As the lights dimmed, psychedelic projections took over the room and lead vocalist, Sean Powell, makes his way to the stage, his identity concealed by a yellow mask resembling a fly. Sean sings so closely to the microphone that it looks like the fangs on his fly mask are devouring the silver sphere. When I heard that two out of the five members of Ice Balloons are solely devoted to the noise component of their songs, I knew I was in for a treat, I just didn’t know how great of a treat it would be.
Ice Balloons started after Sean had almost an out-of-body experience following a visit to his dad’s cabin 9,000 feet atop a mountain in Colorado. “This never happened to me before or since but I got really bad altitude sickness when I was there – there was just something happening where I couldn’t breathe.” Sean explains.
He had a lot of sleepless nights while he was atop that mountain so it was only natural that when he got back to his apartment in New York he slept for 16 hours straight. “I woke up and I felt like I was on acid – everything seemed really clear and I was like, ‘I have to start this band Ice Balloons,’” Sean remembers.
That’s when he came up with the idea for the fly mask and knew that he needed two people to create all the chaotic noise sections of each song. “I wrote a bunch of songs all in one day and then the next day I was like what the fuck?” Sean says. Though Sean’s ideas flowed quickly, it took a couple of years for Ice Balloons to fully take off.
“The band started in total chaos,” Sean says. “We played some shows early on that were just like song-less noise garbage that our friends were nice enough to come to.” He’s still amazed that the band got to where they are today.
When Sean created Ice Balloons, he knew he wanted to surround himself with people that he got along with and would have fun being around so he gathered up some of his friends he met around his neighborhood in Williamsburg. Sean met Ice Balloons bassist, Dan Scinta, a few times around the neighborhood but first talked to him about joining the band while Dan was bartending one night at Marci Park.
“I was like, ‘How’s it going Dan?’ I think I vaguely remembered his name,” Sean says. “He was like, ‘oh it sucks, I lost my job, my girlfriend broke up with me, and I got kicked out of my band all in the same day’ and I was like, this guy is pretty cool.”
The Ice Balloons project was something totally different than what Dan had been a part of in the past with his previous band Wild Yaks. “Wild Yaks was like folk music/punk, like everybody had to sing – it was much more intense,” Dan says. “There wasn’t a lot of room for movement.”
In contrast, Ice Balloons is a more freeform band. While Sean does most of the writing, he does none of the noise writing. All of the noise components are created on the spot by Kyp Malone (TVOTR) and Giselle Reiber (Midnight Masses) and are different with every performance accompanying the steady rhythm of the bass and drums.
“[The songs] are a mixture of complete loose chaos and a skeleton that’s solid,” Sean says. Creating music is something that takes a very driven person to do. Sean explains how it can be both satisfying and unsatisfying at the same time. “It’s more like an obsession or something or like a mania,” he says explaining that sometimes people just become preoccupied with creating a final product that it just becomes work.
Though creating art can be taxing, music is a form of art that usually needs more than one person to create it. That’s why it’s Dan’s favorite form of art. “When you have to rely on other people, that’s a little less stressful for me,” Dan explains. “It’s nice to have other adults in the room to help you know when to start and when to finish.”
Monday night I got to see first hand how these friends worked together as a band while attending their release show at Baby’s All Right for their new LP, Fiesta, out now. Though their vinyl wasn’t ready in time to be sold that night, fans and friends alike got more than a taste of what they should expect from their new album.
When asked if they had anything special planned for the show, Sean said “un-special things,” though that’s far from what we received. Each word and note of every Ice Balloons song is attacked with a force so great the room quivers in fear yet still rushes the stage hoping for more. Kyp’s son – who just turned 17 that day – even helped his dad play some noise throughout the set. Between the hypnotizing projections, the disorienting noise and Sean’s echoing vocals, my head got dizzy – in a very good way.
Sean says their performance is just bullshit; Dan says it’s full of smells that attract flies; I say it was something so incredible that I can’t even describe it, you’ll just have to see it for yourself.
Article: Merissa Blitz