Frosted landscapes. Ominous winters. Solitary walks in the night. These are some of the visuals that play in my mind’s eye when listening to the compelling soundscapes of DC-instrumental duo Ice Out.
Ice Out are far from the only instrumental band in the DC area making music that drips with atmosphere. But what’s noteworthy about them is HOW they create these sounds. Using mostly two instruments — David Barker’s sparse guitar and Chris Zogby’s drums — with some tasteful synth accents — Ice Out somehow create fully enveloping atmospherics that would be perfect for a moody horror film.
Ice Out’s self-titled 4 track EP, which was released in April 2019, is an excellent showcase of what this band is capable of. The fact that just two individuals are responsible for such widescreen sonic vistas is a reminder that sometimes a minimalist approach can yield maximalist results.
Having experienced Ice Out live, I can attest that this is a band whose power takes on an extra dimension when it performs in front of an audience. With the band set to play WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE on Friday, Sept. 6th, I got in touch with David and Chris to learn more about how they create such chilly sounds…
1) What can you tell us about how Ice Out was formed? Had you known each other long prior to the band coming together?
Chris: We first met around 10 years ago when we played together, briefly. I believe we reconnected 3 or 4 years later, then stayed in touch over social media ever since.
DB: A: We played in a band together briefly in 2009. I had a vision of doing something musically like Tangerine Dream, Tycho and John Carpenter. I wanted to do something more synthesizer based and have been incorporating that more into the music.
2) For the most part, Ice Out creates music with just one guitar and drums. I think it’s amazing what you can do with just these two instruments. Was the plan all along to impose limits about what instruments you would use? Personally, I think there’s an argument to be made that limiting the number of sounds can actually open up new windows of creativity.
Chris: I think the idea was to see what we could do live with Dave’s guitar set up and acoustic drums. There was a joint interest in keeping the sound uncluttered, but we also wanted to add some simple synthesizer parts to add texture and fill in some low end holes. We were able to do this in a very low-tech way with results we liked.
DB: I am very interested in negative space in music. I went and saw John Carpenter play his film scores in Philadelphia a few years back. When I delved into the songs, there is an incredible amount of air in the music. A lot of musicians try to do moody horror movie soundtracks but completely miss the point by overplaying.
3) Speaking of creativity, do you have a particular process or approach to “getting into the zone” where you feel more creative? Clearly, it’s not something that can just be turned on or off like a faucet.
Chris: Listening to suggested instrumental music on Pandora, and poking around sites like Mixcloud has helped spark the creative process. Also, tinkering with gear (i.e. drum machines, sequencers & arpeggiators) and old fashion jamming live on new musical ideas also help.
DB: When I’m playing a lot and playing along to records that gets me in the creative space. Timing is something I work on a great deal.
4) Let’s talk about your self-titled EP. Compared to other recordings you’ve done, what was it like to record, mix and have it released? Would it be fair to say technology and things like Bandcamp are making things easier?
Chris: The process of making the EP was similar to other recordings. Pushing it out for public consumption is probably easier than I remember.
DB: Yes and no. A positive is the ease of getting the music out to streaming services and Bandcamp. The negative is casting a line out into the ocean analogy, just a lot of mediums competing for everyone’s attention.
5) I’d like to ask you both about the Ice Out live show. Was it you want the audience to feel and experience when they come out and see the band live?
Chris: I’d like the music and performance to be engaging enough that the audience stops staring at their phones. 🙂 It’s a tall order, but I think we had some success in that department. We’re working on ways to make the live experience better.
DB: Something that is engaging for the audience. We are working on adding visuals and lighting to enhance the show. We want to show that instrumental music can be very engaging.