Bristling and taut, LICE’s sound intersects post-punk and the avant-garde with incisive satire and skewed ferocity. We caught up with idiosyncratic frontman Alastair Shuttleworth, who also heads up The Bristol Germ, to talk five pivotal tracks that have influenced the band’s sound.
Their latest single ‘Arbiter’ feels like a maniacal waltz spiralling further and further into a frenzied abyss. Continuing to push their sound to more bracing and experimental realms, the track sees thunderous drums, menacing guitars and Shuttleworth’s signature pronounced howl build with relentless intensity. And this tension is only relieved right at the end as Shuttleworth sustains his final lone outcry. For just over two and a half minutes ‘Arbiter’ sure packs a punch and further sets LICE out from the post-punk crowd, placing them alongside fellow pioneering contemporaries such as Crack Cloud.
Get to know LICE In Five…
Luigi Russolo – Risveglio di una Città
By the time IAWOG came out in 2018, bearing the then-fashionable ‘Birthday Party + The Fall’ concoctions on which we’d made our bones (such as they were), we’d become completely disillusioned with ‘the punk world’: its twee platitudes, self-serving attitudes and sonic conservatism. Relocating to our new home The Old England to begin writing our ‘mature music’ (flourish of trumpets), this loss of faith would become its principal theme.
Around this time, we also became obsessed with the Italian Futurists, whose pathologically violent writings about art and experimentation expressed things we were feeling about ‘the art world’ 110 years later. One of the main points of interest was Luigi Russolo’s Intonamauri – rudimentary ‘noise machines’ whose alien sounds he identified with the destruction of artistic complacency, and progress in human expression. This went hand-in-hand with our growing interest in industrial – Einstürzende Neubauten, Throbbing Gristle, Foetus and our peers in Bristol.
Blood Sport – Harsh Realm
We got into Sheffield ‘aggro-beat’ group Blood Sport just in time to catch their last ever Bristol show. A month or so later, we wrote the basis of ‘Conveyor’ upstairs at The Old England while playing around with a simple drum loop and vocal delay, inspired directly by this record. While we’ve otherwise not made use of Blood Sport’s principal ideas (imbuing dance music with components from noise-rock), this opened a lot of doors for us – they remained a constant reference point for the colder/ more alien sounds on our new music.
Steve Reich – The Desert Music
Alongside our growing interest in industrial, minimalism played heavily on our imaginations in the months following IAWOG: it presented means of conveying mood, power and dynamism that we didn’t see represented in the guitar music around us. Dynamic pulses and arpeggiatted sequences became fixtures of Silas’ writing for guitar – my favourite of our new songs emerged from him imitating those dramatic opening swells from ‘Desert Music’.
Laurie Anderson & The Kronos Quartet – Nothing Left But Their Names
After deciding the new lyrics would focus on subverting ideas around punk/ satire, and use prose storytelling to a much more complex extent than my IAWOG efforts, I realized my usual squawked delivery wasn’t going to cut it. As our weekends at The Old England focused on pursuing a much broader spectrum of textures and moods, new forms of delivery were also needed to compliment the music. This stunning album reached me just as we were writing our first genuinely sad music, and inspired more theatrical, dynamic vocal performances.
David Lynch – Ghost of Love
If Neubauten, Blood Sport, Anderson and Reich became reference points for various forms of extremity in the new music, ‘Ghost Of Love’ recurred and recurred as a reference for the ‘pop’ end of the spectrum. Where the new music strays towards the realm of grooves and vocal melodies, this track was talked about as a point of aspiration, and occasional excuse to pursue territory at which we’d otherwise turn our noses up. This song also reflects (perhaps helped engender) a recurring atmosphere of uncanniness, desolation and discomfort in the new music, which I hear in even its most triumphant, brutal and cathartic moments. To me, this song’s place in the new music shows that when we left Bruce’s basement – leaving ‘Stammering Bill’, ‘Little John Waynes’ and ‘Love Your Island’ along with it – we started working with a broader set of colours.
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