Is there anything that Americans could learn from Danish culture that would improve us?
No, not at the moment [all laugh] Healthcare is a start though you know? In terms of immigration policy we’re just as bad as you guys, perhaps even worse.
The fact that our healthcare system is a business is very bonkers and weird.
Yeah it’s like big business— the way it’s risen has sort of damaged the initial idea of what this country’s supposed to be about. But that doesn't just go for America, it goes for everywhere else too.
Is there anything the Danes could learn from Americans?
Perhaps a bit of hospitality and... [pauses] It’s kind of looked down upon in Denmark to think bigger or be bold. In America it’s like; bold to a fault.
Do you think that music could ease some of the conflicts that the world’s currently facing?
On an individual level but not on a grander scale. Some music can help people realize things that can help them work towards something they need. Maybe a band like Cress could enlighten on ideologies or themes on a political scale but we’re not really that kind of band. It’s more about feeling. If you hear something that resonates with you it can have many effects but bettering the world’s situation is a bit of a stretch.
Is there anything you guys bring on tour with you to make it more fun?
Books! [Elias:] For the first time ever I brought a pillow.
Nice, so everybody’s reading on tour?
Pretty much yeah. And we finally brought sunscreen.
Are there any specific references or emotions that you focused on while creating Beyondless?
...It’s a lot of conflicting emotions; ones that are fighting each other. It also varies from song to song. This album is a cathartic one.
Are there any tracks on Beyondless that were especially challenging to complete?
There’s one that isn’t on the record that we had a tough time with a certain beat; getting it consistent all the way through. But it’s not on the record... Sometimes you run into a wall with a song and you have to search for the right element that will make the whole thing open up and transform into what it’s supposed to be... In the studio we don’t give ourselves time to second guess or doubt. It’s just a matter of execution really.
You just put it out there and once it’s time to arrange things you go from there?
Exactly. We want to keep a sort of immediate, creative flow in the the studio. We usually put songs down within three to five takes and that’ll be it. We don’t book enough time in the studio to stress ourselves out and dwell on the decision making. You have to sort of just go with it.
Were there any tracks on the record that were your favorite to create?
No. We love it as an entity; it’s it’s own body of work. The songs belong together. It’s also kind of interesting; even though you play the songs before recording them they really come to life in the studio. You really get to know the songs. Sometimes they present themselves in a way you hadn’t expected. All of them were equally interesting to create.
Tell me about the album art.
We found a woman whose grandfather did this marbling work. He mixed pigments with oil and created prints that were used to wrap books. He was a professional marbling artist and she does it as well. He’s dead now but she has an archive of all his stuff - we got to go to her house and search through all this work. We spent the next month at each other’s throats arguing about images until we found that one and everybody was into it. We knew it was the one. It’s fascinating that it was an image originally intended to cover a single book but is now widely-produced for our album cover.