It’s fair to say The Icarus Line are one of the few post hardcore acts to be birthed kicking and screaming from the Los Angeles late 90s hangover still going, and in all that time, they haven’t really slowed down. During the course of the last two years, The Icarus Line have been on the road pretty much continuously, touring with the likes of Killing Joke and The Cult, not to mention packing in numerous headline shows in between. If that wasn’t enough, in that time they have also managed to write and record a new album. The breakneck speed at which Slave Vows was produced comes directly across in its intensity and verve. It’s as though the music is a direct response the band have to the uncompromising nature of the world around them. But The Icarus Line always answer back, baring teeth. We caught up with front man Joe Cardamone to talk about how Slave Vows came together, and what it’s like to be in the music business in America today.
Where are you and what were you doing just before answering these questions?
I am at home and I was smoking on my porch listening to my dogs bark at noises in the woods.
Let’s talk about the new album. How did it all come together?
Lets. The band spent a good portion of last year on the road. Some on our own, some with Killing Joke and some with The Cult. When we got home it was time to start writing a new record. I trashed most of the material I had been writing since Wildlife and went with all new material. We cut out a few weeks to make it happen and just went to town. This was the fastest I have ever worked on a record but I think that whatever it lacks in refinement it gains in focus and immediacy. I am very pleased with the results.
You have said the album was written and recorded over the course of a couple months. How did you find the process of creating music in this way?
It was a joy to work this way and I wish I had done it more in the past. Now that I produce other peoples records more often it has opened my eyes to the fact that true power does not come from neurotic labor. The simplicity of capturing a live performance can really move air around and speak with ease. Another contributing factor to the motivation behind this rapid writing and recording is that I already spend all my time in the studio. I wanted this to be different then 90% of the records I work on. Writing and recording Slave Vows in a short period of time was a sure bet to achieve that.
You’ve been touring pretty extensively over the past two years. Is life on the road a state of being you enjoy?
I do love to perform the music live these days with a group of friends that I enjoy spending time with. None of us get rich off of this band so we are all in it for the same reason. It brings us pure joy, at least for the 45 mins onstage, and if we can share that around the world then that is a bonus. We sold our souls a long time ago.
Have you got any crazy tour stories?
Like talking my way out of a royal beating in a chip shop in Tottingham at 3am? You had to be there but I can tell you the human / ogre hybrid’s opener was ” what are you a couple of faggots or something?” yeah.
How did your recent touring experience feed into the new album?
We built our wall of sonic bliss to an extreme level over the course of the last world tour. The zenith we experienced on stage was heavily influential on the sound of the record. I wanted to have material that would lend itself to our live show. Music that was designed to be performed and more importantly evolve live. This group lets the songs explode into many uncharted areas night after night. Some will make for triumph and some less. If you listened to three takes from the Slave Vows recording sessions you would hear three different song structures. I play most of the guitar on the record. It enabled me to be able to conduct at a moments notice. All we needed were common cues to look out for. From there out, it was up to the moment.
Slave Vows seems to be a return to a more frenetic sound that permeated your earlier material. Was the return to this sound intentional?
Not so much intentional but more so out of influence. Our earlier material was written by a young person with nothing to lose. Things have come full circle in many ways. Now its an older person with nothing to lose.
The themes in the album seem to focus on living life in a transitory way. What sorts of experiences fed the writing process for the album?
All that I experience is in there somehow. To be completely honest, I was always waiting for some younger band to step into the space where The Icarus Line has existed. However small a space mind you! The Icarus Line has a sound that could only come from Los Angeles and only from people who grew in the punk scene that I fell in love with. Whatever that word means anymore. To me it always meant not settling for ‘good enough’. It also meant being brave enough in your own life to put out material that needed to be heard because no one else was doing it. It’s simple really. I want to make records that get me off when we play them live.
There are tracks on Slave Vows that reflect on being broke and having a defiant attitude in the face of adversity. Are these tracks sending a message about what’s going on in America (and the rest of the world) right now?
Well I guess the answer to that is… yeah. Fuck yeah. I live the life of a normal american or citizen of the world. I can’t always afford to pay my bills or go see a doctor or just do the basic things a human should be able to do. I feel like white rock music ignores this side of life. Probably because a lot of white rock and indy, or whatever its called now, is made by privileged little brats. Of course it is. Who else can afford to devote a huge chunk of life to something that is almost 99% of the time a losing economic venture? Rich Kids, that’s who. So yeah, we’re still here and we’re still in love with artful expression. Even if it is rock ‘n’ roll music.
What advice would you give to new bands starting out today?
Look in the mirror. Are you doing anything important? Are you going to do this because you want the world and art to better for the future? Would you do this even if no one ever once mentioned your bands name forever If you answered ‘no’ to any of that, go do something else.
What’s next for The Icarus Line?
Live shows and another new record.
Slave Vows is out on 01 July on Agitated Records.