Danish-born 18-year-old frontman Elias Bender Rønnenfelt's first stateside interview came in June, with the New York Times. Since then, his band Iceage has received a barrage of press. Coverage from the usual suspects—from Pitchfork, the Onion's A.V. Club, Vice, and Time Out New York to less likely courtiers such as the New Yorker and the Washington Post—exploded seemingly overnight.
"Are you tired of doing interviews?" I ask Rønnenfelt, who either has a very tenuous grasp of the English language, is a man of few words, has no interest in talking to assholes from the press, or some combination of all three. "Yes," he says distractedly, perhaps uncaringly. "How many have you done since June [Iceage's first visit to the States]?" I ask in response. "A lot," he says. Everything he says after this comes in a shaky, stalled delivery. After several more one-word responses from Rønnenfelt and no prospect of getting anything more promising, I abandon my remaining questions and thank the singer for his time. Just before we hang up, a first hint of burgeoning interview chops finally surfaces: "Oh yeah, it will be great to meet you," he says, this time sounding genuinely sincere—although at no point have we ever discussed meeting.
That's the thing about music interviews, though. They're a sometimes-necessary evil. Often—maybe even most often—they're the last thing either party wants to be doing, but they're a convention of the industry, and possibly still for a good reason. At worst, you'll waste a few minutes of each other's time and emerge with nothing valuable. At best, you'll make a resounding connection, one involving some revelatory anecdotes, if all goes well, and in turn produce an article more interesting to the reader than the typical slew of blather you'd otherwise hear from either side.
It's fortuitous for everyone involved with this one, then, that Iceage's music speaks for itself. The band's debut full-length, New Brigade, released last year in Europe to international accolades—and which subsequently blew through several limited-run releases earlier this year in the United States—shows no sign of waning in demand. Now in relatively wide release here via What's Your Rupture?, New Brigade sounds like the work of a band well into its career, only shot through with the vibrancy of a young, fiery group's very first record (and there's no denying that first records are usually a band's best). New Brigade is essentially a punk album, but it's uncannily refined considering the age of its authors (all between 18 and 19 years old), and it's thoroughly engaging from start to finish. There is not a single dud.
"White Rune," probably Iceage's best-known track, breaks in with high-tension guitar, menacing vocals, and a drumbeat that will not be shaken. The title track follows without delay, and the only reprieve arrives with "Remember," the album's sole ballad (if there's one to be had here), and one of its strongest numbers. The remainder of New Brigade doesn't ever really relent or lapse in quality.
While all members of the band—who've been playing together since around the age of 14—execute with impressive technical and artistic skill, it's drummer Glenn Maryanski's attack that strikes out across the span. Maryanski plays headstrong and straightforward, never falling to the temptation of an ill-timed fill or showy transition, but consistently dazzling with breakneck precision and seemingly preternatural instinct for the proper beat.
Any way you cut it, Rønnenfelt and company (Johan Surrballe Wieth, Dan Kjaer Nielsen, Jakob Tvilling Pless) shouldn't really care about giving a good talk on the phone. What were you doing at 18 years old? I, for one, was barely graduating high school, smoking too much pot, and generally fucking off all over the place.
"I'm not going to be playing when I'm old," Rønnenfelt told the New York Times back in June. "I don't know any bands that have careers we envy."
Meanwhile, back in Copenhagen, all original members—except Johan, who lives with Jakob's family—still haven't left home. "I clean up shit and have a horrible job," Rønnenfelt says when I ask what he does for work in Denmark. They don't have any concrete plans for how long they'll keep Iceage going, he says. They're just riding this thing, and they'll get off "when it stops being fun." Here's hoping it doesn't stop being fun for them anytime soon.
This article has been updated since its original publication.