Icarus’ single-sentence bio undersells them fantastically: “A 4-piece Alt-Rock band known for their frequent time signature changes and tap-guitar lines in otherwise sing-along pop songs.” Allow me to embellish this sentence: I would replace “frequent time signature changes and tap-guitar lines” with “flawless tech-metal shredding to rival some of the best progressive metal bands of today.” “Sing-along pop songs” likewise should read “deliciously authentic and well-written songs that explore themes of love, romance and self-discovery through awesomely memorable melodies.” Two songs in particular off their newest release that are worth hearing: “Lily Trotter” and “Input.Time.Destruct.”
A note for integrity: I’m playing this show. I didn’t interview Icarus’ lead singer Joey Rubenstein JUST because they’re totally awesome; there were selfish reasons for it as well. Can you blame me? Yeah, I suppose you can. You’ll get over it.
How’d the four of you meet?
Rather unconventionally. It wasn’t the whole “we played music together in high school and still do” kind of thing. It was more like, I was trying to find band members who were really talented and could tour all the time in any way possible. I took to YouTube and Craigslist to meet the talented guys now in the band.
I met Rob, our drummer, by searching YouTube for Sky Eats Airplane drum covers. I figured, they play pretty techy stuff, and we play pretty techy stuff; maybe this dude will want to be in the band.
Your bio mentions getting your first album, unsupported by a label, in stores across the nation, including Hot Topic. How’d you do it?
We toured a lot on The Spotless Mind. We followed Warped Tour for multiple years, selling that album to the people in line. With the tour history and some good sales from Warped Tour in our repertoire, we were able to contact Hot Topic and they agreed to give us distribution. We emailed the CEO of Hot Topic, and they forwarded it down the ladder.
You’ve been on at least eleven national tours, averaging seven weeks in length. How have the four of you grown through those experiences, specifically in your relationship with each other?
It all becomes very routine. We’re seeing different places every day and meeting new people all the time, which is exciting, but a lot of the time it’s just routine. We’ve learned to pick our battles with each other.
While we can all be stubborn, and as fun as it is to fight about which bread to buy for our PB & Js, we have to live with each other for six to eight weeks at a time, four times a year. We know each other’s quirks, and which buttons not to press. It’s like being in a four-way marriage in a confined stinky hunk of metal, all the time.
Describe your recording process for this third LP, and how it differed from the first two releases.
We’d always gone with Stephan Hawkes in the past, and he’s become a great friend and does amazing work. So when we record with him, I’m in my comfort zone. This time around, we went with Kris Crummett (from the same studio) to switch things up, and try to get out of that comfort zone.
We’re usually a very calculated band when it comes to recording. We always have the music written before going into the studio. This time, we wrote most of it on the road and had everything written into sheet music. Rob sight-read all of his drum parts. We experimented more with guitar pedals as well… Overall, it was a great and stressful experience.
Is there lyrical material in your third LP that you haven’t explored in the first two albums?
There’s a few themes I delved into with this new album that I haven’t covered before. One of them that makes a few appearances is the idea of living a double life, and compartmentalizing yourself. While terrifying, I love the concept of someone being a complete monster, but hiding in plain sight.
On a smaller level, some people are completely different online than they are in real life. I was probably watching too much Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Dexter. I find solace in keeping secrets; it’s something that is mine and mine alone.
Who was the first group that brought awesome finger-tapping onto your radar?
There isn’t one single band that made me try it. Minus The Bear was probably the first band that put it on my radar in the modern world. Van Halen did it, but it wasn’t the percussive finger-tapping that I enjoy listening to and playing now… Thrice influenced me a great deal for guitar playing in general.
Your video for “The Extortionist” is pretty brutal. have you had some negative experiences with record labels in the past?
We may have been speaking out about one thing, but I think it can be a relatable song to anyone in a situation where they feel like someone else has control over something they really care about. Not being able to pursue what you love, because someone else isn’t letting you, is absolutely soul-crushing to anyone with passion.
You guys can get pretty heavy. Have any favorite metal or hardcore bands? (Please say BTBAM, please say BTBAM [heavy breathing])
I really like Between The Buried And Me, Rob loves Animals As Leaders, Zach loves Horse The Band, and AJ loves Deftones… Just kidding! We exclusively listen to deep cuts from Crazy Town’s first album—except for Rob, who only listens to Grandmaster Flash.
See Portland’s own Icarus The Owl play live in support of their 2014 self-titled LP, this Friday, August 1st, at 1078 Gallery. Also featuring Sorin, Idlehands (from San Diego), and Monk Warrior. $10, 7:30pm. Beer for sale on site.