If you long for the enjoyable rockiness of the early days of Muse then this week’s New Band of the Week may well be just the ticket for you. Surrey rockers Icarus Dive, who we met supporting Last Hounds last week, have honed an exciting brand of rock around huge guitar riffs, blitzing solos and powerful vocals.
We caught up with frontman Joe Crook this week to get the lowdown on this fun, energetic band and talked all things from the need to support smaller bands and venues, to Muse and Radiohead having a musical baby.
The three members of the Guildford-based band other than Joe all grew up together and have been making music together for years. But they met their fellow Guildford-based frontman on their course of ten people studying music and electronics in Leeds, from which they would pile into drummer Louis Nanke-Mannell’s basement and jam out with as many instruments as they could physically fit in.
Joe recollects: “We made some serious noise. I had never sung in front of Louis though and I think he reluctantly let me try out for vocals in this band. I was listening to a lot of American-influenced pop punk and post-hardcore at the time and the other guys will tell you that’s not really a style of vocal they want to be associated with! The vocal style I’m using with this band is something new to me too and I’ve spent a lot of time adapting that over the last couple of years to fit with the kind of dramatic, expressive sounds that we’re making instrumentally.”
We met the Icarus Dive guys at one of the smaller venues around London, the Black Heart in Camden, and struck up a conversation at the show about the need to get people out to smaller shows.
Joe told us: “I think there are a bunch of simple techniques that are often ignored for whatever reason by promoters who run gigs for new bands. Making sure the acts compliment each other in terms of style and that they’re targeting a similar audience is always going to make a night feel more cohesive and it really helps drive a scene forward. People are going to be far more inclined to come down to a gig after eight-plus hours of work on a weeknight if there’s three or four bands on the bill that they can get behind. Similarly, they’re going to be more willing to give up their Friday or Saturday night for it. Spreading the genres thinly doesn’t really help anyone.
“We’ve started to see a few local promotions see success by really focusing in on a particular scene and lining up young confident bands with more established artists and people are really responding to it. In the last couple of years we’ve learnt that people really want to be a part of new music. They want to be there when it all started.
“There’s an intimacy and support at these local gigs that’s so unique and that most bands struggle to keep hold of as they play bigger and bigger venues. Louis and I went to uni in Leeds and there’s a whole different attitude up there where people will turn up to small venues weekly without knowing who’s playing just because of the consistency and quality of the booking. Its an attitude we’d love to help breed down here.”
The Icarus Dive sound is one that has been purposely crafted to suit their energetic live performances. In Joe’s words: “Imagine Muse and Radiohead had a child. Occasionally they get to hang out with their weird uncle, Tool, and Mastodon is the aunt that rarely gets a word in edgeways. Then that child was abducted by System of a Down and locked in a basement with Danny Elfman. I might have taken that metaphor a little far… Muse often come up I think because vocally Matt Bellamy has been a big influence in helping me find a more expressive, theatrical style as well as Brendon from Panic! At The Disco.”
The Muse-esque sound certainly comes across on their Live Session EP, available now on Bandcamp. The gradually building opener Kraken is a prime example of that, starting off slow and increasing in intensity with some huge bursts of rockiness, big vocals and a delicious flowing guitar solo. But for Icarus Dive, it’s all about playing live.
Joe explains: “We love the live shows. It’s the payoff for the countless hours spent crammed into Louis’ un-air-conditioned studio arguing about which musical mode we’re in. For most bands now, the product is the live show and everything else works to help sell that.
“The live performances are by far the most important part for us right now and it guides how we write the music. It’s the peak experience for a music fan and we never want anyone to leave our show disappointed. We want them to feel like they can’t miss a single verse. We want them standing in their own piss just ‘cos they didn’t want to leave the room haha! We always try to pack as much variety into a set as we can and try to bring at least one new thing to every gig. It’s a challenge and we’ve got a way to go but that’s always going to be a key focus for us.”
The band tell us they have been inspired by people who bring something new or doing things a bit differently. For example, drummer Louis is really into things like Primus and Aphex Twin, which influences him to “push the ‘weird'” in the band. More recently they’ve been drawing influence from what the likes of Black Peaks, Tesseract, Leprous and Northlane have been doing, while retaining the focus on live sound.
Joe tells us: “They’re making sounds I’ve never heard before with the same instruments bands have been using for decades. It shows you that we’re far from the death of the guitar like some people might have you believing.”
And in terms of what inspires the writing of their music, Joe explains: “In terms of lyrics, I’m always fascinated by what goes on in our own heads; the internal struggles, the things we choose to hide, the conversations we have with ourselves. I have a lot of fun creating characters or even monsters to represent each part of our personality. For us it’s less about sending a message and more exploring how we think and why we do the things we do. Sometimes I’ll sing the whole song from the perspective of the villain, just because it’s fun.“
Icarus Dive will have plenty more gigs coming up soon, and are currently working hard on a new EP. Joe said: “Just to any other bands or promoters reading this, we are open for business! If you want to set up a tour or gig swap or you’re running a festival, give us a shout. We’re always down for something new.”