It’s not every day you see a band whose name comes from a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Nor is it every day that that same band is a horror tinged punk-band who was rated by Alternative Press as one of the best breakout bands to see on this past Vans Warped Tour. Ice Nine Kills is a Boston quartet whose name comes from a substance found in Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle,” and whose records often are teeming with references from horror and literature alike. It's striking handing of traditional metalcore values and a sound that swings from heavy and gritty to melodic and powerful fits its subject matter well.
On its latest record, “Every Trick in the Book,” however, each song specifically deals with a famous novel, with choices ranging from Stephen King’s “Carrie” to "The Diary of Anne Frank." As the band - vocalist and guitarist Spencer Charnas, guitarist Justin DeBlieck, bassist Justin Morrow and drummer Connor Sullivan - prepares to play Oct. 13 in the Waiting Room, I spoke with singer Charnas about the band’s fascination with literature and its views on inspiration from art.
Question: What is the biggest challenge when you’re inspired by a piece of media and choose to adapt it into a song?
Answer: I think the biggest challenge you face is living up to the greatness of the works you’re covering. These are such classic stories, so we wanted to make sure we did them justice. We’re dealing with cornerstones of literature, and we didn’t want to be disrespectful.
Q: On your newest album, how much of a collaborative process was it when choosing books to write songs about? Are there any you wish you’d had space to include?
A: One of the first things we did was create a master list of books we thought would make a compelling song, and we had a list of 30 to 40 books. A lot of Stephen King came up due to the horror-centric nature of the band, but we didn’t want to double up authors. We didn’t want to do books that were similar thematically as well. But when we were formulating the list, I thought “how can we be named after a Kurt Vonnegut book like 'Cat’s Cradle' and not use it?” But his novels are complex and we thought we couldn’t do it justice in a three-minute song.
Q: When you look outward at another artistic medium, what sorts of things are you looking for that inspire you?
A: Inspiration is something you can’t put your finger on. You never know where it comes from, and if you did, more people would be inspired from the same place. Keeping your eyes open is important. But for me, I’ve gone to a lot of art galleries and that’s been one recent source of inspiration.
Q: What quality do you think really catches the ears and eyes of so many with your band and a lot of other horror tinged metalcore groups like Motionless in White?
A: I think that in an overcrowded music world, you need to find your own voice both musically and visually. I think the kids these days are thrown so many artists that are so similar in so many ways, so you need to set yourself apart. You have to think of your band as not just music or a live show, but an experience. We need to give kids something they haven’t had before; something that they won’t forget. It’s a combination of music, visuals, and marketing.
Q: Do you feel there’s a rule of thumb when writing and trying to find the perfect balance of what should be heavy and what needs to be clean in your sound?
A: We used to care about that stuff a lot more, and I think that we started to figure out that we didn’t want to put a lot of emphasis on that. When you have a rule book it stifles your creativity. Kids respond when you write what you want to hear in an honest fashion.
Q: What do you think was the biggest chance you ever took in your career as a band and how did it impact you today?
A: In a lot of ways, just getting out there and continuing to move the band forward over the years. We’ve been tied to a lot of contracts which inhibited us and put us in a holding period for years. We were told that we were written off, that we should give up or change our name. The biggest risk we took was not surrendering to that; to what the industry’s supposed vision of us was. A lot of bands in the same situation would have given up, but we took the chance and it’s paid off so far.
Who: Ice Nine Kills
When: 6 p.m. Oct. 13
Where: The Waiting Room, 334 Delaware Ave.
Tickets: $14 (ticketfly.com)