What To Do In Case of Fire

Francis Jones meets the latest incarnation of the Belfast act

Emerging from the ashes of Element, In Case Of Fire are a barnstorming, psych-rock phoenix from the flames. Their dedication to searingly intelligent riffs and the precise interaction between the trio means that ICOF display an urgency and sharpness of bite that was somewhat lacking in their previous incarnation.

Indeed ICOF have adopted a scorched earth policy to all that went before, so don’t think this is some mere rebranding exercise. The primeval force generated by this band is impossible to ignore, a tempestuous marriage of The Mars Volta’s sonic adventurism and The Stooges rock brutalism.

No wonder then that in their short lifespan the band has already garnered numerous positive reviews and taken the runners up spot in Kerrang!’s 2005 Readers poll. Francis Jones caught up with the band’s drummer, Colin, for a spot of Q and A.

How did you come to settle on the name ‘In Case Of Fire’?

‘The name ‘In Case Of Fire’ encapsulates what we want to do with this band, the direction we want to take, adventurous and on-the-edge. Also you can increment it down to ICOF.’

When the band first started you strove to keep your identities secret. Some might have perceived that as a cynical ploy to receive attention, what was the thinking behind it?

‘Well a lot of people might have thought it was a cynical move, but really it was largely because of what we had done with the previous band. We were tired of Element and wanted to distance the new band from what we had done before. We wanted to come back completely refreshed and not just be one of those many bands that keep the same line-up, change their name, have posters that proclaim them as ‘formerly’ whoever, play exactly the same songs and to all intents and purposes therefore are exactly the same band.

'When we came back with new songs and a new sound we thought it was important that people don’t come to see us with any preconceptions, that’s why we sent out our material without detailing our identities. We wanted people to treat us as a new band and listen to our material with fresh ears.

'It helps because people then give you feedback on a more honest basis, there is no bias or partiality because of the Element connection and besides all that, the fact that people didn’t know who we were helped create a bit of mystery about the band and generated a certain interest.’

Also you adopted an aesthetic which was quite militaristic, almost fetishist with matching black regalia and white armbands. Why did you adopt that look?

‘Having been about for a while we had seen so many bands playing live and they just make no effort. It’s just a couple of guys standing on stage in t-shirt and jeans and then after the performance they mingle with the audience.

'We wanted to create a bit of distance between ourselves and the people coming to see us, for the audience to look and straight away know that we were the band. Also the matching uniforms helps create a bit of inter-band unity, it has an impact and adds a certain weight to what you’re doing, people know you are not content to be just another two-bit local band, that you are a professional outfit.’

Which artists would you say have been most influential in terms of what you are trying to achieve with ICOF?

‘Whenever we started of ICOF we determined that we didn’t want to sound like anybody else, we really wanted to be creating something fresh for people to listen to. And in terms of our sound I think we’ve largely succeeded in that. More widely influences would include Muse, The Mars Volta, and even older bands like The Smashing Pumpkins, bands that have created something slightly off-centre.’

Increasingly it seems that marketing and how a band presents itself is almost as important as the music they create. Is that the experience you’ve had?

‘Definitely, it is a sad fact, but it must be recognised that PR is a massive factor in determining which bands make it and which fail. You just have to take everything into account, to make every effort to get things perfect.

'The music business is primarily about pushing music that will sell and that doesn’t always equate to the best music. So that is why, for example, we tried to create that presence about the band, and it seems to have worked. After our RADAR performance earlier in the year people commented on the fact that it was a proper show as opposed to just a standard gig.’

Has being a Northern Irish band been detrimental to the band’s progress, prevented you perhaps getting more exposure and the possibility of management or label interest?

‘I honestly believe that it is somewhat harder. I think that for a Northern Irish act to get signed you need to have some sort of representation, be it a booking agent or manager, someone to push you in the right direction. You need those sorts of people to get A&R involved otherwise it’s extremely difficult.

'I don’t think it is any coincidence that more and more bands these days move away. For example, if you are a band in London playing shows week in and week out then you never know who might just happen to be at one of your shows.’

Have ICOF ventured outside Northern Ireland?

We were over in London last month and played a couple of shows. One of them was good and one not so good. But, London is one of those weird places, they have a door policy in a lot of places where you pay in just to see the band you want to see and not, like here, for the whole night. So it is a bit of a lottery, the best advice is to play club nights where there is a DJ or whatever on afterwards, at least that way you know people are going to stay.’

In the short lifespan of the band what, thus far, have been the highlights?

‘Well definitely the notices from Kerrang!, especially as we received those so early on. The fact that we now have a bit of an thing with Kerrang!, that is really positive. The original EP we did with Rocky O’Reilly from Oppenheimer and we recorded another two songs with him just recently, those were really positive experiences, we’ve such a good relationship with him in the studio and the results are always more than what we expect because he is a bit of a mixing genius.

'We also played with Fightstar in Dublin last month and that was really good, musically they may not be our cup of tea, but the response we got from the kids after that was fantastic.’

Are you happy with the progress the band had made to date and the attention you’ve received from music publications like Kerrang!?

‘We’re happy enough, but to be honest we’ll only be truly satisfied when we’re in the studio recording an album. That is the big goal for ICOF. We want to be in the position whereby we can do this for a living, to have people who are willing to put our music out and all we have to concentrate on is playing shows or recording our music. Though I know that even when we get to that stage we’ll not be happy, because we always want to go that bit further. At the moment all we can do is work hard and try and get there.’