ABOVE: ICEAGE IN NEW YORK, JANUARY 2013. ALL CLOTHING AND ACCESSORIES: ARTISTS’ OWN. GROOMING: MARCO BRACA/KRAMER + KRAMER. SPECIAL THANKS: DUNE STUDIOS.
Speaking to Iceage—the vaunted young Danish band known for its brand of exquisitely brutal punk rock—is much easier said than done. The group’s front man, 20-year-old Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, is a guy of decidedly few words. But given the whirlwind of attention leveled at Iceage since the release of their 2011 debut, New Brigade, it’s plain to see how heaps of international praise might be a bit distracting—if not outright annoying—for four guys more interested in firing off explosive two-minute blasts of noisy rage. “I don’t think we’ve gotten too caught up in the attention,” says Rønnenfelt, who has been playing music around Copenhagen with his bandmates—Jakob Tvilling Pless (bass), Dan Kjær Nielsen (drums), and Johan Suurballe Wieth (guitar)—since they were all in their early teens. “We just keep writing music without thinking too much about what we’ve done before. The new record came really naturally. I didn’t feel any pressure.”
Iceage has just bounded back into the spotlight with their sophomore album, You’re Nothing (Matador), which was recorded in Copenhagen and on an island in southeastern Denmark, and the release injects a dose of humanity into the roar. “If you’re making really aggressive music, people can’t always get past the anger and see what else is really happening,” explains Rønnenfelt. “People at shows often misunderstand that. They get off on the anger and the energy of the music, but they don’t seem to get what’s happening inside.” While the appropriate emotional timbre of most punk rock is generally limited to disenchantment and alienation, the tracks on You’re Nothing flirt with subjects as outré as romance and—dare it be said— hope. On “Ecstasy,” Rønnenfelt sings, “What shade / of joy / will hit / me first? / I hope / it lasts / A burst / In bliss,” in a way that suggests an alternative to so much of the blank nihilism of Iceage’s earlier work.
Having essentially created their own scene in their native Copenhagen (“There wasn’t much of a scene before us, and the one there was, we didn’t want to have anything to do with”), Iceage will spend much of 2013 taking their ferocious live show—affairs often ending in bloodshed, particularly for the boisterous band members themselves—around the world. It’s a prospect both exciting and daunting for Rønnenfelt. “I enjoy it and I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t feel like it’s worth it,” he says. “But when so much of your life is on the road, it can’t always be fun. Looking at the schedule in front of us, I just hope I don’t somehow destroy myself.”
ICEAGE ARE PLAYING THIS FRIDAY, MARCH 29 AT THE ECHOPLEX IN LOS ANGELES.