by Rob van Alstyne
The Icy Shores, a two-headed monster of simultaneously slick and crunchy pop, are not your typical local rock band. Comprised of ex-pats from lands far (vocalist/guitarist Hunter Jonakin and bassist Shane Stubblefield originally hail from Alabama) and farther (vocalist/guitarist Nick Hegarty was born in the UK), only drummer Nick Larsen is a Twin Cities native. Already veterans of various outfits by the time of the Icy Shores’ formation—Jonakin and Stubblefield criss-crossed the country touring with Godplow during the mid ‘90s—the band chose to take its time and slowly sculpt what would become their debut project, What You Get and How You Get It.
actually been playing for quite awhile … just not really in front of anyone,”
claims Hegarty, the gruffer and lower-pitched voice singing lead on half of
What You Get’s tracks. “This record has taken forever to
come along. We started playing about three years ago. The difference for me
between this project and my previous bands is really just a matter of growing
up. I was playing in [my previous band Hollypond] when I was 18, 19—obviously
things change pretty drastically from that period in your life. The openness
of our collaboration has also made the songs different. With this first record
most of the songs were written by Hunter or me and individually and then arranged
by the group. We’ve already started moving towards more co-writing; the
newer stuff we’ve started working on is already totally different because
Hopefully the even newer “new stuff” won’t stray too far from
the effective formula present on the still hot-off-the-presses What You Get
and How You Get It, which was finally unveiled back in November on Catlick
Records (home to the similarly clean-pop inclined Landing Gear). The album’s
pristine pop production—slick guitar lines and stealthy keyboard lines
abound—envelops the tracks of two very different singer/songwriters and
manages to make the entire affair cohesive even though Jonakin’s pleasingly
light tenor (a near dead ringer for local music heavyweight James Diers of Love-cars/Halloween,
Alaska) tends to be married to bouncier mid-tempo numbers, and Hegarty’s
lower Pete-Yorn-reminiscent warble is usually responsible for the more overtly
aggressive rock material. Recorded with the aid of Dave West (Landing Gear)
and Bryan Hannah (who’s mixed albums for artists ranging from the Orange
Peels and Hang Ups to Sean Na Na), the album sounds like a million bucks—a
pleasant deception as I found out.
actually started the record at Terrarium studios back in January [of 2005] and
just tracked drums. That was with Bryan Hannah. I think most of us would agree
that was the most important part. Then we basically took it from there and just
used [digital home recording program] ProTools all over the place—all
of the other recording was in basements. That’s why it took forever. ProTools
is great because you can mess with it as long as you want, and it’s also
horrible because you can mess with it as long as you want. I’m
anal, my feeling was always I’m going to have to live with this record
for the rest of my life and I don’t want to take it down off the shelf
and be embarrassed about some really sucky performance that we kept on there
in the interest of time. So that meant that a lot of deadlines came and went.
My vision as we were recording was just to make sure it was all absolutely correct.
In hindsight that might detract from spontaneity and rawness; listening to it
now there are points where I wish it was more explosive.”
You’ve got to hand it to a musician when they beat you to your own critical
punch through self-assessment. The polished sound feels perfectly suited for
Jonakin’s more placid explorations, including stand-out cuts like “Shudder
Shocked Awake” and the coolly grooving “Warning Set,” although
some local hipsters may find the sound a little too suited to the like of Cities
similarly shiny aggro-rock finds its zenith in the opening “Backseat”
and its nadir in the theatrical crunchiness of “Dialing for Dollars,”
could slip into 93X’s rotation during that station’s more thoughtful
moments. Although they’re solidly constructed songs with intriguing lyrics,
one can’t help but get the feeling that perhaps a little more fire and
a little less ice would have elevated this album to another level—Hegarty’s
own self-awareness of this fact certainly bodes well for the future.
Hegarty is well aware that the relatively straightforward sound of his band
is actually one of the factors making it hard for the group to make headway
locally in the notoriously adventurous music scene, despite the fact that it
would undoubtedly find rapid success precisely because of its accessibility
in a different kind of town.
“It’s been kind of weird,” admits Hegarty of his band’s
first extended forays into local gigging—after playing roughly two shows
a year before the album’s release, the Icy Shores now have three local
shows slated in less than two weeks. “We’re still trying to figure
out how we fit in with what’s going on in the Minneapolis music scene.
Because comparatively we have a really straight ahead sound, I think that can
kind of work against us. That being said, the shows recently have gone pretty
The Icy Shores perform on Thu., Jan. 12 at the Triple Rock Social Club with
Building Better Bombs and The ‘Fraid. 9 p.m. $6. 21+. 629 Cedar Ave. S.,
Mpls. 612-333-7399. They play again on Saturday, Jan. 14 at the 400 Bar with
Moonmaan and The Spectaculars. 9 p.m. $5 adv / $7 door. 21+. 400 Cedar Ave.
S., Mpls. 612-332-2903.
For more information on The Icy Shores visit their website at TheIcyShores.com.
Or head on over to www.pulsetc.com to download an mp3 of the Icy Shores’
song “Shudder Shocked Awake.”