Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Patrick Stolley
Once, a long time ago, I made the mistake that was actually no mistake at all. Writing about a musician, a bigger deal than thought necessary was made out of a small, greenish black star tattoo that rested permanently on the meaty, webbing portion between his thumb and index finger. He said that it had a special meaning, when asked - something about his roots and unity is what I'm remembering now - and it was used as the lede to the piece that was written and printed in the newspaper. He thought it didn't matter as much as the music, but that tattoo was telling.
In his songs, he writes about where he's from, this great river town and encourages out all of the tiny eccentricities of that old feel, when hulking buffalo roamed over these parts and were being felled by arrows whittled out of soft rocks. His songs smell like the dark earth after being ripped violently open by a heavy steel plow and of smoke and fire. They are about unity and they are about roots and the family that came before him - a string of ancestors that have moved with the times. Griffin Rodriguez, the leader of Chicago-based band Icy Demons, had a tell kind of like that, a glaring oddity, when he was in for a quick stop off between Minneapolis and Madison one week ago. The back right pocket on his jeans was riddled with a sizable hole and the only thing holding it together was a couple brave slices of white thread. His wallet hung precariously from it, looking to be just one turn or belt adjustment away from shaking completely loose and falling hard to the ground, left for dead unknowingly.
In pointing out his potentially disastrous situation, he guffawed it away saying, "That's the beauty about it. It's not going to come out." The hole there and the ones in his knees were enough to put that pair of jeans on death row, turned into the never-nudes that might keep him cooler in the summer, but he was sticking with them because their holey way was the way that he was comfortable with. He's good, good friends with the precariousness that seems certain. That wallet SHOULD fall out of his back pocket - all gravity and science would say this should be a certainty, but as far as we know, it's still tucked snugly against his sweaty backside, exposed for all to see the leather hide grain. That wallet SHOULD be in serious trouble, but he's sure that it is not, that it will remain where it belongs, where he knows to find it the next time he needs it.
Icy Demons music is both the wallet and the bewitched pocket - the staying power and the devil. It makes no sense why it holds together so nicely (experimental dimensions are flooding every song they make) or why it works so well. There is an intrinsic belief that it's going to stay obedient for as long as the willpower dictates. The songs act like monkeys, just as the people do in the band's latest record's title track, "Miami Ice." It's the group's third album and one that could very easily be Rodriguez's way to finally make the Billy Ocean record that Neutral Milk Hotel never got around to making. We're talking waters that are diamonds, electronics that act like mimosas and vacation weather all rolled into some sort of concoction that could be sold by the pound like caramel and atomic fire balls.
The record makes your tongue taste like silver and your hair feel slicked back as if the spray from a speedboat in a rush across the surface of a lake was trying to wake you up. The songs that Griffin lets his imagination go wild on feel as if they were fruits - tropical ones - that you just jam a straw into and suddenly you can ingest them, pulp and all. You can leave back in them and justify not having an idea what you're supposed to be thinking at that very moment - about the sand that's suddenly gotten into your shoes and between your toes or the way that this is just a good hang and the buzz is well-applied.