Published Oct 07, 2014As Copenhagen's Iceage were emerging with their debut album, 2011's New Brigade, they self-described their gritty, dystopian post-punk as "New Wave of Danish Fuck You." Two albums later and you'd hardly notice they're the same band. While last year's You're Nothing opened up their sound to loftier ambitions, their third album Plowing Into the Field of Love — out today (October 7) on Matador Records — goes considerably further, integrating unlikely instruments like piano, mandolin, viola, organ and horns into the mix.
Guitarist Johan Surrballe Wieth says Iceage have always been determined to evolve as a band and defy people's expectations.
"I don't feel trapped by what anyone thinks. We were always quite interested in expanding with our instrumentation," he tells Exclaim! "On the second album we were using piano, we just didn't have the capacity and the room in the music to put it in. The first two records were so dense and compressed, and now on this record we left some air for these different instruments to fit in. We always wanted to do that with our songwriting, we just didn't think it would be possible."
Entering the studio to attempt such changes made Wieth unsure of their ability to do so. It wasn't until the band were finished that he knew they'd done it right.
"I was quite nervous when we went to record because I had no idea how this album would turn out," he says. "I was worried that it might be a heap of songs that didn't fit. When I first heard the record in full I thought, 'Now I understand.'"
With a title like Plowing Into the Field of Love, one would guess there is some underlying theme. Wieth says there is no theme for the record, "but many of the songs have this sense, this disillusion of grandeur. You feel like you're on top for about five seconds, then it occurs to you that you're actually down in a hole. I think a lot of the songs reflect that feeling. But that said, the record holds a whole range of emotions."
Iceage are fully aware that their new direction might not go over well with all of their fans. Some have been quite vocal about their disapproval, for instance airing grievances in the comments on the YouTube page for the rockabilly-leaning lead single "The Lord's Favorite." Wieth says he and his bandmates weren't just prepared for a backlash, they wanted one.
"We were all aware that it was going to happen, and I don't know if we all feel this, but I feel some sort of excitement to disappoint people in a way," he says. "I mean sure, I was quite aware that some people would fall off, but I had people come up before we made the record, when we were playing almost all new material live and say, 'Hey, what happened? Where's the punk?' I guess the people that truly feel something for what we do, the people that aren't just looking for a quick fix of fast music and aggression will see that. And the others will fall off. I don't mind."
While Iceage were once known for playing confrontational and often violent gigs, Wieth says the new songs are really throwing off those who come to the shows to start trouble.
"When we play the new songs some people try to jump around and get violent, and you can see the confusion in their eyes, because the tempo has gone down so much," Wieth says with a laugh. "It's strange to see people not understanding and not have an idea of how to react to the songs, because they're expecting something else. I personally like that. Like I said, we get some sort of satisfaction in disappointing people."
Stream all of Plowing Into the Field of Love below.