Elias Bender Rønnenfelt, the lead singer of the infamously anarchic band Iceage, is currently navigating his way through the dense and mountainous terrain of Washington. Through the trees, I peer at Elias. I desperately seek out some shard of recognition or hint of interest within his brooding voice and elusive spirit. I don’t get much, but through the branches I manage to grasp onto a few fragments of insight and wisdom.
For roughly nineteen minutes (18 minutes and 41 seconds to be exact), Elias and I discuss the world and his recent album Beyondless, and it feels like we are riding the same wavelength. Despite his thick Danish accent and static of the call, he still makes himself clear. He speaks carefully-taking somewhat painfully long pauses to select the right word to describe his thought. The pauses prove to be rewarding. He is articulate and poetic, and I am left with more than my fair share of pull quotes to work with.
This graceful mastery of words, which is at least partly influenced by his rapturous reading habits (his latest selection: Death in Venice), is laced into the lyrics of all his songs. Not just those he writes for Iceage, but also those he writes for his ancillary project, Marching Church. For the past few years, that’s where his focus has been. Throughout 2015 and 2016, Elias put all his energy into the release of two Marching Church albums. "I can’t work on both things at the same time."
While Marching Church shares Iceage's revolutionary tendencies, they are noticeably more jazzy and far less pigeonholed to the punk aesthetic. Now that Iceage is back on the radio waves, some have pointed out (i.e. incessantly complained) that this experimental attitude has carried over with the incorporation of funky trumpets and sultry saxophones. What does Elias think about this insinuation? “I don’t care.” Elias isn’t out to fulfill anyone’s expectations or desires. He’ll play what he wants when he wants to.
He also doesn’t care much for analyzing the state of the music industry either. Vinyl’s, Cd’s, cassettes, streaming on Spotify, iTunes etc. etc. etc. It doesn’t matter to him. “As long as I can put out my album and it’s somehow available, I’m a happy man. I don’t understand the music business, I just make records.”
His records certainly speak for themselves, but Elias doesn’t mind opening up about them. Elias, usually cagey and coy, becomes far more chatty when we get down to the nitty gritty of the music. He’s passionate about what he does, and it’s clear there is real intention behind his work. Although he at first warns me that “It’s hard for me to put a finger on [Beyondless] because I’m too close to the work to analyze it like that,” he goes on to insightfully explain the meaning behind the album. “This album addresses man’s innate cruelty. But that’s something that is always there. It’s what we do.”
And it certainly is. Since their first album, the group has expressed anger in the most three-dimensional way. Now though, the rage is not manifested in the volume or outward appearance of the songs, but instead in the tone and the lyricism itself. With each passing album, Elias manages to become more vulnerable in his melodic expressions, which he describes as “painfully honest depictions.”
These painfully honest depictions reflect Elias’s cynicism. “The world has always been a terrible place, ever since we discovered fire.” Or perhaps it’s his realism. The invent of fire, usually seen as the spark of humanity, is also what led to our current state of chaos in 2018. Maybe if we had died out, in say an ice age, the world would be a better place.
Read our previous interview with Elias from the Summer Camp Issue here. You can check out Elias, and his bandmates Johan Surrballe Wieth (guitar), Jakob Tvilling Pless (bass) and Dan Kjær Nielsen (drums) on tour now. Photos from their rambunctious performance at The Regent can be found below!
Written by Tori Adams
Photographed by Nicole Busch