Icky Blossoms: TAS In Session
Icky Blossoms are on a North American tour with The Faint these days — they play New York's Terminal 5 on December 7 — and they recently visited The Alternate Side's Studio A for a live session during which Pressnall, Bohling and Fackler chatted about everthing from the origin of "Babes" to baby wrangling. Read interview highlights and watch videos of the band's scintillating live performance below.
Even better, listen to Icky Blossoms in session this Friday, November 30, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11 a.m. EST and streaming on the TAS site.
Russ Borris: [It's the first] record for you guys. How did [Icky Blossoms] get together?
Sarah Bohling: Well, Derek and Nik were in another side project of Derek’s called Flowers Forever for a while and they asked me to come to that band practice. I showed up and we had a different sound after a couple of practices. They wanted to make Icky Blossoms the electronic band. We kept adding people and now we’re here.
Russ: Derek, you also have Tilly and the Wall. You have a lot of projects going on.
Derek Pressnall: I do. There is no downtime. I have two children so I’m watching my kids.
Russ: You have two kids and several bands.
Derek: Yes! Mostly my days are filled with music.
Sarah and Nik: And babies.
Russ: How old are your kids?
Derek: I have a son who is almost a year and a daughter who is almost three.
Russ: So has “Yo Gabba Gabba!” entered the equation in any way?
Derek: Yes. We want to play “Yo Gabba Gabba!” Have us on please.
Russ: When these songs start, and you begin writing them together, is it collaboration as far as the lyrics go? How does the music come into it and the whole process of writing the record go?
Derek: It kind of changes with each song. The beginnings of this band [involved] a lot of experimenting with different ways to write electronic music, fusing it with rock music. I’d say the most traditional way we’ve been doing it is that someone will go and start a song, start writing it and put some ideas for lyrics down and then present it to the band. We’ll all work on it together and go through the producing process together and make it sound the way we want it to sound.
Russ: You knew that what you wanted to do was electronic based?
Derek: Yes, definitely. We’re really excited that we’re in a techno band (laughs).
Russ: You got. Dave Sitek from TV on the Radio [to produce]. How does that happen?
Sarah: We made a wish list of producers that we wanted to work with and sent out a bunch of emails. Made some phone calls. Put out our positive energy to manifest. We’re big on that.
Derek: We’re believers in “The Secret.”
Sarah: Believers in “The Secret,” but not in Oprah. But [Dave] called us back after hearing a couple of demos [and said], “I’m really into it.” We worked it out, flew out to L.A. and stayed at his place for a month.
Russ: You guys had an idea of how you wanted the songs to sound. How did that differ when he came into the process?
Derek: Not too dramatically. We did a lot pre-production and demoing so when we came to the studio, we were pretty well prepared. But once there we experimented a lot and made new beats and grooves. All the demos were soft synths so once we got to Sitek’s, he had a whole room of real synths so we re-did all of the synthesizers.
Nik Fackler: Dereck came with a lot of experience having done three records with Tilly and the Wall. So we all had a distinct vision of what we wanted and it was good to have Sitek there; he had a very similar vision as far as what he wanted for the band too. We combined forces, explained to him how we wanted to sound — big and grand-sounding and to get people dancing. So we had a lot of dance parties to find that sound.
Russ: You weren’t afraid of making ["Perfect Vision"] big.
Nik: That was one of the first songs that we came together and started playing, “Perfect Vision.”
Russ: There’s some element of this record [in which I hear] some Jesus and Mary Chain. Do you come from that place?
Nik: Yes, definitely. I think we’re inspired by bands like Jesus and Mary Chain, Sonic Youth and stuff like that, on one level of the band. I think when Derek came to the band with this song, he said, “It’s got to have a Jesus and Mary Chain with a Beyoncé beat. That was step one for Icky Blossoms, was that idea. It grew from there.
Russ: There’s elements of hip hop and R&B beats in the band, for sure.
Nik: Definitely. We all come from diverse backgrounds of music — electronic music and hip hop to shoegaze and punk rock.
Russ: You probably didn’t have any expectations of the band when you’re just talking about making music and starting to write the songs. You don’t really necessairly know where it’s going to go.
Nik: Definitely. We were orginally playing with Derek’s band Flowers Forever, so it would be kind of Flowers Forever, and then we’d try playing this “Babes” song. Once we started going in that direction, that’s when things began changing and becoming Icky Blossoms.
Russ: Who started the lyrics on “Babes?”
Sarah: I wanted to write a song to the chords B-A-B-E because it dawned on me that it spells “Babe” and you can really play it. But it sounded really surf-y so I said, “Let’s just write a song about ladies taking care of babes.” And then we drank some beers and pretty much wrote the lyrics.
Nik: There was a weird beat made in GarageBand one night. We were all up in my room having drinks, messing around with the beat and we were having a lot of fun. So it came from us laughing and joking around and being really loose and playful. By the end of the night, “Babes” was written.
Sarah: There used to be a different verse, about women at the grocery store.
Russ: What happened to that?
Sarah: It wasn’t clubby!
Nik: I think babes are way more at the grocery store than at clubs a lot of the time.
Russ: When I first heard [“Babes”] I think I tweeted something about being totally into it. And I got a tweet back from you guys, of “We’re coming, we’re coming, we’re coming, Russ!” That scared me, like I was going to be attacked! There’s something seductively scary about the babes in that song.
Nik: Babes are always seductive and scary.
Sarah: We just tell the truth. All the time.
Derek: Hashtag “real talk.”
Sarah: We “real talk” with you.
Russ: Are we going to get the male end of that as an answer? Are we going to get “Dudes” at some point?'
Derek: We’re writing one right now called “Leather and Lace.” Stay tuned.
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