Iceage are a band of brutal honesty, and they’re not apologetic about it. These Denmark lads aren’t afraid to reject unnecessary questions, to disregard media controversies and, most importantly, to let their music speak for itself -and it’s clear to anyone that’s ever heard an Iceage song that their abrasive outpours of tension and emotion need no explanation. Despite that, we spoke to singer Elias Bender Rønnenfelt about their new LP ‘Plowing Into the Field of Love’, their recent dalliance down under and those pesky fascist rumours.
Hey Elias, how are you doing?
I’m doing okay.
Plowing Into the Field of Love marks your third full length. Was there anything that you really wanted to do differently this time?
No, I mean our approach to recording was pretty much the same as always, and that is just trying to make a record but just [let] the songs write themselves kind of. But I do think that we were keen to try and make an openness within the songs so there was more room for drama and tension to live in the songs. If everything is too compressed, there’s too much going on.
It’s a lot longer than your first two releases and you were talking about how when you compress it there is less space, so was that intentional?
To make it that long? No –it came as a bit of a surprise. I didn’t realise it would be that long.
Against the Moon is very different from what we usually hear from you –especially with the instrumentals. Was it a conscious decision for that song to stand out?
It was the first time this ever happened but up in the studio in Norfolk, Sweden where we recorded there was this old, late 19th century pump organ, and I really liked how it sounded. I wouldn’t sleep much while we were up there and I would go up there at night and play the organ and then that song kind of wrote itself. And then I showed it to the other guys on the last day we were recording, so it wasn’t even meant to be on the record let alone be written.
Your lyrics are always intense and very poetic and I really noticed that on that song. What’s your writing process for those like? Is it spontaneous?
Well, I keep notebooks with me. This time, rather than writing lyrics over a longer period of time where it was a bit more scattered, I bought an apartment in Berlin in January and got the whole thing down in two weeks. I wanted to create more of a narrative to the lyrics, so isolating myself there was kind of necessary.
Can you tell me a little bit about what the songs on the record are about?
Well, me and my life at large, and of course this dramatised version of myself. And they are about longing, and figuring out yourself and the world around you.
One of my favourite songs on the record is Glassy-Eyed, Dormant and Veiled. Can you tell me about the lyrics for that song in particular?
This song is different from the others in terms of lyrics, as it’s not about me. I met a lot of guys over a period of a couple of months that were telling me about growing up without a father and that kind of inspired me to write this inner dialogue in a son’s head, where it’s not actually his father’s voice but this idea of his father’s voice haunting him. They kind of have this back and forth dialogue in his head.
When you write your lyrics you write them in English even though you’re a Danish band. With really strong messages in songs like that, was that the purpose of writing in English? So that it could communicate in a more universal way?
Ah, no. I mean I mostly read books in English, and I like to have kind of a separate language for writing. And also this kind of feels more comfortable, Danish is not a very pretty language I think and in my use, it makes it too direct.
Did you take in any different influences on this record?
Yeah, probably. I mean for me it’s kind of hard to pin down because every time you listen to something or investigate music, or film, or culture it gets moulded into a general cultural understanding and that’s some kind of messy, moulded, ugly ball [and] you can’t really tell things apart from each other. So I mean, when I sit down and write a song I don’t think, ‘okay let me combine this band and this band and this band’, I just try to write a song, and then of course that’s referencing some influences but for me it’s on an unconscious level.
You’ve mentioned that you don’t feel that connected to songs on past records now. Are there any that you do still really appreciate?
I appreciate it all, for what it is. I just haven’t listened to it for a really long time and I don’t spend time thinking about it…
You’ve just wrapped up some Australian shows. What was that like?
It was pretty good. It was strange to find a Western civilisation located there of all places, and it felt slightly wrong. More wrong than the States. But you kind of have more of a cultural awareness about the States. So yeah, it was kind of unreal to find this whole society. There were places that reminded me so much about places nearby that I’ve been. Besides that, I had a good time.
Do you think you’ll be back again anytime soon?
We might be back next year. I’m not sure yet.
That would be great. You’ve just released videos for The Lord’s Favorite and Forever. What are the concepts behind those videos?
The Lord’s Favorite was just kind of an attempt at elaborating on that, with the ridiculous nature of the song. It was shot on an afternoon with whatever stupid ideas we got.
And Forever, it’s shot over at a legend called Marcel Marquis de Sade’s apartment, a beautiful apartment, and he was an 80 year old man. He was hanging around in Paris with the likes of Jean Cocteau and Picasso in the late 40s, and hosted all the high society parties in Copenhagen in the 60s, and also went to jail for quite some time for fraud and scamming. And I was very sick when we recorded that video.
Something really intriguing about Iceage in videos like that is your aesthetic – you guys always seem dark and mysterious, even more so for foreign listeners. Do you ever feel like people get hung up on aesthetics and miss the point?
I think aesthetics are a very good way of communicating the point, I guess.
What is the point?
Well it’s kind of hard to sum up the point. I’m not sure I know myself. I don’t look at myself as a man with the answers. I’m a man with some questions. And mostly some very self-indulgent ones, too.
There have been quite a few misconceptions about what you guys have been trying to say in the past. Do you feel like this record will help you get away from that sort of stigma?
Are you talking about the whole fascist accusations? Those journalists that wrote all those articles were the most sensationalist, incompetent fucking poor excuses for journalists. So I mean, I don’t fucking care about what those guys think. Anybody that was stupid enough to believe in that is not welcome in my world. I don’t care.
Is that something that’s sort of hard for you guys –getting misunderstood?
It’s not that hard.
You guys are always labelled ‘punk.’ Do you ever feel like that’s a limitation?
I know when writing music, writing a ‘punk song’ as such doesn’t cross my mind. I don’t think about us as a punk band. I just think of us a band.
You’ve done a lot of international touring. Do you prefer playing at home or overseas?
On the crowd?
On a lot of things, you know. I definitely wouldn’t want to stay at home all the time, but sometimes it can be good playing at home as well. Sometimes it’s been shit when we played at home. I don’t know.
Can you fill us in on what’s happening in the Denmark music scene?
Well, there’s a lot of music in it.
That would make sense! There are some cool bands coming out like Communions and stuff. Do you have any that you would recommend?
Yeah! I’d recommend Puce Mary and I’d recommend Red Flesh. And I’d recommend White Void.
‘Plowing Into the Field of Love’ is out now through Matador/Remote Control. Iceage are currently streaming it here.