I recently heard the song “22:22” by English foursome Ice Black Birds, and was instantly intrigued by the band’s sound. Part throwback, part modern garage rockers, the band–vocalist/rhythm guitarist Sam Denniston, guitarist George Grinling, bassist/vocalist Danny McGurn, and drummer/vocalist Ollie Liddiard–is heavily influenced by classic rock of the 60s and 70s, but also by blues music. It counts among its diverse set of influences The Black Keys, White Denim, Tame Impala, Devendra Banhart, Tom Vek, The Flaming Lips, Fleet Foxes, The Entrance Band, and Late of the Pier.
I recently asked Ice Black Birds’ Sam Denniston some questions about the band’s plans for 2011 and its trip to the USA for South By Southwest.
Houston Calling: What are you looking forward to most at this year’s SXSW?
Ice Black Birds: We have never been before so we don’t really know what to expect but I think the heat is what I am looking forward to the most, it’s so cold in Britain right now and I can’t wait for some sun. I have a friend who went last year and said the atmosphere is amazing so I supposed we are all just looking forward to seeing other great bands, playing ourselves and generally taking it all in.
HC: Any bands in particular that you’re looking forward to seeing during SXSW?
Ice Black Birds: I am really looking forward to seeing The Strange Boys and we have our fingers crossed that White Denim will make an appearance (We are huge fans).
HC: I have pretty much always been a fan of British music, and am happy to see that the tradition of making interesting new music hasn’t waned over time. What do you consider to be your primary musical influences and how do they play into the music you make?
Ice Black Birds: Well we take a lot of influence from 60s and 70s rock ‘n’ roll. The Stones, The Beatles, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors but we also really like modern American Lo-fi like White Denim, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Black Lips. We all listen to a lot of
different music really, it differs for each member. We want a really vintage, lo-fi sound and that’s what comes across in the way we write songs.
HC: What are some of your favorites bands from the 60s? 70s? 80s? 90s?
Ice Black Birds: 60s: Stones, Beatles / 70s: Thin Lizzy, Supertramp / 80s: Echo and The Bunnymen, The Cure / 90s: Radiohead, Blur
HC: What’s your favorite part of touring? Are you pleased with how your music has been received so far?
Ice Black Birds: The best part is just getting wrapped up in the bubble that is touring, you completely forget what day of the week it is, lose all contact with the “outside world” and for those couple of weeks you just change into a nocturnal being that lives for those 40 minutes or soon stage!
I think our music has gone down really well. We have toured a lot in Europe and they seem to love us, especially Holland. There is tons of raw energy in our music and I think a lot of people respond to that.
HC: What are you hoping to get out of your time in the States this spring?
Ice Black Birds: Well, it would be great to get more people on board with the band, we are a small team at the moment but its growing steadily. I think the trip will be one hell of an experience no matter what and I think Americans will take to our music as we are influenced by a lot of US
bands. Lets hope we pick up some new fans along the way, of course!
HC: How has digital technology changed the way you create your music?
Ice Black Birds: Not much really. We are quite an old school band, so apart from a few pedals it’s all us.
HC: Other than SXSW, what’s on the horizon for the band in 2011?
Ice Black Birds: When we get back it’s time for the debut album, so I suppose we need to demo a few tunes and then take some time out to records it. I think we are going to be doing a fair few festivals in Europe and the UK over the summer and then look at putting the album out after that. Our single comes out on the day we get back from SXSW so we will be doing some big shows to tie in that. So lots of good things!
HC: Any music you’ve been listening to lately that you’d recommend?
Ice Black Birds: The only CD I have in my car at the moment is The Smith Westerns’ new album which is great. We went on tour with a great Dutch band called Go Back To The Zoo who are well worth a listen, lovely guys too. I love the new Radiohead song “Lotus Flower” and all the stuff that Jamie xx is doing at the moment.
Thanks to Sam Denniston from Ice Black Birds for taking the time out to answer these questions.
Ice Black Birds plays its official SXSW showcase at The Black and Tan on 3.19.11. The band also plays in Austin during SXSW at Chupacabra on 3.16.11 and at Fado on 3.18.11. Visit the band online at www.iceblackbirds.co.uk.