Interview: Iron Eyes Cody
by Charles Mathon on January 18, 2014
Posted in: Uncategorized
Middlebury fans of banjos, energetic live shows and moonshine are enamored with student band Iron Eyes Cody. Consisting of an ensemble cast of talented musicians, Iron Eyes Cody can be found playing their original songs in full docket of shows this week in support of their upcoming EP. I sat down with Evan Allis, Renn Mulloy and a bottle of Jamison this afternoon before their concert at Hepburn Zoo at 9 pm and asked them about their new album and why they love the Dixie Chicks so much.
CM: Hey guys, thanks for sitting down with me. So this isn’t your entire band, is it?
Evan: Nah, it’s not. There’s Mark Balderston, he plays saxophone and harmonica and occasional vocals, he’s out searching for a PA for our show tonight. Noah Stone got a smashed in face, so he can’t really play right now.
Renn: Rob Shaw is lifting weights at the gym, so he can’t be with us right now.
Evan: And Joe Levanworth-Bakali is in Paris, which leaves, uh, Renn and I. Laughs.
CM: More than enough.
Evan: So can I ask a question? Renn, what is it like to be the only guy in an all chick band?
Renn: Well I grew up with a lot of sisters, so it feels like home, honestly. Laughs.
CM: You guys have a very interesting musical sound. You guys play the banjo, electric and acoustic guitars, base, harmonica, drums, and saxophone among other instruments. Where do you guys draw your influences from for such a unique sound, both individually and collectively?
Renn: Well technically, I play no instruments, so all of my influences come from other female lady-friends, you know, doing their thing. I listen to a lot of a lot of Amy Winehouse, and I try to get some of the sexy soul element her voice has. She’s a big influence on my voice.
Evan: Um, I think…you don’t mind if I get changed while we do this.
CM: That’s fine.
Evan: It’s kind of funny, but I actually think that to a large extent everything that happens in this band musically and stylistically comes from a place of deep insecurity.
Renn: Laughing So true.
Evan: I started by writing songs by myself, without showing anybody, and obviously I had to ask myself whether they were really shitty or not. One way to combat that insecurity was to get Renn to sing with me, and then we had that going on, and different members got added from there. We decided if we were going to play a show, we’d rather have these big booming choruses where everyone sings along together, to sort of convince people to sing along with us. I mean, as long as we have five people up on stage who think the song is cool, than maybe other people like it in a masked illusion thing. And this, like you said, extended over to the instruments. We were never gonna be a regular rock band, because that’s just kind of boring. People get really excited when they here these new sounds, like I really love this Vampire Weekend record [Modern Vampires of the City]. I like a lot of albums like Pet Sounds or Sgt. Peppers that don’t just use the guitar and bass and drums classic rock set up.
Renn: And I think, to some extent, southern road trips we’ve taken have a big influence on what we’re doing. You can hear the twang come out in our music, and the in downhome nature of the banjo and harmonics combination I can really feel my roots. Also, I would say Gwar is a big influence [laughs].
CM: While you guys sound tremendous in a stripped down recording session, Iron Eyes Cody is known for its incredibly energetic live shows. You guys have been playing together for some time now; can you think of any specifically that stick out to you for some reason?
Renn: The first show for me sticks out because it was the first time that we put all these doubts behind us, and to have it actually come together and have a pretty positive outcome from that was really what got the ball rolling for me. That was the first time I had ever sung in front of people. It was really fun and there was a great energy there, and playing with Thank God For Mississippi was great.
Evan: The show at Brooker on Thursday was a party.
CM: Yes, yes it was. So you guys are cutting a record right now, aren’t you? Got any insights into that?
Evan: Cutting a record. We’ve hit a few snags in the beginning but we’re off to the races now, I think we’re gonna have an EP of about 5 songs coming out pretty soon. We’ve been working with a lot of talented people and it’s been the culmination of an entire semester of work, which is really exciting.
CM: So Renn, I have a question for you. Do you like the Dixie Chicks?
Renn: Laughing I do like the Dixie Chicks.
CM: Why are they you’re favorite band? I heard they were your favorite band.
Renn: …. Just write “silence” in parenthesis in your article as my answer.
CM: Fair enough. So what is one instrument that you guys would like to use but haven’t been able to yet?
Evan: The fiddle is a great one, the accordion, and I’d love to experiment with some sampling of electronic music, but in a tasteful way.
CM: That’s interesting, but you guys do some wild things. Like great covers of Kanye West songs.
Evan: Thank you, we have another one coming tonight. We’re making the covering Kanye thing kind of a tradition so far it seems like.
CM: Certainly a unique part of your act. What do you guys think about Kanye?
Renn: The voice of our generation, he’s a genius. He’s also so funny.
Evan: It’s really exciting to be in your twenties at a time when Kanye West is in his prime.
Renn: Kanye brought the leather jogging pants to Fendi three years ago. I don’t know what else you want me to say.
CM: What else can you say. Thank you two for taking the time to talk to me this afternoon, and good luck at your show.
You can see Iron Eyes Cody tonight a 9 PM in Hepburn Zoo, along with acts Gaza Strip Tease and Thank God For Mississippi.
Charlie Mathon, January 18th, 2014