With a new industrial album under wraps, Chicago’s powerhouse I:Scintilla returns to Indianapolis in support of Optics (Alfa Matrix, 2007). Having opened for electronic goth act Razed in Black last year, the band has undergone some changes in the past 12 months and now prepares for a headlining show at Talbott Street October 26.
NUVO: How do you feel about the overall outcome of your first music video, “Capsella,” off Havestar, directed by Chris Folkens and filmed in Champaign, Ill.? Also, what plans do you have for possible future I:Scintilla music videos?
BRITTANY BINDRIM (vocals, lyrics): We were happy with the outcome of the video, especially for it being our first and as such a young band. But with our future music videos, we plan on being much more innovative and creative.
JIM COOKAS (guitar, programming, synths): Considering the $50 budget, it turned out pretty well. (We had) lots of borrowed equipment and dozens of hours of hard work. However, I don’t think it truly represents us well. We will definitely have more input on the next video.
NUVO: How has I:Scintilla changed since releasing your new Alfa Matrix album, Optics?
COOKAS: I think the band continues to grow. In the year since Havestar (the band’s debut EP) was released, we’ve played bigger shows, we’ve sold more records and we’re playing better than ever.
NUVO: What are some instances of trial and error that you’ve endured over the years as a band?
BINDRIM: We’ve all become better live performers over the years, but in the beginning we went through a few adjustments. For instance, we used to have breaks between every song, allowing time for me to talk with the audience. But these breaks were much too long and tended to break the flow of the show. It’s funny, because I love getting up in front of people and performing our songs, but speaking in front of people is something I’m not really as comfortable (with). I tend to come off as awkward and soft-spoken. So now, we have much shorter breaks, and I learned that I should keep the talking to a minimum.
COOKAS: I shouldn’t try to pull double-duty between guitar and synth when playing live…. I shouldn’t fall off the stage. I repeat these things to myself everyday.
NUVO: What messages, thoughts or inspirations do you hope fans will take away from your new CD, Optics?
BINDRIM: I hope that our songs provoke thought and inspiration.
NUVO: Are there any social or cultural issues that you feel strongly about and would like to share with your fans? And if so, do these topics ever bleed into your songwriting?
BINDRIM: My beliefs tend to find their way into my lyrics. For example, I feel very strongly about ending the war in Iraq. This topic fueled the song “Toy Soldier.” The song is about the current situation in Iraq told from a soldier’s perspective. A friend of mine was sent to Iraq, and the words were motivated by his second thoughts and disgust of his experiences…. This waste of human life has gone on far too long. I also feel strongly about equality among people, including minorities and women. Additionally, I am not fond of organized religion. These two themes were inspiration to “Cursive Eve.” The song is about the oppressive Christian views of women and the rigid roles and molds many women feel they are forced into from birth to adulthood. These outlooks seem to have a profound consequence on a woman’s self esteem, mental stability, creativity and sexuality.
NUVO: What’s the difference between your fans in Europe versus in the United States? How do the industrial music scenes differ between the two locations?
COOKAS: European fans are more reserved at concerts. That’s not to say they’re not into the music and receptive. They just believe that we are the performers and they are spectators. In the U.S., crowds tend to see the performer-spectator relationship as the same experience, which makes for more intensity. I’ve also noticed that European crowds don’t mind at all when bands don’t play their instruments. Karaoke singing and unplugged keyboards are fine, as long as the show’s production is good.
NUVO: How well do all the members of I:Scintilla get along while on tour, and can you recall any memorable moments so far from your current Optics tour?
BINDRIM: Germany was nonstop laughs and antisocial behavior. Chad (Mines on guitar/bass) was diving in fountains. We were loud Americans on the streets. Of course, the ultimate story involves late-night German porn, an empty hotel room and a supposedly locked door. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.
NUVO: What qualities do you really value about each of your fellow bandmates, both personally and musically?
COOKAS: Brittany — she’s got a small head, but a huge voice. Vince (Grech on drums) – (he’s) the reigning I:Scintilla arm wrestling champion. Chad — (He) can’t keep his pants on. Jim — (I) can’t really keep my pants on either.
NUVO: What was it like working with music producer Wade Alin again on the new album, Optics? What new tricks did he teach you?
COOKAS: Wade is the perfect collaborator for us right now. He “gets” our music, and he has really helped to take it to the next level. He not only makes our tracks sound great, but he also brings so many ideas for production and arrangement. He’s also running sound for our live shows as well. I’ve learned a lot from him about mixing and production. He’s taught me how to keep instruments separated in the frequency spectrum. He has a great knack letting each sound be heard without the mix being muddy.
NUVO: How would you say the digital market has grown since you started becoming involved in the music industry?
COOKAS: Digital downloads will eventually take over the CD as the standard medium for music within the next few — five or less — years. It really helps level the playing field as an independent artist because we can now deliver music as easily and cheaply to fans in Latvia as we can to those in Indy. I think the Radiohead business model will eventually spread, and bands will release cheap mp3 downloads, along with elaborate boxed CD sets for diehard fans. Unfortunately, I also foresee music becoming completely free someday with artists relying on merchandising, touring and advertising for income.
NUVO: How important is learning new technology as a musician, and what is your current technological toy?
COOKAS: My philosophy is that technology is vital to pushing music forward, but one must not let it impede songwriting. I try to keep up with the latest hardware and software, but I am nowhere near the gearhead I was a few years ago. Nowadays, I try to improve my production and songwriting skills. The current technological toy is our huge live rack — aptly named I:Rack — and it’s the nerve center of our live shows. It’s an 18-space flight case that houses our guitar amps, vocal processors, in-ear monitor system and other goodies. It is completely custom-wired and has easy access inputs and outputs that make stage setup a breeze.
NUVO: (Note: this is not to be confused with the Madtv skit-imagined Apple iRack, a spoof on the war in Iraq and the impeding revolution of Apple’s “i” products.) Lastly, what other projects are you currently working on, and what goals, both personally and musically, do you have for 2008?
BINDRIM: We are working on a new album that we hope to release by June 2008. Vince is writing with us, and the music is definitely going in a different, and more progressive, direction.