Icky Blossoms on the Earth Day stage in Elmwood Park, April 21, 2012.
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
The germination of Omaha indie dance-rock band Icky Blossoms dates back to a different sort of flower created by the band’s mastermind, Derek Pressnall.
Started in 2007 as a side project to Pressnall’s main band, Tilly and the Wall, Flowers Forever was a multi-layered, psych-rock head trip, but by 2010 the band’s sound began to change. The band’s final evolution came at a frenzied performance at Slowdown Jr. in October 2010. With only about 50 people left in the club, Flowers Forever closed the evening with an unexpected number called “Babes” that transformed the room into a throbbing dance club. The crowd, who only moments earlier had been struck motionless by the thick, buzz-saw shoegaze sound of Montreal band No Joy, at once lost all inhibitions and simply let go, liberated by the song’s irresistible bass line and disco thump-thump-thump.
Bodies moved. Hands rose. Sweat glistened. And just like that, Icky Blossoms was born. At its core were Pressnall channeling John Lydon and Fred Schneider, dreamy blond vocalist Sarah Bohling sounding like a modern-day Nico, and crazy-haired guitarist/dynamo Nik Fackler, on his knees coaxing shrill noises from his axe, lost in the moment.
When “Babes” ground to a halt the crowd cried out to hear it again. Never ones to disappoint, Pressnall and Co. took it from the top, and the party continued. And then things got weird(er) when someone (maybe Capgun Coup’s Sam Martin) broke open an enormous bag of popcorn and began throwing it like like buttered confetti. It was strange, surreal, fun, and became a sort of blueprint for future performances.
“Every performance should evoke emotion, danger, excitement,” Pressnall said, surrounded by his bandmates last week at the Old Dundee Bar & Grill. “What’s the worst thing that could happen? We’re a rock ’n’ roll band. We want the show to be exciting and a little uncomfortable in the best sense of the word. We’re trying to push ourselves on stage, and there’s a bit of magic involved.”
Icky Blossoms, self-titled (Saddle Creek, 2012)
The band tried to recreate that magic when recording its debut earlier this year with TV on the Radio’s David Sitek in his Los Angeles studio. “We were looking for instantaneous grooves,” Pressnall said. “That was the first thing we talked about for every song — the groove has to be there as soon as the music starts.”
“We constantly asked ourselves if a song would translate to a huge club or a massive festival,” Bohling said. “Would the groove get everyone’s attention?”
No doubt the grooves on the new album are impossible to ignore. Clocking in at around 42 minutes of sonic debauchery, Icky Blossoms’ debut, slated for release by Saddle Creek Records July 17, re-imagines the band’s dense, high-energy live sound. At the core are the songs — modern dance numbers that combine house beats and sonic stylings influenced by bands like Jesus and Mary Chain, The Happy Mondays, Depeche Mode, The B-52s, The Cure, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Public Image Limited and hometown heroes The Faint. Pressnall, Bohling and Fackler know what buttons to push, and gleefully jam them down as hard as possible on every track.
Album highlights include howling opening number “Heat Lightning,” orgiastic dance mantra “Sex to the Devil,” hypnotic album closer (and early single) “Perfect Vision,” and, of course, the track that’s bound to light up every runway at Fashion Week this fall, “Babes.” Taken individually, each track has its own sonic vibe; but as a whole, the album can be overwhelming, if not exhausting.
While Pressnall, Bohling and Fackler are the core members, the band’s stage lineup is a revolving cast. The current configuration includes the powerhouse rhythm section of drummer Clark Baechle of The Faint and high-kicking bassist Saber Blazek of Lincoln band The Machete Archive.
“It’s safe to say Clark has come up with some things that have impacted the band,” Pressnall said, though he added that they could lose their star drummer now that The Faint intends to regroup later this year. “Both Clark and Saber will work with us for the next six months,” he added. “Who knows where we’ll go from there.”
But that’s not the biggest question hanging over Icky Blossoms’ future. Beyond the fact that Tilly and the Wall has recorded a new album set for release later this year by Team Love Records, Pressnall and wife Jamie (also a member of Tilly) have a couple young children to raise. How can he do that and tour?
“Being away from my children is incredibly hard, much harder than I thought it would be,” Pressnall said. “It’s hard to describe. The separation really started to affect me after a couple weeks in LA. When touring, I would like to see my kids at least every two weeks, but if I had to I could go out for four weeks at a time. We’ll figure it out.”
Then there’s Fackler, who is more well-known outside of Omaha as a successful filmmaker. His 2008 feature film debut, Lovely, Still, which starred Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn, landed him a nomination for an Independent Spirit Award.
Fackler just completed his second feature film, a documentary titled Sick Birds Die Easy shot in the jungles of Africa. “It’s an exploration of western culture and ancient culture, drug addiction, spirituality and the destiny of mankind,” Fackler said. Now that the first cut is in the can, he’s in the process of submitting the film to festivals, which he says will tie him up most of July.
But with all that going on, the band still plans to tour this fall and winter. They’ve already signed with national booker The Windish Agency (M83, Ra Ra Riot, Dirty Projectors) and have their hearts set on a landing an opening slot with a more established band.
But no matter who it is, Fackler said the goal will still be to create an environment from the stage where people can let loose and dance. “If you’re making music, that’s the best compliment.”
Icky Blossoms will celebrate the release of its debut album with UUVVWWZ and Depressed Buttons Tuesday, July 3 at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $7. For more information, call 402.884.5353 or visit onepercentproductions.com.
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Muscle Shoals, Alabama band Nightmare Boyzzz calls their music “Shit Pop,” which conjures a number of unsavory images that seem right at home at a place like O’Leaver’s. They actually play sweet garage rock that recalls our old friends The Ramones. Check out “Devil III” and “My Body Breaks Down” at their Bandcamp page. Also on the bill, Omaha’s own Peace of Shit and Black Out Sounds (Worried Mothers, Thee Tapeheads). O’Leaver’s, $5, 9:30 p.m.
The Whipkey Three returns to The Waiting Room stage tonight in support of their recent self-released album Two Truths. Read more about Matt and the boys and the new record here. Opening is The Lupines (Ziegler, Tulis, Friedman, Dabestani, amazing) and The Ground Tyrants. $7, 9 p.m.
Also tonight, Lonely Estates plays at The Barley Street Tavern with The Rocketboys and From Indian Lakes. $5, 9 p.m.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.