INTERVIEW W/ JOEY RUBENSTEIN BY NICHOLAS SENIOR
In a scene awash with every new band sounding almost exactly like the last “it band”, Icarus the Owl are ready to break down your perceptions of punk music. They’re not quite progressive, but the band’s dexterity with time signature shifts and technical guitar lines is a welcome addition to the melodic punk genre. This is head nodding music, but be warned: you can’t nod your head to the beat very easily. The band released Love Always, Leviathan at the end of June, which is the perfect time for these thinking man’s summer anthems
Could you give a brief history of the band?
Icarus The Owl was started in 2009 when I lived in a 24/7 rehearsal space in Portland,OR. I wanted to completely immerse myself in what I was doing. I woke up, rolled over, and starting making songs 12 hours a day until it was time to record them. After the album was released, we followed the 2009 Warped Tour to get our name out there as much as we could. We wanted to hit the road full time. We have been touring ever since.
How would you describe your band’s sound to someone who has never heard of ICARUS THE OWL?
People have called us a pop/punk Protest The Hero. People call us Math Rock. But I am pretty clueless on genres these days. People take them way too seriously. if you inaccurately describe your band, then people argue about the way you described your band instead of taking in the content of your music. I would say mathy pop-rock is pretty accurate.
Your album Love Always, Leviathan was just recently released. I’ll admit that it was quite a pleasant surprise, as I hadn’t heard of you until last month. Great job on the album! What are your thoughts on the finished product and its reception so far?
Thank You! I am super proud of how it came out. Stephan Hawkes at Interlace Audio did an amazing job with the production. I really think we pushed what we are all about as a band to the extreme in each direction. I love catchy pop music and I also love technical music. However, you can’t just listen to super technical music all day and sing-along to it because most of it isn’t very catchy, nor is it meant to be. We wanted to bridge that gap. Hopefully pop listeners appreciate the musicianship and hopefully musicians appreciate the digestibility. So far the reception and the reviews indicate that we succeeded. But at the end of the day they are just songs we wrote and enjoy playing, and if people like them then that rules.
Where did you get the idea for the album title? How about for the album cover?
This is going to sound silly. As band mates we always are emailing each other back and forth to keep one another current on what is going in with the band. I was emailing our guitarist, AJ, and I signed the email “Love Always, Leviathan”. I always sign my emails with something silly. I happen to write about the sea a lot. When we were coming up with the art concept we wanted it sea themed. Leviathan is a mythical sea monster and it completely fit with the album art and a lot of the themes on the CD. The child holding the umbrella under a tidal wave represents a child’s imagination and naivety. Obviously the tidal wave is going to crush him, but he believes that the umbrella he is holding will actually keep him safe. There is something profoundly beautiful about not knowing about the harm that awaits you.
What is your favorite song from the album to play live? Is there one in particular that has a special meaning to you?
Right now it is “Nuclear Towns”. It is super energetic and fun to play live. I think it translates into a live setting the best so far. They all have a lot of meaning to me, but I really love the way my voice was captured at the end of “Love Always, Leviathan”.
Speaking of touring, what are your road plans for the summer? Do you have something lined up for this Fall?
Right now we are on tour for 2 months in support of “Love Always, Leviathan” . The tour started on June 21st and will end on August 17th. This fall we are going to film a music video and probably write an EP. We have 3 songs already recorded for it.
How do you keep yourself entertained on the road?
Words With Friends, TV shows, and Xbox! AJ has this awesome Xbox case with a screen in it. It’s amazing for touring. We also harmonize weird statements when we get delirious. I may have made us sound boring. I meant to say that we party super hard.
What have been your best and worst moments while on tour? Are there any particularly funny or embarrassing stories from the ICARUS THE OWL camp?
The best moments are when we play somewhere we have never played before and people are singing the words to our songs. There is no better feeling. Even if there are only 5 kids there to see you and are singing along, then all is well in the Icarus camp. The worst moments are when the tour is over or when we have to drive through the snow. We definitely miss our girlfriends, family, and friends. I suppose waking up sweating in the van is pretty uncomfortable. Nothing too embarrassing so far. Just a lot of farting, peeing in bottles, and silliness.
What is the best part about being from Portland? What do recommend people do when they visit?
I LOVE Portland. Clean air, trees galore, hoodie weather most of the time, and a lot of culture. There is a surplus of hipsters, thus the show “Portlandia” isn’t far off from the truth, but I love it and all it’s weirdness. I recommend people check out waterfront, eat at the food carts, walk across the Hawthorne bridge(awesome view), eat at Portland City Grill (even better view), and eat Voodoo Donuts(you have to do at least one generic touristy thing)
How is the music scene in Portland?
It is weird and super hit or miss. There are so many bars with live music and delicious food. You can find live music any night of the week at so many places. This makes the scene a bit oversaturated. I think there needs to be a big change in the all ages scene. We tour to places with awesome all ages scenes where kids throw their own shows at VFW halls. Portland doesn’t really have that. We have awesome venues to play at, but they are also competing with a dozen other awesome venues. Don’t get me wrong, we love our Portland shows and our hometown fans.
What bands or artists are you listening to right now? Do you have any guilty pleasure summer songs?
I am listening to a lot of Edison Glass, Park, Thrice, Paper Rival, Cave In, and Tegan And Sara. I love big girls don’t cry by Fergie- that’s my guilty pleasure. Whenever it’s Rob’s turn to drive you will definitely be hearing Animals As Leaders.
What inspired you to pursue a career in music? Were there any particular albums or bands that served as a catalyst to your love of music?
Blink 182’s The Urethra Chronicles VHS tape sparked something for me. Their sense of humor hit home for me and the fact that they got to do what they loved for a living inspired me. I have always been a fan of music. As a child I was exposed to bands like Queen and Rush. I got hooked on fast music really early on in life. Weather it was fast death metal or NOFX, I just wanted to hear that fast punk beat everyone does. I started getting very passionate with my music listening with bands like NOFX, Pennywise, Blink 182, and Bad Religion. From there it snowballed into me wanting to play music like those bands. As I grew older my taste in music evolved, but I still love those bands.
Back to touring for a second: what would be your ideal touring line-up? Who has been your favorite group you’ve toured with so far?
We played some shows with our friends from North Dakota called “It Came From The Sea”. They are really fun guys to be around. We’d love to tour with them. But my dream tour of bands who are still alive would be Blink 182, Thrice, Death Cab For Cutie, and Icarus The Owl.
Do you have anything else that you would like to tell our readers?
Thanks so much for reading this interview and checking out our band. We really appreciate it! Talk to us on our Facebook, as we love chatting with people about music!