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Iceage talk “Pusher” trilogy, working with Sonic Boom, and more before hitting the Solid Sound stage

Jonas Bang
Pitch Perfect PR

Danish rock quintet Iceage are set to perform tonight as the Solid Sound festival returns to MASS MoCA in North Adams, Massachusetts for the first time in three years.

Iceage formed in Copenhagen as a pack of teenagers in 2008, and burst onto the international scene with the cold and driving debut album “New Brigade” in 2011.

“We started out as a band of fairly clueless teenagers that didn't really know what we wanted. All we knew that was that we weren't agreeing with our surroundings, particularly," said lead vocalist and songwriter Elias Bender Rønnenfelt. “It started out as a kind of a blind reaction. And, and having quite nothing to lose and nothing to do, we stumbled into, like, songwriting and making records. And it's sort of worked as a document of how we've grown as people in real time.”

The band’s early work was influenced by the films of fellow Dane and acclaimed film director Nicolas Winding Refn, who captures a bleak, visceral side of Copenhagen in his “Pusher” trilogy. Rønnenfelt tells WAMC that in addition to loving the movies, the band actually knew some of the characters — including one with a name unreproducible for public radio.

“He's a real criminal, I used to play with his daughter as a child," laughed Rønnenfelt. "They were just quite instrumental, those movies. They're fairly accurate- At least, what Copenhagen used to be. But you know, things have changed a lot. Either gentrification or just things looking different. But you know, like, a lot of slang that our friends use- Like, when we watch the ‘Pusher’ movies again, we find that it comes from those movies. So yeah, they were a pretty accurate portrait of Copenhagen at the time. At least the underworld.”

Iceage’s fifth record was released last year, and captures a lusher, more melodic sound a decade after “New Brigade.”

“The title ‘Seek Shelter’ was referring to like, more of a personal connotation to that order," said Rønnenfelt. "But yeah, of course, it rang with a different feeling once everybody quite literally had to seek shelter. I think it was about just kind of being lost and without a roof and longing for something that would protect yourself. You can't seek shelter unless you have something to seek shelter from, I guess. But yet, it's interesting how the connotation of that would suddenly change so scarily.”

The album was recorded in Portugal with help from Peter Kember – the British artist better known as Sonic Boom from his time in the legendary psychedelic rock band Spacemen 3.

“We never really had an outside producer come in before," Rønnenfelt told WAMC. "And we were quite hesitant bringing an outside force into the quite, fragile situation it is to give birth to a record, so to speak. But we somehow had an intuition or feeling that that his way of thinking about sound would lend it so well to the songs we were crafting. And quite immediately – like, creatively and socially – we just clicked and it just became very organic. We weren't seeking somebody that should really take charge of things, we just needed another sort of madcap mind to bounce ideas with and like, throw sonic direction on the table. So yes, it felt quite effortless in a way, but he was good at helping to nudge things in a way that if we were losing our minds, he would stabilize us, and if we were too stable, he would make us lose our minds a little bit, you know?”

Finally back on the road over a year after “Seek Shelter” was released, Rønnenfelt says the long hours from city to city are all worth it for the hour Iceage gets to spend on stage.

“Now’s the time to live and be present," he said. "It's really nice to go on the road and actually see the faces of the people who took the record in, and that it means something to real people rather than just statistics on the internet- and how it will manifest itself in what's to come? We'll see.”

Iceage performs at MASS MoCA tonight at 6:30 as a part of the Solid Sound Festival.

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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