By looking back, Iridesce have found a new beginning. While working on a new acoustic version of their single Rise, premiering on RockShot Mag today, the London-based alternative-rock band were reminded of what really matters: the songs themselves.
But the unplugged Rise (Curtain Call), which will be followed by stripped-down renditions of other Iridesce songs, almost didn’t happen.
“We were asked to do this acoustic session for the Roundhouse and said yes before realising what that meant in terms of re-arranging the songs,” the band tell us exclusively.
“So we essentially trapped ourselves into doing it. But it turned out to be such an important thing for us as a group because it forced us to approach songs we felt we’d already done and accomplished – in our naivety – in a different way, without conforming to any clear agenda or sonic direction,” they continue.
“It’s really changed the way we approach our music; we’ve always cared most about the songwriting, but always struggled with how to communicate that maturely on record – the acoustic thing really gave us a distance with our own music, which is what you need if you want to make sure to convey on record the essence of what came through you when the song was written.”
The song in question came together quickly after the quartet formed at UCL in 2017. Lead vocalist Marco Spaeth and lead guitarist James Doig had started playing music together three years earlier, and were eventually joined by bassist Thomas Guizzetti and drummer Vincent LaFont, who’d spotted fliers around campus.
“Rise really just arrived – there wasn’t really a trigger or intention,” reveal the band of the original version, which has been featured on BBC Introducing and Kerrang! Radio.
“We were just jamming in our student rehearsal space a couple years back and hit on this constantly oscillating bass groove, and then the vocals just started taking shape. From there it just began to build and all the driving drum elements came to mind and suddenly we’d made this thing that none of us would’ve ever consciously pursued. It’s been the oddest thing to see how people react to it so well too – maybe it’s the ephemeralness and aimlessness of that rehearsal that provided the space for something emotionally evocative to come through. Who knows.”
What they do know is that in revisiting Rise, they were really surprised by its simplicity.
“It’s so easy – two sets of chords and a clear cut melody on top. There’s no left-field time signatures or flashy concepts behind the lyrical landscape. It’s a song that doesn’t try to define itself in any way through what it is. When you work at something, and you continue to build things over time, you can sometimes get so focussed on exploring directions that make sense to you as a writer, technically or stylistically, but can detract you from what’s really most important and what any half decent, let alone great song needs to have – instinctiveness.
“It’s really given us a good slap on the wrists as songwriters and reminded us of what it is we want to always have in our music, regardless of how we’d dress it up sonically,” say the quartet.
“It re-invented us as much as we did it, really.”
Although the band cite Radiohead and U2 as two of their great influences, Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged In New York album was more of a touchstone for Rise (Curtain Call).
“It really shows just how powerful it can be to go from a bigger, more developed sound to something really raw and naked. It removes all the grandeur and smoke and mirrors you have at your disposal sonically when you’re dealing with layers and walls of sound, so by doing less the song is suddenly what people realise – the lyrics and the soul of it all,” say Iridesce.
Apart from applying the lesson of “less is more” to the brand-new material they’re currently working on for release in 2019, the band are looking to take the acoustic reimaginings out onto the streets.
“November and December are going to be particularly exciting for us because we’re organising a small busking tour around the UK, playing an acoustic re-arrangement of our set that includes Rise (Curtain Call).
“It’s something we’ve never done before,” say the band who’ve played the Shiiine On Weekender and Camden Rocks festivals, “and we’re especially looking forward to seeing how passerbys react to the songs. Hopefully it’s not going to be too cold…”