Interview: Adam Sorensen of Ice Palace

Indie rock journeyman Adam Sorensen’s career is finally heating up

Ice Palace assuming their “Flying V” band formation. PHOTO COURTESY STACIANN PHOTOGRAPHY.

Ashley Goetz

Ice Palace assuming their “Flying V” band formation. PHOTO COURTESY STACIANN PHOTOGRAPHY.

Adam Sorensen âÄî singer/guitarist of local rock group Ice Palace âÄî is not your typical buzz-band frontman. His parents arenâÄôt paying his tuition at MCAD , City Pages isnâÄôt drooling over his tight-panted hipsterdom and thereâÄôs no air of irony about him. Instead, heâÄôs pushing 40, works as a contractor and is grateful, to his core, that his songs are finally getting the attention they deserve. And SorensenâÄôs work is worth all the attention. On Ice PalaceâÄôs recently released sophomore LP âÄúWonder Subtly Crushing Us,âÄù the songs are decidedly mid-tempo indie in a The Wrens/Beulah underwhelming-but-still-great sort of way, but thatâÄôs just musically. With SorensenâÄôs prowess as a lyricist/singer, itâÄôs downright baffling he hasnâÄôt found success sooner in life. His fantastically weathered, earnest voice conjures both E of the Eels and David Berman of The Silver Jews . On top of sounding nice, his plaintive narratives wrestle despair and hope with an everymanâÄôs poetic sensibility âÄî and thrive in doing so. Prior to making âÄúWonder Subtly Crushing Us,âÄù Ice PalaceâÄôs lineup was completely revamped and now features scene fixture Jacob Grun of Me and My Arrow on guitar . ItâÄôs a lineup of musicians ready to work. The studio time used to record âÄúWSCUâÄù was paid for via Sorensen sheet-rocking Craig Minowa of Cloud CultâÄôs water damaged basement. ItâÄôs the same embracement of hard work that Ice Palace is beginning to channel. Aside from expertly arranged songs, a dynamic frontman and a generally accessible appeal, the most alluring aspect of Ice Palace is their lack of a sense of entitlement. These arenâÄôt kids. They know how the world works and âÄî as further driven home by âÄúWonder Subtly Crushing UsâÄù âÄî they know great music. A&E caught up with Ice Palace frontman Adam Sorensen to talk musical growth, the Twin Cities music scene and, of course, Belgian blogs. In what ways have you grown as a songwriter from âÄúBright Leaf LeftâÄù to the new disc? I had written all of this record before âÄúBright Leaf LeftâÄù [Ice PalaceâÄôs 2007 debut] came out. As I wrote the acoustic demo, I thought this was the best batch of songs IâÄôve ever worked on. As I worked on it and new members came on, I was very excited watching the record take shape and build. Each person along the way affected and altered the songs, just building and building. Then, Craig of Cloud Cult took all the songs and arranged it and tightened it up. A lot of reviewers have used words like âÄúdesolateâÄù and âÄúdarkâÄù to describe the band. When making the songs, what does this perceived darkness stem from? IâÄôve tended to write gloomy types of songs from day one. I think both the first record and this record do have poppier songs. ThereâÄôs a lot of hope and positivity that people donâÄôt catch. It might be dark and odd, but not depressing. ThereâÄôs definitely some gloom, but I tried to balance it out on this record. Actually, at some shows people are dancing. If you had my job, what genre would you peg the band as? Somebody wrote âÄúbi-polar folk rock.âÄù ThatâÄôs as good as anything else. Straight up âÄúindie rockâÄù works, too. WhatâÄôs the best part and whatâÄôs the worst part of the Twin Cities indie scene? On a whole, usually bands are pretty friendly with each other. You can do a show, meet bands and people get along well. Most people would say this, but also an incredible amount of diversity. As for a negative, maybe the same thing. There are so many bands; everybodyâÄôs sorta going for the same thing. But I donâÄôt have any bad feelings. There are a lot of great clubs to play, whether itâÄôs a big show or the Hexagon , any night can end up being a great night. You guys were in a Belgian battle of the bands. First, howâÄôd that come to be? Second, howâÄôd you guys do? I just found that in a blog. ItâÄôs quite funny; thereâÄôs a cutout of my head and a boxer’s body. Then thereâÄôs another band from England , and we were boxing it out. ItâÄôs all in French , and I canâÄôt read French. So, IâÄôm not sure who won. YouâÄôve been in bands for a long time without experiencing the success thatâÄôs starting to come Ice PalaceâÄôs way. WhatâÄôs different about this band? So I was in this other band five or six years ago. We recorded a record and did a CD release show. We did two shows after that release, and the band broke up. When I say things didnâÄôt go well, you order 1000 CDs, do three shows and call it quits âÄî youâÄôre left with a lot of CDs. I quit being in bands for a period of time thinking I didnâÄôt want to do that. Since this has started, everyoneâÄôs a lot more focused. We didnâÄôt take it seriously before. It was fun, but we saw it more as just fun. Also, everyone in Ice Palace has a lot of musical experience. WeâÄôd only played four shows and we left to go on tour. Then, weâÄôre in MilwaukeeâÄôs Turner Hall , huge place, thinking âÄúMan, weâÄôve only done four shows!âÄù ItâÄôs not just hanging out with buddies anymore. What sort of future do you see for Ice Palace? A lot of work in the next few years. Tour a lot. Maybe a split record with Margot and the Nuclear So and SoâÄôs . DonâÄôt know if it will happen, but weâÄôre talking about recording with them. WeâÄôve got a West Coast tour in a week and a fall tour no matter what. Then weâÄôll start recording another record. This is going to be a hard-working band. BandâÄôs favorite beer? Oh god, IâÄôll just say because weâÄôre the opener, we get the cheap beer. Mainly PBR . The other bands get the imports in their green room. WeâÄôre just happy to get the free beer. With its rich history, do you have the romanticized view of First Ave. when you play it? IâÄôve been going to see bands there since I was 15. So for me, yes. IâÄôve been to so many shows, being able to play there is a very happy experience. There was a point that I thought I never would.