MEN OF MANY COLOURS
Even though they were a phenomenal commercial success and have written some of the smartest (Taking the Town), eeriest (Icehouse) and iconic (Great Southern Land) songs in the last 30 years, Icehouse don’t really get their dues. Yes, they’re widely respected, but not loved in the same non-ironic way as Midnight Oil or The Saints. Now I’m not suggesting it warrants a Royal Commission, but it’s not entirely out of order.
Now that they have reformed in the wake of the recent remastering of the debut album (Icehouse) and greatest hits CD/DVD set (White Heat) lead singer/guitarist and songwriter, Iva Davies is in the odd position of talking about his band again. “It’s slightly surreal and it’s becoming my job again. But it’s also quite an interesting time because I am going back to a place I know very well but I just haven’t visited it for a long time.”
From the debut through to the massive best seller Man of Colours, Davies worked his way through multiple genres and played around with what constituted a ‘pop song’: the epic dryness of Southern Land, the radio friendly bombast of Mr Big, the new wave urgency of Taking the Town, the Bowie-ness of Hey, Little Girl. From the very beginning it sounded like Icehouse knew exactly what they wanted. Not so says Davies – “I didn’t have perspective or any kind of distance at all. So in that sense I didn’t have a vision. All I had was a very strong knowledge of what I wanted and what I didn’t want.”
Surprisingly it turns out that what he wanted was Pink Floyd. “I was 17 when I first heard Dark Side of the Moon – it had an extraordinary space you could just walk around in. It told me that you could do amazing things in a recording studio. Because even though we were basically a pub band what I really wanted to do was get into a studio and make those kinds of aural pictures.”
During the ruthless local ‘80s pub rock scene Icehouse not only prospered, they also had no problem playing certain industry games. Like playing on the venerable Countdown. “We were a bit of an anomaly. I was very aware that we were a punk band in the middle of a punk movement but also very contradictory. We didn’t buy into the grandstanding that came with the punk movement. It ultimately evaporated but was taken very seriously at the time. But we had our own space so it didn’t worry us that we could go from the Oxford Tavern [tough as nails Sydney pub] and then turn up on Countdown. Didn’t bother us in the least.”
And now they’re playing shows again, Davies finds himself in pubs again, playing a warm up show at St Kilda’s Esplanade Hotel recently. “I haven’t been in a pub for about 20 years! So it was quite a shock to the system.”
Icehouse are making a comeback at Homebake on Saturday December 3 at the Domain in Sydney. Tickets are available through Ticketek from $102. The band will also be playing Meredith Music Festival from Friday December 9 to Sunday December 11. Unfortunately, tickets are sold out.