Music Interview #003 - Icy Demons
Music Interview #003 - Icy Demons
Again, we turn it over the James Harry Ewert Jr for the lowdown...
Since my first experience with the Demons I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the members on a personal and professional basis. To prelude the release of their forthcoming album which has yet to be titled and in lead up to their Feb. 13th show at The Subterranean with fellow Chicagoans Mahjongg (click here for tickets), The Post Family and I decided to check up on the band and ask them a bunch of silly questions. Hopefully someone out there is listening…
There was a period of time several years ago when I had a faint idea of who the Icy Demons were. I had seen their name in a lot of places, beautifully printed on gig posters, Xeroxed on show fliers, and a good buddy Chad Kouri even brought me to see their set when they played The Pitchfork Music Festival in 2008. Still though, despite all the clues and a rather inebriated experience seeing them play, it wasn’t until the band’s 2008 album Miami Ice was put in front of me that I finally understood what all hype was about. I knew Icy Demons’ sound was something of conglomeration of global influences mixed with a kind of tripped-out jazz center. I knew they were a bunch of local kids with a lot of ties to Chicago’s independent art scene and they liked having a good time. But for some reason it never clicked until I sat down one day to listen to Miami Ice in its entirety. What happened in those 40 minutes that followed can only be understood if you’ve seen the final scene in Beetlegeuse where Winona Ryder’s character Lydia dances to the Harry Belafonte song Jump in the Line. I was moved with this supernatural urge to sway my hips and did so with a shy but unabashed confidence. The album took me on a strange journey through some whacked-out musical corridors and left me in an amazingly satisfied state of disbelief. To me, the concept of originality may as well be to artists what the “dragon” is to the perpetually stoned—an aggressive illusion that will always remain out of reach. That’s why I was so taken aback by the album, it seemed to have momentarily held that mythical dragon of originality long enough to trace and define it’s jagged contour.
James Harry Ewert Jr.: What can you tell us about the new album? How is the sound developing? Is there a title yet?
Dylan Ryan (Drummer): We're almost done, but the title will find the record. We just wait and grab it when it shows up. As far as the process, all the records have been kind of unique and in their own world, but there are certainly common threads. I guess the thing that's been different with the current record is that we've played some of these tunes on our last tour in Europe, so they've evolved differently, live that is.
Jeremiah Chiu (Keys/Guitar/Electronics): I joined in with the Demons about 2 years ago now, and previous to that, there have only been a handful of tours with a changing lineup. I think this new record is going to sound more like a "band" than it's ever sounded, and we're really excited about that. It's definitely our main focus now, shifting from "side project" (according to p4k) to real project to real good project.
JHEJR: Your music is really genre-defying and displays wide variety of musical. What can you attribute to this? Is it just that there’s a general sense of eclectic spontaneity in band or do you think some of your previous lineup changes might have an influence in the sound.
DR: We generally write collectively through improvisations and because we practice in the studio, so we can totally use that as a tool. A little more CAN documentary than Some Kind Of Monster, though.
JC: Spontaneity combined with not being afraid to experiment or jam on random idea. It's all about the follow through. Collectively, everyone brings their own influences into the music. We all have different musical backgrounds from children's choirs to metal bands. I don't think we really do too much "pre-planning" we just get in a room together and dance. I do think the lineup influences the sound, different people have different things to bring to the table. Hope you like synthesizers. :)
JHEJR: You've recently undergone some changes to your lineup, can you fill us in? Also, with Dylan moving to Los Angeles, how are you preparing to handle that?
DR: Mad Boy Sharck "Chris" has recently donned the breastplate and mounted the icy steed. We've all been from Chicago the last 2 years, so it's been really nice to be able to work more regularly, and at the same time, there have been members in NYC, Athens, and Philly as well. It's really pretty easy when only one person is living elsewhere, and although we all have stuff going on, Icy Demons is top priority for all of us.
JC: Totally. mAD bOy sHarCK attACK!
JHEJR: It’s important for people to know that you guys aren’t just hobo musicians playing music for free PBR’s and Grolsch. Of the people in your band, how many have musical (or non-musical) side-projects. Do you think your ability to create through other mediums helps you to communicate and produce better as individual artists and musicians?
JC: Griffin's a great engineer and records people all the time, He's worked with Beirut, Chandeliers, Killer Whales, Bird Names, Buffalo Stance, Need New Body, ManMan, etc... I run Plural and Chris creates fine arts. Chris and I previously played in The Brown Party. I think all of our outside activities produce greater results. I often look to the design process to help me work through an idea, solve a problem and vice versa. All outside influences are valuable. Knowledge is power.
JHEJR: I like to ask every band I interview what were the members last or current day jobs and if they remember a moment when they stopped working a "day job" to become a full-time or "professional" musician?
DR: No, there wasn't a specific day, but let's just say it was when Maradona scored against England in 1986 World Cup quarter final. Everything changed after that.
JC: Speaking of soccer, if you haven't seen/heard this, you must [embeded below].
JHEJR: Now, I wouldn't go so far as to call the Icy Demons seasoned veterans of the Chicago music scene, but you're certainly a group that has been standing out for quite some time. Do you have any advice for bands or musicians trying to get their act together?
DR: I guess it's always good to listen to, read, and watch what artists you like, listened to, read, or watched.
JC: In the words of Dylan Ryan, "It's no hobby."
JHEJR: Speaking of Chicago, what are your collective thoughts on the Chicago music-scene? Who are some Chicago-based acts you've been digging lately, helping out or working with? How does the scene here compare to where you grew up?
DR: The Chicago music scene is really pretty unreal. It's just so full of totally bad-ass motherfuckers, across the board. I always say how nice it is that there's so much cross over, and I know that informed a lot of us. For me, seeing Weasel Walter and Ken Vandermark do the Lutenbachers as well as a ton of other projects in and out of the whole no wave scene while I was so totally green was pretty good boot camp.
JC: I agree with Dylan, Chicago scene is awesome. It's that Midwestern work ethic. Currently, we're all from Chicagoland. I think there's some amazing music coming out of Chicago RIGHT NOW. Mahjongg and Chandeliers new records are SLAMMING. Bird Names, Killer Whales, Pit er Pat (now in LA), Magical Beautiful, Mucca Pazza, Lazer Crystal, Axis:Sova, Dan Jugle, the Wednesday night Hideout Jazz scene, Berman, Reed, Rosaly, Abrams, Adasiewicz, Rempis, Broste, LaPine and tons more, those dudes are SICK. The takeover starts now.
JHEJR: This is a super vague question, but I like asking people anyways. Why do you make music and what is your music about?
DR: Everyone is different, but I know it makes us happy to play music with each other and I hope we make people who hear us or see us happy to boogie down on our wavelength and just vibe on an energy that works for them.
JC: It's all about the transference of positive energy, and dope beatz. Collective consciousness.
JHEJR: Milkshake or bannasplit?
JHEJR:Trampoline or balance beam?
DR:Elisabeth Perkins in Big. Period.
JC:Mary Lou Retton
JHEJR: x-ray vision or super strength?
DR: It's good to have options.
JC: Xray Strength, the kind the airport has.
JHEJR: would you rather be rich and ugly or poor and beautiful?
DR: Bon Jovi pulled off both.
JHEJR: Rolling Stones or The Beatles?
JHEJR: bike or skateboard?
JHEJR: would you rather surf the Internet or ocean?
DR: Utah, get me two!
JHEJR: What's in your pocket right now?
RD: Have you ever seen a crisp 50 dollar bill?
JHEJR: What's the last joke you remember hearing?
DR: Have you ever seen a crisp 50 dollar bill?
JHEJR: Coffee or tea?
DR: Italian Speedball
JHEJR: Would you rather end hunger or hatred?