The Icarus Line Discuss New Album ‘Slave Vows,’ Explain How Rock ‘n’ Roll Saved Them From the ‘Criminal Lifestyle’
With five studio albums and four EPs under their belts, L.A. psych-scuzz masters the Icarus Line have been blowing minds -- and causing trouble -- since the late '90s. The band is perhaps best known for a 2002 incident in which guitarist Aaron North -- who's since left and worked with Queens of the Stone Age and Nine Inch Nails, among others -- smashed a display case at Austin's Hard Rock Cafe and attempted to play one of local icon Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitars.
But even without North's antics, the Icarus Line are plenty fierce, and the brand-new 'Slave Vows,' which dropped Aug. 6, is a testament to the band's perseverance and commitment to forging ahead, despite a lack of mainstream success. Diffuser.fm had the opportunity to speak to the group's frontman and guitarist, Joe Cardamone, about his experience recording an Icarus Line LP in his own studio, the challenges of being in the band and how rock 'n' roll saved him from a life of crime.
How is 'Slave Vows' different from your past work?
One of the main obvious differences is that we recorded majority of the record live. And not only did we do it live in my studio, [but] we [also] did it with no headphones or anything, all amps in the room together.
What sparked the idea to go that route?
It was because we meant the majority of that time on tour, and we had kind of coming off a collective frenzy. We basically wrote the momentum of live shows into the studio.
I’m a producer. That’s what I do when I’m not performing. And to not capitalize on a great live band, it’s just foolish. It was just obvious, let’s put it that way.
Besides that, since I record bands day in and day out, I wanted this to be fun. I wanted to have a good time doing it. I didn’t want it to have the normal stretches of record. We set up. We play music together, and we didn’t really think about it.
Speaking of recording in your studio, this is the first time the band did that. Do you feel a stronger connection with this album because it was recorded in your studio?
No, we could have done this record in any studio. It doesn’t really matter, especially when a band really play well together, you could record it on an iPod. It doesn’t matter. It helped that I know the ins and outs of the studio. And what did help was when it came time to mix it, I had my gear around me. I know what my room sounds like. So in that sense, completing the record, not the tracking of it, but completing, it did help being there because of my familiarity with the surroundings.
What was the most memorable song to work on?
We did it so fast that it all kind of blended together, to be honest. We wrote the record in a couple of weeks, and then we recorded it in a couple of weeks. And in a modern recording curve, that’s typically quickly. And everyone in the group has day jobs. So we wouldn’t even start working till 10. So when you really add it up altogether, we probably spent a week recording and writing the record. If you all the hours we actually worked together on it, just to get it all done. So there wasn’t really a standout moment. The whole thing was just a burst of energy, you know?
You've said on your blog that 'Slave Vows' is your view of the current rock scene. Can you talk a bit about how you view rock these days? And where you see it going?
I mean, I see it going nowhere in the mainstream, obviously. It’s just gone nowhere for years now. The record isn’t written about the rock and rolls scene or directed towards it, but sonically, I always write towards a voice. So we would probably be one of the few bands to make a record that sounded the way it was before. And no one’s really doing this. So that’s kind of what it is. But there’s no personal thing within the context board or any specifics toward the rock 'n' roll scene. I mean, who even cares about rock 'n' roll?
There is a video series you posted on your YouTube channel with each video for each track on the album. How did this idea come about? And are they precursors to what the music video for each track would be?
They are more short films and interpretations of each person in the group. We represented each person. They’re more to be taken as short films onto their own. They’re not just trailers to something that’s coming, except for the actual record. They’re visual trailers to something that has no visual to it. We could kind of set the mood and include people in the personal side of the band, the process, where we are as people these days without having to resort to bullshit PR tactics where we have to tell everybody what our favorite color is.
The Icarus Line has been releasing material since the late '90s. Some people would get burned out by now. What drives you to keep making more new music?
First of all, music was one of the few things that saved me from having a criminal lifestyle. I didn’t grow up rich. No one in the group did, not even well to do. I think everyone in the group was lower middle class. So I can say, without a doubt, I would have gravitated towards a criminal lifestyle, and I was already headed that way when I was a youngster, and music saved me. And when something grabs you like that and becomes a singular vision. I don’t think it never lets go. Plus, we’ve been uncompromising for the vast majority of the group’s career. That hasn’t resulted in tons of exposure and money so we always have something to prove. And every record we do could be the last one we can secure funding for. So there’s no rules for this group, and there never has been for me. I’m astonished every time I get to do this. It’s really a special thing that I get to do this at all ever.
What are the plans for Icarus Line now that 'Slave Vows' has released?
We will be touring Europe and the U.K. and probably some U.S. touring. None of us make a lot of money so touring happens when the band can afford to do it at the time. We’ll keep doing this as long as we’re alive. That’s the plan -- to stay alive and keep going.