People used to refer to Icarus Himself as the solo side project of National Beekeepers Society singer Nick Whetro. Those days are long gone: Whetro's turned his project into a talented trio and built it an identity unique from that of the slackeriffic garage band.
"Digging Holes," a song off of the band's new EP, Mexico, is just one example of how far Icarus Himself has come over the past couple of years. Plus, fans of its live shows will recognize the tune as the one they've been itching to take home.
"We've been playing it live for quite a while, and people always approach us after the show and ask if the song is on the CD we're selling [2009's Coffins]," says Karl Christenson, the National Beekeepers Society guitarist who's morphed into Icarus' loop nerd and baritone guitar guy. "It was funny because we always had to tell them no. This happened almost every night on our last tour."
On "Digging Holes," Christenson also plays the Omnichord, an electronic instrument from the 1980s that resembles one of the staples of grade-school music class: the autoharp. Its sound resembles an electronic music box or the wafting tones of distant church bells, giving the beginning of the tune an otherwordly vibe.
A few seconds later, that sound's twisting around offbeat-syncopated organ notes that ever-so-slightly recall a reggae tune, and bits of guitar lend a little bit of alt-country flavor. At one point, the Omnichord even parties as a Beirut-style Balkan brass band. But "Digging Holes" doesn't belong in any of these genres, really: It's electric -- and somewhat electronic -- pop, plain and simple.
"It was written around that bouncy [electric] organ part that runs through the whole song," Whetro explains. "Once I had that, the song practically wrote itself."
What's more, the song's eclectic, electric layers help Whetro's vocals about buried ghosts emanate, ever so spookily, from the ether. These ghosts aren't as supernatural as they are psychological, according to Whetro.
"It's mostly about my ability to screw things up with my wife (at the time the song was written, we were dating) by opening my mouth and saying stupid things that I didn't really mean," he says.
It's a theme plenty of folks can relate to, whether they've been the giver or the receiver of mean and malformed thoughts. And, thanks to some brilliant instrumentation, this song will make them ponder the topic again and again.
Listen to an mp3 of "Digging Holes" in the related files at right. The EP Mexico and other Icarus Himself recordings are also available from local label Science of Sound and at the band's MySpace page. Icarus Himself performs at the Frequency on Tuesday, June 15.
MadTracks highlights and provides MP3s of songs performed by local musicians. All tracks here are provided with permission of the artist. If you are a musician based in the Madison metro area and are interested in sharing your work as a MadTrack, please send a message.