New levels of insanity
Ken McGrath talks to the worn out members of The Icarus Line who are starting to realise that their career path is not one to be envied.
The Icarus Line are tired, pissed off and ill. Sitting backstage in the PoD before their Dublin show singer, Joe Cardamone, apologises for the fact that they are not in a very talkative mood before blowing his nose for what could be the millionth time that day. His nose about as red as the ties the band wear onstage. Over three months of solid touring, with very few days off, across more countries than Marco Polo travelled in his entire life has certainly taken its toll on the band.
The other Icarus Line members are sitting around with their instruments in varying stages of repair or destruction, whatever way you want to look at it and worst of all they can't seem to get their hands on any weed. Joe looks across the table at me and in a relaxed (but slightly hoarse) American accent says, "we're pretty run down and tired. Our equipment is falling apart and we're running out of money". Welcome to life in one of the world's hardest working bands.
Offstage and out of their suit and tie combos, The Icarus Line are laid-back and cool, a million miles from the self-destructive, lunatics they become later on when they're performing. They are eager to talk about how the tour has been going so far and how corrupt the music industry is at the moment.
"Some parts of the English leg of the tour were really cool and some parts were, like, really disturbing", begins Joe. Disturbing you say? Care to continue? "Northampton was totally fucking dead, not that many people were at the show. The venue was shit..."
"Any show where they put up a barricade!" adds Aaron North (guitar), sounding like a very stoned Garth, from the Wayne's World movies. "For some reason they think that people are going to get up on the stage or something. Like at last night's show in Belfast, there was a four-foot barricade between the stage and the crowd."
"For tonight's show," continues Joe, "we'll probably break some gear 'cause the stage is so small. Maybe someone will hurt themselves, or maybe we'll just stand there and stare at everyone all night. It might be kinda pathetic. I dunno. Everyone's feeling kind of ill." This is of course coming from the band that recently defaced The Strokes tour bus. "We were just bored and they were down the street. It was just a joke."
Ill or not, the show was a lesson in noise and aggression. The extreme sonic disaster that is The Icarus Line reached new levels of insanity and somewhere in the mess, two new songs were aired. These two songs were pretty indistinguishable from the music they already make. So far, there are no set plans for what the new album will be like, but don't expect it to be full of ballads.
"We don't know what's going to happen. There's not, like, a whole record written," Joe explains, "and there's no record deal so we'll see what happens." As for a potential producer, the singer states enthusiastically that he'd love to work with Flood (Smashing Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Curve), "that would be very cool", but, so far, nothing's been set in stone.
One thing that is guaranteed is that you needn't expect to see Joe and Aaron gracing the cover of Smash Hits or Top Of The Pops anytime in the near future. "I think bands in certain circles are making some of the most interesting music ever, but the industry side of it obviously has nothing to do with that. Right now Puddle of Mudd sells. Puddle of Mudd will do whatever they have to; they'll do whatever the label says. There's no room for artistry anymore. Music is art.
"A good artist doesn't compromise, and then you've got thousands of bands, and thousands more in the wings, who are willing to compromise any way they can to get in there. The label says: we want you to play these songs, to dress like this. These people aren't really artists. They don't car about music. They're willing to do whatever it takes to make a buck, to be on TV or the radio. That sort of fucks it up for the real bands that are actually good, right? They don't want to wear a beanie or tour with Staind or whatever."
They talk like they believe it, but you have to wonder have The Icarus Line ever been tempted by the money and the easy way out? They live in LA and that's the capital of record label land. Completely honest in his answer, Aaron North says with a smile, "we would have been signed by now if they were going to sign us." Joe nods in agreement, "most major label guys are put off by us. The bottom line is we're not writing three-minute pop songs.
"Major labels these days want bands who are willing to stray from what they really want to do. We're not really interested in doing that, you know?" LA may have been the launching site for a lot of great bands in the past few years (Tool, System Of A Down), but Joe is quick to point out that it doesn't have the same brotherhood of bands feel that Seattle had in the early nineties. "There's no scene, no community there. There are no bands that we feel a kinship with. If you live in LA you're either small or you're huge. There's no middle ground. Before System Of A Down were huge, they were nobody. They didn't do the middle ground thing." And right now The Icarus Line may be tiny, but at least they feel they're bringing something different to the table.
"How many new bands are there now that are doing anything interesting?" Joe asks. "We don't sound like Linkin Park or The Strokes. So if those bands don't do it for you, maybe we will. Or maybe you'll hate us and think we suck. We've been playing as The Icarus Line for almost three years and we've been playing together for about five or six years, doing shows, putting out records that no-one buys, playing tours no-one cares about". You think there's a pattern there? The two weary road-warriors look at each other and laugh. "Yeah".
Well, at least they're honest.
by Ken McGrath.