Article by: Andrew Miller | Photo Credits: Christine Christenson | Posted: 06/21/2012
In the music video for “On Your Side,” (the first single from Icarus Himself’s 2011 album, Career Culture), the Madison, Wisconsin-based indie-rockers featured a visually appealing, soft-focus narrative of a young, innocent-looking couple holding up a church during a wedding. For their current single “Anywhere You Go” — (the music video premiered on June 20, 2012 via Brite Revolution) — the band decided to experiment in an equally stunning but entirely different direction: a collection of footage from 1980s televangelists and tent revivals.
“The song itself -- the lyrics are kind of ambiguous, but it’s kind of about following, you know, someone or something -- not necessarily a religion,” says frontman Nick Whetro. “I wanted to keep it kind of ambiguous with the lyrics, but with the video, we just went for the whole evangelical megachurch thing. [The idea was] something that just popped into our heads. It was just one example that I could think of that kind of fit with the song, so we just went for it.”
Pentecostal preachers seem to sing along with the lyrics, and when they cast out demons, the believers hit the floor to crashing cymbals and distorted chords in the video that baritone guitarist Karl Christenson pieced together from footage found online.
“It was pretty much his thing that he did,” Whetro says. “We just gave him a couple ideas and told him to roll with it.” The video is marvelous, but that’s not unexpected from a band that’s always managed to push the limits of what can be done with just a little.
Icarus Himself began as a solo project for Whetro, (the former frontman of National Beekeepers Society), and in 2009 the project released its first album, Coffins. Whetro built the album by layering his vocals and minimalist instrumentation on top of looped samples. He pushed that layered sound even further on 2010’s critically-acclaimed Mexico EP, adding multi-instrumentalist Christenson and drummer Brad Kolberg to the group.
“The first album I did almost all by myself, and then the EP after that was me and the baritone [guitar] player, Karl. And then Brad, our drummer, kind of worked his way into the band around the time we were recording the end of the EP, so that EP doesn’t really reflect us as a band,” Whetro explains. “Actually, Career Culture is the first thing that we’ve put out that reflects us as a band.”
While the lyrics on Career Culture tell the autobiographical story of Whetro’s Indiana-to-Wisconsin odyssey -- from factory worker to full-time musician -- the music shows the band’s maturation into a collaborative group. Simultaneously, they test the boundaries of how far they can strip down the instrumentation without losing their identity, and the full, layered sound they’d achieved on the Mexico EP. The music on “Anywhere You Go” is no exception.
“I think we were kind of getting sick of doing loops and drum machines and things like that -- synthesizers -- and we just wanted to simplify it even more,” Whetro says. “[On] ‘Anywhere You Go’ and a couple of songs off of Career Culture, we just kind of wanted to be a three-piece rock band again.”
The songs on Career Culture strip the band’s music of everything except the essentials, but now that they’ve begun work on their next album, Whetro and company are starting to escalate that sound again.
“We’ve kind of gone back to the loops,” he says. “Right now, we’re just in the demo phase. I’ve been recording some demos at home...[but] we’re kind of going back to the loops and then just building upon that.” In the same vein, the lyrics of the new songs focus on the lives of all three members of the band, as well as pick up right where Whetro’s journey in Career Culture left off -- with Whetro happily married and living in Wisconsin.
“I think the songs this time around are more about us as a band, as people, getting older,” says Whetro. “We’re all married now and getting older -- having kids and things like that -- and so it’s just kind of a natural progression, I guess.”
Perhaps as a preview of what fans can expect from the new material, the band recently released a remixed version of “On Your Side” in collaboration with Madison-based hip-hop artist, Man Mantis.
“He’s really a super-talented guy,” Whetro says. “We gave him our song and were like, ‘Go for it. Do whatever you want.’ It’s pretty different than the original song, which we’re totally glad about. It’s awesome.”
Icarus Himself doesn’t plan on returning to the studio anytime this year, but Whetro says the new songs have started working their way into the band’s live performances, and they’ll soon be travelling through Georgia, the Carolinas, and Eastern Tennessee.
“We’ve done two of them live for the past couple of shows, and the reception actually has been really great,” he says. “[On] both songs, people have been asking, ‘What’s that? I really like that song.’ We’re looking forward to recording them.”
Icarus Himself - "Anywhere You Go"