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Art Vs Science – Reinterpreting The Songs Of Icehouse

Written by Michael Carr on September 13, 2011

Having been handpicked by the lovely people at Jack Daniels to reinterpret the songs of classic Australian band Icehouse as part of the JD Set celebrating the birth of the company’s founder Jack Daniels, Art vs Science weren’t quite sure what they were getting themselves into at first. Better known for their barn-storming brand of live dance music than anthemic Australiana, the band nevertheless soon found their feet, as well as a new found appreciation of the songwriting.

Currently preparing for the show after only recently retiring from a US tour, The JD will feature a host of collaborators including Kate Miller Heidke and Patience Hodgson from The Grates, not to mention some super special secret guests. We went into the rehearsal studio and caught up with keyboardists Dan and Jim and drummer Dan S while they were running through a few tracks with Dappled Cities’ Tim Derricourt on the vox.

Music Feeds: So, being chosen to reinterpret the songs of Icehouse, did you feel intimidated at all?

Jim: We did at first. I think we were a bit scared at first actually, and we didn’t know that we could do it justice, but now we’re playing them, it’s just really exciting. They’re good songs and they’re so much fun to play, just working through them in the studio has been great.

Dan S: It was really exciting this morning when Tim came in, it was like all of a sudden the vocalist was there and it all sounded like it was coming together.

Jim: Today was the first time I could really imagine it working in front of a crowd. I guess once vocals are added to any song written with them in mind, it really ties things up.

MF: So have you made many changes to the songs?

Dan: It was mainly just fitting all the songs into two sets of keyboards. There are a lot of songs where guitar is the main part, so we started out and I was playing guitar but then I couldn’t play anything else, so now we’re more trying to approximate guitar sounds on my keyboard, and it works pretty well cos the keyboard is going through a Marshall amp with plenty of gain. So if I play power chords on an electric piano setting it sounds pretty close.

Jim: I thought one of them was a guitar effect?

Dan: Yeah, it’s called Dino Lead.

Jim: It’s quite convincing for an early 90s keyboard.

Dan: Well, it is still going through a Marshall with heaps of gain, so all the elements are there, except the actual guitar.

MF: Must be great though, working with all these other artists; I guess it would almost be like having a side project.

Jim: It kind of is, and it’s awesome because we don’t really get to play with different musicians that often. I mean, just jamming with Tim before, it was like, wow, he’s a really good singer.

Dan: Yeah, it’s also really good for us because we don’t have to worry about singing (laughs).

MF: Is collaboration something you guys enjoy playing around with? Have you done much of it in the past?

Jim: We’ve done other collaborations in the past. We did something with this Japanese girl, which was organised by APRA a little while ago for the One Movement Festival in Perth, which is no longer happening. But otherwise not that much.

MF: Has it been hard at all, working out of your comfort zone somewhat and having to co-ordinate all these other busy artists?

Dan: Hopefully we’ll have everything ready for when they come in tomorrow. I reckon it will be OK.

Jim: Yeah, as long as you know it has to happen. It’s like Uni exams though, you just don’t worry about it because you know that no matter what, you’ve got to get it done even if it means staying up all night writing it.

Dan: That doesn’t always work though. I had that attitude once and it got to the day and I was like, yep it’s going to get done, and it didn’t get done. I ended up handing it in a week late.

MF: How about the songs, have you enjoyed working with new material?

Dan S: It’s cool learning other people’s songs though because, for instance with Can’t Help Myself, the song has a very deceptively weird structure, which you wouldn’t really realise until you learn it and play it, and it’s great because that’s all stuff you can use later.

Dan: Yeah he does a lot of weird things with chords and stuff like, he’ll have a third verse but it will be in a different key, so it doesn’t feel like you’re just going back to the verse but it still feels familiar. That’s the genius stuff.

Jim: Yeah, and stuff like he’ll sing a melody and then there will be a synth line following it just to give it a bit of something extra. Just the kinds of things that if you sat down and listened really careful you’d notice, but that generally you don’t until you sit down and start playing it.

Dan: Yeah, also a lot of people dismiss stuff like this because it’s really well known, you know it’s an 80s hit. If someone took you into the studio and played it to you for the first time, you’d think it was amazing but because it’s been on the radio for so long you tend to discount it.

JD SET Dates

Melbourne – Wednesday the 14th of September
Trak – Buy Tickets

Sydney – Thursday September 15th
Upstairs Beresford – Buy Tickets

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