Icky Blossoms’ Sarah Bohling Living the Dream
By Kyle Eustice
Blair, Nebraska native Sarah Bohling was a shy math student at the University of Nebraska-Omaha when she met Omaha musicians Nik Fackler and Derek Pressnall.
“Derek and Nik were in Flower Forever,” Bohling explains. “My friend Dylan was playing keyboard and he worked at the same place as Derek at the time. Somehow Derek heard a recording I did at Dylan’s house and it wasn’t something even super cool or anything. He was like, ‘Ok you sing, you should come to my band practice.’ I was like ‘Ok dude, I’ll come to your band practice.’”
That was it. Now as one-third of Saddle Creek Records’ Icky Blossoms, Bohling is celebrating the release of the group’s sophomore album, Mask, which dropped May 12 via Saddle Creek. The follow-up to their self-titled 2012 debut, the new album is produced by Mike Mogis and offers more of a psychedelic feel, although the heavy presence of synths is still as prevalent as it was on their first album. According to SPIN, the Icky Blossoms flex a bolder, more adventurous palette — dizzingly percolating arpeggios and screeches on “Silver Tongue,” freaky-deaky harmonies on “Spiral,” and even a DMX-style bark on the ’80s synthpop-indebted “Away From You.” Fresh off of a short tour stint with Of Montreal, Bohling took some time to talk about the new record, stage fright and living the dream.
Shout Omaha: Icky Blossoms has just released a new album, Mask. It’s been a little while since your debut. What have you been up to since then?
Sarah Bohling: Honestly, we got caught up in doing life stuff. After touring to promote our first record, we took some time to settle back into the swing of things here in town and spend time with our friends and family. That slow knife of time will get you though. I do not know how three years of time slipped right on by.
How long did this new album take to write?
We worked on the record of the course of a year. Our schedules were all very different and chaotic so we decided to plan a few weekend trips out to our friends cabin on Beaver Lake. We were pretty isolated there so it was easy to focus on throwing down musical ideas around until something stuck. Once we had a handful of songs we believed in, we set up a time to record with Mike. The last of the songs were written in the studio in between vocal takes. Those songs are my favorites.
What was different about this one than the first?
The first record was very computer-centric. We were just beginning to dabble in electronic music so we went to an extreme. We intentionally wrote songs without using live guitar or bass so that we had to fill that void with synths or samples or beats. When we had to play those songs live, we realized we had to integrate our instruments back into it. People really responded to that mix of sounds. They enjoyed it and they let us know. We took that mental note into the studio when we recorded Mask, incorporating a human element into it that the first record never got. I think it sounds a bit thicker, grittier and a bit more spontaneous, honestly.
Who produced it?
We worked with the wizard, Mr. Mike Mogis himself. He is a true musician and a master of his craft.
Have you gotten more comfortable with the spotlight?
Oh totally. I still remember my first show. All of my adrenaline was channeled into my right leg and it was visibly shaking so hard. I couldn’t control it. My leg vibrated like that for 45 minutes straight. At least now I can make it through a show without my nerves spiraling out of control. Once I realized that our band has the power to set up the mood for the entire night, it became a lot easier to get lost in the fun of it. We might play the same set, but not one show will be the same. We want the crowd to mirror the energy we put out and we try to exhaust ourselves every time. I’m talking power glides, leg lifts, a good pogo around the stage, maybe a backbend over Nik while he shreds. Also, to be noted, a beer or two really helps.
You just toured with Of Montreal. How was that?
It was magical! I feel like the whole trip was veiled with some sort of charm. We had amazing places to stay, met some rad new folks, kicked back with old friends, and were inspired every single night by the sweeties in Of Montreal. Honestly, they are a bunch of goofball super musicians. I recently realized how many people I met on this tour who are affiliated with bands that I’ve admired for years. ROLL CALL: Of Montreal, Vetiver, Foxygen, Jenny Lewis, Reptar, Washed Out, Future Islands, The Black Lips, Coyote Bones, and Mazarati.. It makes me feel like we are on a path toward something good, having talents like that collide with us while we’re out. I give the tour 10/10.
Do you feel like you’re living your dream?
Totally. I county my lucky stars every day. I’m not gonna get tricked by the mirage of it all though. It is definitely a labor of love and you can only get what you are willing to work for. That being said, it’s a dream to work on music with my friends.
What do you hope for the future of Icky Blossoms?
I’d like to keep on this same trajectory. I want to make another record, release more music videos, release more creative content in general, and keep busy. I know our whole band would like to grow as artists and musicians in general. If we can keep pushing ourselves while pushing some sort of boundary then I’d say we’re doing something right.
Icky Blossoms with Cage the Elephant, Bleachers and more, June 2, at Westfair Amphitheater, Council Bluffs, 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. Visit www.onepercentproductions.com for more information.