STORY / HEATHER SEIDLER
PHOTOS / SHANNA FISHER
STYLIST / KOKO NTUEN
HAIR &MAKEUP / MALA
On her newly released sophomore album Grown Unknown, it’s clear from her snowy vocals, preternatural melodies and unusual percussion that Lia Ices has mastered mixing a human sound with the elemental sounds of nature. Lia wrote the songs for the album sequestered in a secluded cabin in Vermont, the only heat coming from wood fire, which served as the perfect uncluttered environment to let the music gestate and marinate without the opposing forces the city offers. Not unlike the songs themselves, her songwriting process is simple, stripped-down and without artificiality. I had the privilege of speaking with Lia Ices about her new album on the day it was released, and it was evident she has the same well-spoken, refined grace that reveals itself at the front of her music.
“Making music for me,” says Ices, “is the way I understand how to be a human and how to deal with all that mystery. It’s through making my art work that I feel I have purpose, it starts off being for me and my understanding, the melodies and things that have no words to explain when you write a song; and now the best part is giving it away, making it not for me anymore.”
Grown Unknown is an album about the tilted hemisphere of emotion, the interplay between the movement of the natural world and the stark vision of the adult world, the universal and the personal coming together. “In the beginning of this of this album,” she reveals, “I treated each song as if it were its own world, I didn’t really attach myself to any instrument. After I wrote them on piano I thought about what the song sounds like, it’s one thing to write a song, but it’s another thing to make the sound of it, I’m excited to use as many instruments as possible to express what I’m trying to do.”
The album’s instrumentation is spread out, shifting from handclaps to distended stringed arrangements; full of quiescent moments, insistent on sheer delicacy and moments of surprising energy. On Daphne—the album’s first single, Lia is joined by Bon Iver singer Justin Vernon, who lends subtle vocals that float and hauntingly echo the atmosphere of the song’s duality. “There’s two parts to the song,” Lia explains, “It’s about flight and attachment, earth and sky. There’s so much about trees, grapes dying on a vine and all these things which, for some reason, really key me in to making me feel I’m part of something bigger and that my processes are similar to these processes that have been happening forever.”
Ices is currently on tour with The Cave Singers, and will also be performing at the SXSW festival. With the backing of venerable indie-label Jagjagwar, accolades from Spin Magazine, a duet with Kanye West’s latest right-hand man Vernon and a damn good album, with any luck the spotlight will shine down on Lia Ices.
I can say, without use for a sales pitch, Lia Ices is definitely one to watch for in 2011.