The blown-out Morricone guitar and mounting depressive folk build of Ice Dragon‘s “Season of Decay” first showed up around these parts back in October. Today the Boston trio announced that Vesa Lähde had put together a video for the song and after watching its dark, saturated and vintage-looking atmospherics, it seems like a pretty good fit for the song itself, which boasts no shortage of moody psychedelia.
Even as an excuse to revisit the song (not that you really need one), I dig it. Ice Dragon‘s latest offering is the alternately stoned/drunk The Soul’s Midnight, which you can hear in full at their Bandcamp.
My intent when I started putting questions together for an email interview with Boston-based trio Ice Dragon was to keep it to the usual six, but then something happened. I realized it wasn’t enough. For a band who’ve already released three full-lengths this year — greyblackfalconhawk, Dream Dragon and Tome of the Future Ancients— there was just more I wanted to know than Six Dumb Questions could hold. Nine seems to have done the trick.
The thing about Ice Dragon — Ron on vocals/synth/drums/theremin, Carter on guitars/backing vocals and Joe on bass/guitar/etc. (also pictured above is Werner; the fluffy one) — is that not only do they put out all this stuff, but each album is a different stylistic blend as well. Plenty of bands who record themselves release a lot of albums, and with material as lo-fi as Ice Dragon‘s and the fact that they don’t seem to have an interest in large-scale touring, it’s not unreasonable for them to focus on songwriting at such a rate. What makes it fascinating is that the material on each record seems to stem from a musical or conceptual thematic. They’re all different to some degree, but still identifiably Ice Dragon‘s own, and they’re strikingly cohesive.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, they’ve got a new digital single. Season of Decay/The Humble Titanfinds Ice Dragon once more pushing into new sonic territory, offsetting late ’60s/early ’07s folk influences and acoustics with bizarre in-studio noise experimentation. Each of the two songs on the new release has its own progression, “Season of Decay” filtering a blown-out rehearsal room dirge march through airy Neil Young-style acoustic/electric interplay, and “The Humble Titan” taking sweet Eurofolk topped with psych swirls and echoed vocals and marrying it to tense and cinematic electronic beats, rising to a disturbing culmination before cutting short at the end of the song. The band’s willingness to throw caution and convention to the wind is all-consuming.
Still, though the sounds are loose and the production, well, minimal, you don’t get to the point of issuing three full-lengths in a year — even digitally — if you’re not severely dedicated to what you do. Today, I’ve got the pleasure of premiering the Season of Decay/The Humble Titansingle in its entirety, and you’ll find it below, followed by the interview questions, as fielded by Ron.
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1. How did Ice Dragon first get together? What first got you going and how has the relationship between you all changed over time? How many releases have you actually put out, and at what point did you realize you wanted to be so prolific?
Me and Carter started it pretty much by accident after recording two tracks for a shitty blues project we were working on. The tracks didn’t fit at all for that project so we figured we’d just start something new and recruited Joe to help us out. Everything is way better now, musically speaking. I think we’ve really hit our stride in terms of knowing exactly what we want a song to sound like and then making that happen. It used to just be dumb luck, or experimentation until we got something worthwhile. Ryan was our drummer for the Burl album, but he got mad at me and took off. I get drunk and yell at people, but isn’t that what all lead singers do? I think it’s a rule. You have to have a troubled soul in order to write anything good, let alone sing it at the top of your lungs and not care what people think, and that comes with all the baggage of being an asshole sometimes. Oh well. Everything we’ve put out is on the Bandcamp, I can’t even remember what it’s up to now, like five albums and three splits, I think? We’ve always worked fast, and I think having three people who can/do write songs makes things get out of hand even more. Haha.
2. What are your five favorite crappy and/or cult horror movies and why?
Excellent question. My favorites change a lot from day to day, but here’s what I’m thinking off the top of my head.
1. The Thing, mostly due to MacReady’s hat.
2. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death, a beautifully made, truly haunting film, with a great soundtrack to boot. 3. The Abominable Dr. Phibes, amazing in every way, I could watch it over and over again.
4. Definitely a Jean Rollin film, toward the arty side – The Nude Vampire, the cheesier side – The Grapes of Death. Though all his movies are fantastic I think.
5. The Mummy’s Tomb, best of the series I think. The way the old high priest has the shaky hands in the beginning, so good. And Lon Chaney Jr. is bad fucking ass.
3. Ice Dragon albums vary so much from the one to the next. Do you have a specific sound in mind when you approach making a record? Thinking of the difference between Dream Dragon and Greyblackfalconhawk, did you know when you started writing those records how you wanted them to sound?
We definitely knew how we wanted each of those to sound as we were going into them. Those were the first two like that really – the others weren’t as thought out in terms of overall sound. Dream Dragon was supposed to just be a fun summertime rock album, no pretentiousness, no worrying about how heavy it was, etc. Going for that ‘60s kinda vibe. Greyblackfalconhawk was supposed to be a full-on drone album, but then ended up getting a little more “involved” sounding as it went on. Just kinda naturally from all of our influences on it, and it sounds better because of that anyway. From a lyrical point of view I wanted to make something more like what I listen to when I’m alone. I like very dark, depressing lyrics and songs in general, but not these so-called “doom,” “black,” or “evil” songs you hear about wizards and warriors or fantasy shit. REAL doom, that comes from a man’s heart and soul and the pain of existence. People find it easy to talk about killing other things, or death when it’s this sort of distant idea. But try and get one of these same people to talk about how they felt like ending it all that one time, or how lonely they are, or the sadness they feel from day to day. That is true pain, and most people won’t talk about it. Or they are afraid to talk about it because of what their friends and relatives and whoever else will say. I don’t know, I’m rambling, but hopefully making some sort of sense here. We do our fair share of fantasy bullshit too, but for this one I wanted it to be as sincere as possible.
4. Does the writing process change at all depending on the aesthetic of the album? Are you ever working on more than one record at one time?
Sometimes we’ll have a song that doesn’t really fit with the vibe of an album we’re working on, so we tuck it away for a rainy day, but mostly we try and work on album stuff straight through so we get a more cohesive feel to everything. The process is definitely different for say a dark kind of song/album, to a more psych/happy/rocker kind of song. Usually the latter is more fun to make and gets done easier and quicker, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily more rewarding in the end.
5. With Greyblackfalconhawk, how did the bird theme come about, and what was behind putting the names of the tracks together into one word?
I’ve always been really into Native American culture and philosophy, so I think it sort of bled out from that a bit, but other things as well. We definitely didn’t want it to be overly that kind of vibe or anything. I liked the sound of it more than anything else. greyblackfalconhawk. It feels good to say. With that title in place, we thought that it just made sense to run the titles together into one word. Sort of a language of its own, specific to this album. It is set away from our other albums in that way, in sound, in language, and in philosophy.
6. How does the recording process work? How long are you in the studio and how much freedom does self-recording allow? Has the process changed at all since the self-titled?
We record in a basement, with a washing machine and dryer in the same room. Haha. It’s not very fancy. We have it all decorated up and everything, and sexy lighting. We get together every Friday and shoot the shit for a bit, go down to the liquor store and chat with the guys down there, get a pizza or subs and then finally get recording around 7PM or so. Usually go until about 10 or 11 and then go upstairs to listen to records and argue over pointless nonsense (see my answer to question one for more on that). The process has pretty much always been the same, only we used to record in various living rooms of other apartments we’ve had. We always record basics on tape, either the 4-track or an old 1/4” 2-track. Then we dump that into the computer and do overdubs in there. We have like 4 mics, nothing very fancy, and no condensers at all. A bunch of beat up old amps, mostly Peavey. It doesn’t take much, and people shouldn’t get hung up on the gear when recording, it’s all in how you use it.
7. What goes into selecting the cover art for each release, and how important is it to find an appropriate cover when the album is released digitally? What does the cover say about the album?
Basically we try and get a cover that expresses the overall feel of the album in picture form. We’ve been very lucky working with some great artists so far. A few of the albums have sort of “placeholder” art up there right now. Tome of the Future Ancients is going to be done by Josh McAlear and the sketches we’ve seen are incredibly cool. So I guess that kind of says how important they are in the digital realm, not very, at least to us. We like to get the music out there first and foremost. When it comes time to getting things put to a physical format then we definitely want it looking exactly how it should. The only other one at this point is the self-titled and Adam Burke is working on something for that too. I’m very happy with the covers we have thus far.
8. With material that’s so diverse and with all three of you doing so much on each record, what are Ice Dragon shows like? Do you pull songs from different albums and mix it up, or will you do a show that’s all one record? It seems like recording and releasing is more important to the band, but will Ice Dragon ever tour?
We used to just do stripped down versions of songs, just get the basics of it and make it rock. There’s definitely certain songs that will just never work live. We don’t really care too much about playing live, there’s very little creativity in it, and we’re into creating songs a lot more than just playing them. I’m sure at some point we’ll play out again, not sure when, but we will I think.
9. What’s in the works next for you guys and are there any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
We just finished a song for a compilation ThrashHead is putting out, and another that Joe wrote that came out really amazing. Total opposites, the first one is a heavy ripper old-school metal style and the other is a dreamy classic rock kinda thing. We’re always making something. Hopefully no one is getting sick of us, or thinks I’m too much of a dickhead. Have a margarita and be yourself.