After national tours and the release of two albums, Southern Minnesota indie rock band Ice Palace were gaining momentum.
A review in New York Weekly, the Village Voice and a nationwide tour supporting Cloud Cult in 2009 had them on the cusp of breaking through to a national audience. The Onion compared singer/songwriter Adam Sorensen’s music to what Kurt Cobain may have sounded like had he lived into his mid-thirties. But that same year, Sorensen opted to move to rural Arizona for a change of pace. Southern Minnesota Scene caught up with Sorenson, who grew up in Owatonna and has since returned to Minnesota to release a new album – “How I Came to Win the War” – on Korda Records.
Ice Palace have been around since 2005. You released two albums in 2006 and 2009. The new album just came out in the fall of 2018. What have you been up to over the past nine years?
I moved to the mountains in Northern Arizona at the end of 2009. I had every intention of keeping Ice Palace going. I actually had shows booked here in Minnesota that I was supposed to fly back for……but it’s just life happening. The band kind of dissolved and I started a multi-year journey of trying to figure out what kind of music I wanted to make next. For me, the music has been an active part of my life even though it wouldn’t appear that way to someone else. I did a lot of other things in those nine years……I walked with my dog a lot.
Compared to earlier releases, the new album is on the mellow side. Was that intentional or did it just fall into place that way?
After the long break, I knew I didn’t want to make a loud or aggressive album. I didn’t have a specific sound in mind, but I was sure that I didn’t want to be using distortion pedals and banging away on a guitar at shows anymore. I also just felt that I wanted to make something different from anything else I had done previously.
I had never said “I love you” in a song before and there’s quite a bit of that. When I was in this long hiatus, one thing that pushed me forward was that these songs needed to be brought to life. During periods when it didn’t look like anything was happening I felt a sense of guilt in a way of ‘I can’t give up on this.’ I felt like these are the most important songs I’d ever written.
The new record was recorded and co-produced in Minneapolis by Brian Tighe, known for his work with Jeremy Messersmith, the Hang Ups and the Owls. How did that come about?
I grew up liking the Hang Ups but I was a great admirer of the Owls. I didn’t know Brian at all. I just loved how those records sounded; it was Brian’s production work that tied it all together and I never forgot that. I contacted Brian on Facebook just on a whim and asked if he liked working with other people in a production capacity. We met, I gave him a CD of demos, he got backed to me and said, “I love your songs! Let’s do it.”
That album release in late 2018 led to your forming a new band with a new lineup, including a couple of the guys from Porcupine. How did that come about?
Ian Prince (Porcupine drummer) and I are friends. He was learning how to play the guitar. He would come over and we’d play acoustics together and so he ended up joining as a guitar player. Allison Labonne (Brian’s wife) who also was a producer on the record, joined up early.
Casey from Porcupine is a phenomenally good lead guitarist. When I first met him he offered his services. Jared Miller was somebody that I’ve known over the years who plays bass. Getting older, it was just a matter of trying to ask enough people who still want to play music. A lot of people over the years stopped.
At this age, how does playing in bands differ from when you were younger?
It’s really focused and people are less distracted. A big component of that too is this band is not a party band whatsoever, there’s no alcohol involved usually. Everybody’s there to just play music and is respectful of each other’s time because we know how busy everyone is. When it comes time to practice or play a show, that’s the focus.
You and drummer Aaron Lagas both grew up in Owatonna. What’s your musical history together?
He and I hadn’t played any music together in 12 or 13 years. He had taken a long break from his instrument and he already does not sound that way; he’s great. It’s good to reconnect with an old friend. We played together in basically every serious band I had been in for many years. We played music in our formative years in Owatonna in his parent’s basement.
What are your plans for 2019?
I want to start releasing music much faster. There was a nine-year break. So much of that had to do with indecisiveness on my part. I didn’t know where I wanted the songs to go. I had some recording sessions that I didn’t think were very productive. I would record tunes and then put them aside, scratch my head. After I started working with Brian and Allison, the album took four years to make.
We were getting together sporadically and tracking here and there. It was just a very patient process which I was fine with, but now that Ice Palace is back as a functioning unit, I want to get those songs out. I’m always writing so it’s a little odd I’ve had such few releases. I’m hoping to have something out by this summer and just keep making music.
By Dan Greenwood