Iceage’s Elias Bender Rønnenfelt
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Copenhagen’s Iceage has been called a lot of things by a lot of people. To some, it’s a group of seriously pissed off teenagers who dropped out of high school. To others, the band is Refused reincarnate. Skeptics, meanwhile, see its four members as obsessed with fascism-laden imagery.
Yet Iceage isn’t any of these things. Sure, Dan Kjaer Nielsen, Jakob Tvilling Pless, Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, and Johan Surrballe Wieth are young, they are from Europe, and their video for the song “New Brigade” features the quartet in hooded outfits—but to call Iceage anything other than one of the most exciting and interesting punk band in years would be doing it a great disservice. On its debut LP, New Brigade, the band creates atmospheric no-wave hardcore that will make any jaded punk question his or her strongly held belief that everything has been done before. Before their stop at Kung Fu Necktie Sunday, The A.V. Club spoke with vocalist-guitarist Rønnenfelt about that nagging issue of being young and in a popular band, bloody concerts, and why he hates being compared to a certain Swedish hardcore act.
The A.V. Club: The major theme in every piece on Iceage is your age. Do you guys hate that this tends to be the focus?
Elias Bender Rønnenfelt: Yeah, it’s stupid that people make such a big a deal out of it. Playing music while you’re young is not that big of a deal. It comes up in every interview. It’s pretty annoying.
AVC: I guess I’m doing exactly that by bringing it up again.
EBR: It’s not that annoying. [Laughs.]
AVC: Do you think that because the first record was so well received that people expect a lot from you on your next record? Do you feel pressure to produce something even better the next time around?
EBR: No. We are writing new stuff, but not because of that, and it won’t affect anything musically or anything else.
AVC: New Brigade feels like a paranoid record. Did you feel this way when recording it?
EBR: Well, there are a lot of different emotions there. Sure, paranoid is one, but it isn’t the main thing.
AVC: What would the main thing be then?
EBR: I don’t know that there is a main thing. Every song is about a different subject, but some of it—that’s a hard question to answer. The songs all have different directions—of course some of the same feelings go through some of the songs—but it’s hard to say just what it is.
AVC: How did your previous U.S. tour go?
EBR: It went really well. We had a lot of good shows and a great time, yeah.
AVC: The pictures of your shows in Denmark look pretty bloody and violent. Did it get that bloody and violent the first time through the United States?
EBR: Yeah, it got bloody and violent in the U.S., too.
AVC: There’s a blog post circulating that accuses Iceage of being a fascist band, based in part on the video for “New Brigade.”
EBR: Yeah, I saw that. I guess they are really looking for it. The argument was really weak. There is nothing there.
AVC: The hooded outfits you guys wear in the video really set the author off.
EBR: It wasn’t meant that way. I think that article is pretty stupid, and, maybe besides the hooded thing, there is nothing to look for.
AVC: Another bit of noticeable iconography is all of the different drawings of hands and fingers on the insert for the New Brigade LP. What, if anything, do they mean?
EBR: Some of it symbolizes stuff; some of them are sacrifice hands.
AVC: Sacrifice hands?
EBR: Some of the symbols are Mayan symbols of sacrifice.
AVC: Was sacrifice an important idea to Iceage when you were writing the record?
EBR: Yeah. It’s only one hand that means sacrifice; the others are just pictures of hands. We just gave each song a hand. There is no real deeper meaning there.
AVC: A lot of articles about Iceage also tend to compare the band to progressive Swedish hardcore band Refused.
EBR: I can’t see it or hear it at all. I don’t like that band.
AVC: At least here in America, when there is a European punk or hardcore band that sounds sort of chaotic or different, the first point of reference is Refused and its record The Shape Of Punk To Come.
EBR: [Laughs.] Yeah. It’s in lack of a better reference.