It’s been interesting to see the different ways the pandemic has affected creativity. Just look at Ice Out.
The Alexandria-based instrumental trio specialize in music perfect for late night strolls, with their 80s-infected sonic landscapes owing equal debt to the reverb and delay school of Will Sergeant and the ominous dread of early John Carpenter. The band, which features David Barker’s spindly, echoey guitar, Chris Zogby handling percussion and Dex Fontaine on bass, found a new creative spark during those long lockdown months, aided and abetted with some new gear and new thinking. The end result: Ice Out has pushed its dreamlike sounds forward.
Following the release of Ice Out’s self-titled 4 track EP in April 2019, Ice Out took some time to refine its updated approach, then came back in full force with an unbelievable cover of Wham’s “White Christmas” in November 2020. (If you haven’t heard it yet, stop reading this feature and go to Bandcamp NOW). From there, the band has been on a creative hit streak, releasing one stellar single after the next, with the latest being “Breakers.” And this is just a taste of what’s to come.
With Ice Out set to return to WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE for the first time in two years, I thought it would be a great opportunity to catch up with David and Chris via our monthly ritual of asking “5 Questions.” Read on!
1) It’s been a while since Ice Out played We Fought the Big One in 2019 and A LOT has happened. What’s it been like to keep the band going through the pandemic? Was there ever a time when it was a challenge to feel creative?
Chris: It was different. We stopped rehearsing in-person from March until June of 2020 because of the pandemic. Initially, that was tough to adjust to. Without gigs to prepare for, we focused on recording music on our own without the aid of a studio and an engineer, and creating video content for the songs on our 2019 EP. In 3-4 months after purchasing and learning several software packages, we had new material tracked, plus YouTube channel content. I’d say the pandemic challenged us to be creative in new and different ways, which we’ve benefited from ever since.
David: We kept plugging along and working. I started taking guitar lessons early on from Tommy Kessler from Blondie. Great guy, I’ve learned a great deal of music theory that I’ve applied to the new Ice Out material.
2) One of the things I appreciate most about Ice Out is how the band uses space in between sounds. It’s not just that you’re creating music that feels ethereal and hypnotic (and increasingly electronic), it’s that you’re creating music that feels vast. Is there a specific vibe or feeling that you’re aiming for when making music?
Chris: I’m going to say that in everything we do, we try to inject something spacey, hypnotic, psychedelic, and/or nostalgia-inducing into the mix.
David: I’m a big believer in negative space and letting music breathe. If you listen to a lot of the groups we love, whether it is Echo & The Bunnymen, The Chameleons or even stuff like Tangerine Dream, there is an incredible amount of room and air within the music.
3) “Breakers” is the latest in a string of excellent single track releases for the band. I love the way the track intersperses Georgio Moroder/early John Carpenter-inspired electronics with your trademark guitar dreaminess and love for space. What can you tell us about this track in particular?
Chris: Dave came up with the main riff, then added the highly-compressed, delayed guitar part to complement it. Since we were trying to sound ‘less rock’, I played spin-the-dials-on-the-synthesizer to see what sounds would work well with Dave’s guitar parts. In the meantime, Dave was starting to get comfortable with the new modeled guitar amp plug-ins available in his DAW. Tinkering with the amp plug-ins quickly turned into tracking solo and supporting rhythm guitar parts. Dave’s work was so inspiring (to me), that I dropped everything else to mix that section of the song. Once that was done, I switched back to working on the arrangement. Things fell into place pretty quickly from that point onwards, and “Breakers” was born.
David: I think the riff came up one afternoon with probably an 80’s Horror Movie on in the background. I’m a big fan of chimey, bell-like guitar sounds so I probably was trying to rip-off Tubular Bells, the Exorcist theme. The guitar solo is one of the more technical things I’ve played, so the lessons really have paid off.
4) Ice Out has been releasing individual tracks pretty consistently since November 2020 (including a jaw-dropping cover of Wham’s “Last Christmas”!) instead of EPs or albums with long gaps in between. What went into your decision to take this approach? Should we look forward to more single releases in the future?
Chris: We wanted to stay productive during the pandemic. Releasing singles with video content seemed like the best approach in that regard. Now that we are able to get into a studio and work with an engineer, we’ll likely release a 5-6 song EP next.
David: We’ve had interest in an EP, so I think the 5-6 song route is next. Singles during the pandemic seemed to be the way. I kind of felt we were doing it in a Factory Records way of single after single.
5) What does the future hold for Ice Out from a musical standpoint? Are there sounds/approaches you foresee wanting to explore?
Chris: Adding sequenced parts, using a hybrid acoustic/electronic drum set up, and visuals for live shows is high on the list of priorities.
David: I think incorporating more electronics within our sound . I’ve been on a big Tangerine Dream kick the past few months so some of the ambient hypnotic sound will appear on the new material.
Listen to and buy Ice Out’s music on Bandcamp and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. And check out Ice Out’s set at the Aug. 7, 2021 edition of WE FOUGHT THE BIG ONE in-person (3203 Mt. Pleasant St NW DC 20010) OR via the LIVESTREAM on Zoom. The show kicks off at 10pm EST.