Ice Black Birds have drawn favourable comparisons to foot-stomping rock revivalists The Black Keys, taken inspiration from psychedelic legends like The Doors, and cite The Rolling Stones as influences. So it would be fair to conclude that there’s a collective sixties fixation, right? “We never set out to revive any kind of scene”, asserts charismatic frontman Sam Denniston. “I think the music you’ve grown up with just ends up coming out in the songs.”
Denniston and guitarist George Grinling, who’ve known each other since school, formed the band in late 2008 after meeting bassist Peter Hudson and drummer Oliver Liddiard at university. Their body of work is an authentic and unpretentious sound that’s all their own, with jerky guitars giving their bluesy Americana riffs that new wave edge. Standout track ‘22:22’ sounds a bit like The Knack, albeit if they’d had Jim Morrison on vocals. Any hints of art rock, however, are entirely accidental. “We’ve really got back into Talking Heads and Devo recently,” says Denniston. “We’ve had feedback from people telling us we sound a bit like them, so we thought we should revisit those bands.”
Judging by their appearance, they could hail from Brooklyn or Portland. But when asked what the Brighton-based band make of their own seaside city, Liddiard instantly replies, “I love it,” and rounds off a list of his favourite places to watch a gig or grab a pint. Apparently, Brighton is also a haven for anyone with a sense of fun who likes a bargain. “We got all this stuff for six quid from charity shops,” says Grinling, pointing to a crumpled pile of patterned clothes. Refreshingly, they freely admit to having an interest in their image, even if it’s simply to add another element of enjoyment to their live performances. “Dressing each other just makes playing much more fun, but if you’re too harsh they can get their own back,” elaborates Denniston. “Tonight, I’m going on stage in a poncho,” he adds, illustrating his point.
The boys give off the impression that they’re having a brilliant time making music – and so they should – they’ve already put in a lot of hard work, and are due to release their album soon. “It took us like, a month to do,” says Denniston, referring to the recording process. “We recorded with a friend, who’s quite a young producer. It’s really raw and pretty lo-fi,not inaudible, but just very stripped back and we kind of wanted that. We wanted to produce an album that we can replicate perfectly live, without too many embellishments on it.”
As an unsigned band, they are “feeling their way blindly in the dark” as Denniston puts it, but this hasn’t been a setback. “It’s important to have people who believe in the music, because the industry’s changed quite a lot and you don’t need to rely on labels as much,” reasons Liddiard. And if they did get signed? “I suppose it would be nice to have some financial backing and contacts,” says Denniston, wistfully adding, “if we could get someone really cool on board then that would be great.”