In an interview with group co-founder and guitarist Johan Surrballe Wieth before Sunday’s show at Triple Rock, it appeared some of the band’s snotty disregard had subsided. The switchblade logo that shadowed their “New Brigade” album art resurfaced on their sophomore follow-up, February’s “You’re Nothing.” But from process to performance, the group’s early inklings of manifesto seem to have transformed into something more introverted.
“[You’re Nothing] is quite flexible. It depends on how you’re feeling,” Wieth said. “When we play live, it kind of depends on how we feel that day. It goes as much inward toward us as much as it can go outward.”
Not unlike Iceage’s first record, “You’re Nothing” can be an exhausting listen. Previously, Wieth’s guitar work played out as standard hardcore fodder, the exception being that his chord progressions tended to ascend toward catharsis where American players are typically more manic. “You’re Nothing” has moments, such as “In Haze,” which reveal Wieth in an altered mode. Double-time guitar chugging has been traded for bending riffs that climb and crumble with RØnnenfelt’s Ian-Curtis-on-the-cross moans. It’s a sensible shift in complexity. Much of their first record was written for the stage. Iceage spent last May recording “You’re Nothing” on the remote island of MØn.
“It definitely helped us concentrate. We couldn’t do anything but record, so it helped us focus a lot,” Wieth said. “That focus shaped some things on it.”
The resulting record is not without its internal ambitions. A fragile piano carries album highlight “Morals.” It’s a mid-record breather that leaves the keys sitting low in the mix, a left-field inclusion that feels more ephemeral than anachronistic. In name alone, “New Brigade” gave the impression that Iceage would perhaps adhere to some stringent punk dogma. Instead, it subverts that idea at almost every turn.
“I think that would be horrible if one was to make up rules for themselves,” Wieth said. “There aren’t any rules, and I guess I don’t really see us as a punk band in that way. When we write stuff, we don’t write punk songs. We just write songs.”
While brief and deliberate in conversation, Wieth is neither glib nor closed toward touchier subjects — such his band’s 2011 video for “New Brigade,” which showed the members donning eerily klansmanesque robes. Wieth called the resulting inferences that Iceage has some right-wing or fascist affiliation “ridiculous accusations.”
And as forceful as his words are, RØnnenfelt’s lyrics are often too busy self-inflicting to be outwardly hateful. Iceage is also remarkably young. Wieth is 20, and his bandmates — mostly childhood cohorts — are about the same. The group can be a challenging punk act on record, but those grayer shades of intention could simply reveal youngsters thumbing their noses from across the globe.
“We just kind of do everything together. Things are rarely discussed, so I guess, in a way, it’s unconscious,” Wieth said. “I think it makes some people uneasy, and then people start making things up.”
As Iceage preps for a slew of U.S. dates, Wieth said that their merch items will be “just records and T-shirts this time,” which is likely for the best. If nothing else, the new material from “You’re Nothing” cuts deep enough all on its own.
With: Condominium, Wild Child, Ex Nuns.
When: 9 p.m. Sun.
Where: Triple Rock.