Interview by Christopher Laramee
I find it a bit disconcerting that The Icarus Line's past antics ( Aaron North's liberation of Stevie Ray Vaughn's Strat from a glass case in Austin, spray-painting The Strokes tour bus with a pointed personal message) has obscured the bald fact that Joe Cardamone and his band have put out some of the most itchy and intense ROCK of the past ten years. Unapologetic amp bleeding swagger. Torrential noise and zoned vocal chants. Loud fucking guitars. Black Flag gropes Echo And The Bunneymen? Sure. Lesser bands eat up column space and get hyped to high heaven, yet The Icarus Line never seem to get their due. Bad luck? Yeah, I guess that could sum it up, 'cause the music sure has never faltered. Joe was nice enough to take some time out of his day to let me yell at his face via email. Do yourself a favor and hip yourself to one of the last true believers in the power of rock, y'know, that feel, that vibe, that bloody nosed urge to yell at the empty fucking sky, no matter how futile shit gets. New record Slave Vows drops July 1st courtesy of Agitated Records.
PSF: Was the gestation period (i.e. recording time) forSlave Vows measured in a relatively short period of time or were the sessions sporadic and stretched out? I'm guessing Valley Recording Company (Joe's studio) offered a bit of time to experiment with shit, rather than be rushed at someone else's spot.
The process of makingSlave Vows was quite the contrary. We spent a good portion of 2012 on the road so by the time we got home, there was only so much time we could afford to spend on making our record nor did I want it to become a drawn out sketch pad experiment. The previous record had taken over 6 months to make which is way too long to spend on a record. Wildllife was a collection of songs built up over a couple years being sewn together by someone who was making maiden voyages on the technical side of things. In short, every part of making that record was a challenge and laborious.
Slave Vows is a completely different beast entirely. Little of the material was written before we entered the studio to record and that was by design. I really wanted to capture the moments where we discovered the songs. To me, that is often the most magical document of a given inspiration and something that I feel some of our records had lacked. Thats not to say that Slave Vows is lazy or just jammed out. We all committed to an intense schedule of writing and rehearsing the music. This is where being the studio owner had its most positive attributes. We had the luxury of setting up and writing in the room where we were going to record the material. There's nothing that can replace that. That said, I really wanted to move quickly and intensely through the material so we planned on two months total to write , record and mixSlave Vows. I am very proud of the results and feel that we achieved the concept that was initially proposed.
PSF: By a quick glance at VRC's client list, you've had a lot of work to keep you busy lately. The The Obliterations new tracks slay, and other folks who've passed through the doors including Giant Drag, Spirit Vine and Anne Hardy and the Psychos amongst many more. Do you sleep much?!? Have you had a chance to see any mind blowing shows lately?
Things have been good for work. No, I dont sleep as much as I should but who can sleep when you get wake up and go to work on the new Pink Mountaintops record? I am not someone who deals with idle time well so I am always trying to be at work on one project or another. I have been fortunate enough to be working with people and projects that I really enjoy. As far as shows go I have seen, two stand outs this year so far. Swans at the Fonda was inspirational as was Bad Seeds/Grinderman.
PSF: The Icarus Line are a group that I've felt never got a fair chance. My introduction to the band was Penance Soiree, an oasis of pure fucked rock and roll in a sea of half-assed chancers. What are your feelings on that time? I know there was label issues (V2, their label at the time, was melting down).
My sentiments towards that time are mostly positive. I never really thought we had a chance in hell anyway. The group has survived calamity of all orders so hopefully that is a credit to my impenetrable stubbornness. We hardly compromised who we are as people or as artists so why should I regret anything?
PSF: Black Lives at the Gold Coast seems to me to be a peeling back of layers, a high anxiety response to big city life. Un-balanced riffs offset by weirdly threatening vocals. If given half a chance, I would put forth something like Iggy And The Stooges Raw Power meets a touch of Roxy Music's For Your Pleasure. The songs on that record seem very conscious of their history but are also unafraid to go further out and wander. I wasn't a big fan at first, now I think it's one of the best records I've ever heard. Thoughts?
Black Lives is still an enigma to even myself. It was the sound of a band that was imploding and fighting for the signal of where to go next. I think that the music on that record properly documents the period of time that it was made under. So many insane changes took place around then and everyone was living from day to day. I for instance lived in a hotel for the endurance of the writing process. There was no chance of repeating Penance, I just didn't want to go there again so I could see how it would have been shocking to fans of the band at the time. The truth is Kingdom is still a main staple of our live set and probably one of the most beautiful pieces of music in the groups' history.
PSF: Could you touch on past line-ups of The Icarus Line in relation to where it stands now? I can see there's been a few changes. Basically, who's in the crew now?
The band has undergone a few eras if you will. Each record sort of birthed a new line up. In my eyes, none more superior to the current. Alvin has been in the group since jump but he has played all manor of roles. First guitar then bass and now mostly on keys. He is a true weapon. Lance Arnao who played on much of the early material and even wrote much of Penance with us is back on bass duties. I feel honored to be able to play music with him again because we have a born musical connection. A few years back, Ben Hallett replaced long time conspirator Jeff Watson on drums which gave way to a much more musical approach to drumming that we have been employing now. Lots of power but with no nuance left behind. I feel that as us four we were able to capture something very close to my initial designs with a few welcome surprises. Other than that, the new record has contributions from guitarist John Bennet, Annie Hardy and guru Michael Musmanno. I doubt that will (be) the live line up so we will have to wait and see what hits the stage.
PSF:Slave Vows. Great fucking title. Where'd that one come from?
What do they call it when you swear allegiance to something when you never had a choice in the matter?
PSF: The label Agitated in the UK are puttingSlave Vows out. Other than their track record of putting out shit-hot new stuff and reissues, how did that happen?
Agitated is run by label boss Simon Keeler. Simon is the man who first brought The Icarus Line to the first place- he signed the group to Sweet Nothing and broke the band. Now, he has his own label and we have come full circle. Nothing could make me happier than to work with someone who I care so much for and respect.
PSF: Standard geek-out question here. Gimmie one album that really twisted your skull and put you on the path you're still on.
Too many: Suicide. Funhouse. Low. Teenage Head.
PSF: Also, what's some new shit that blows your head off?
Swans The Seer
PSF: Failing that, something older that tickles you to no end?
Rowland S Howard was big this year... again
PSF: Finally, any plans for the near future of The Icarus Line? Touring, other releases?
We plan to tour world wide in support ofSlave Vows and hope to have another record out by the winter next year.
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