Iceage Find Accidental Paradise With ‘Beyondless' and Beyond

Elias Bender Ronnenfelt is a wayward intellectual poet-singer with a critical gaze trained on an unenlightened world

Iceage exude nihilistic charm, their opening salvo on "Beyondless" a fusillade of facetiousness and measured irony. "Hurrah," Elias Bender Ronnenfelt sings, "No, we can't stop killing / And we'll never stop killing / And we shouldn't stop killing / Hurrah."

Then again, there could be a significant amount of sincerity in that.

For Ronnenfelt, with whom I spoke over the phone earlier this month, the medium isn't necessarily the message. Music, for the Danish punk songwriter, is largely a vessel for a new kind of literature.

"For me, [lyrics] become something that's crucial, something that can be a mixture of adding a sense of gravity to the song but also be a means to capture a certain thought or impression or life lived or an experience. It's interesting to me how they can make a composition of music suddenly be tied to a certain memory or period of time you experienced or a frame of mind. Over the years, they probably become more and more important to me," he said.

Ronnenfelt embraces the Dylan/Cohen mythos of the wayward intellectual poet-singer with a penchant for smoking and a critical gaze trained on an unenlightened world.

"Leonard Cohen has been one who's been very instrumental in showing me ... like you can do something more with lyrics than a traditional kind of lyricism. Literature, too, more than anything. Henry Miller has been a massive influence. It doesn't even matter if I hear something that I don't like. It makes itself into this vacuum of words and melody that ends up influencing me," Ronnenfelt said.

With that mythos comes a certain amount of naivete, idealism and a strange sort of endearing self-centeredness about exactly how or why people respond, and have responded, so well to it. 

"I don't like to think of [music] as a market. That's a bit of a demeaning thing of looking at the individuals that you reach out to as a market. And that's exactly it; it's a collective of individuals. The way that you leave an impression on those individuals is, of course, completely individual," he said.

"Around the world, cultures are different and, of course, there's a bit of a difference whether you play in Japan or Spain. I feel like it's all just people that care enough to make themselves present to listen and be there and take part of what it is to gather around the practice of a concert. Cultures might be different, but in my case, wherever I go, it's our music that's the center of it," he added.

Iceage were lucky. Or smart. Aspirations -- at least according to Ronnenfelt -- weren't really a part of the genesis of the band. They sort of stumbled into success, which is an attractive position to be in.

"I didn't really have any plans for success or making an active attempt at it besides when people wanted to listen. None of us had anything going for us in terms of education. I'm a high school dropout. Nothing else made sense. I don't really think I had a wish from the get-go for music to end up being what I do," Ronnenfelt said.

It's that same sort of meandering, apathetic course toward accidental paradise that gives "Beyondless" its own internal logic. 

"I like the word because it's so open to interpretation, and it doesn't exist in the dictionary. I lifted it from a [Samuel] Beckett novel. For the time in my life that I was trying to describe, that word seemed to be a perfect way to summarize it. It suggests something that does not have a beyond, and that does a pretty loaded, open thing," Ronnenfelt said.

Iceage play House of Blues with Black Lips and Surfbort on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Get tickets here.

Rutger Ansley Rosenborg has been an Associate Editor at NBC SoundDiego since 2016. Find out more here, or contact him here.

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