We’ve gotten to know Providence dream pop trio Arc Iris pretty well over the past few years. We first fell in love with their 2016 LP, which I characterized as “A quirkily poignant postmodern electro cabaret,” and have thoroughly enjoyed several stops they’ve made in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection since then. The last time we spoke was about a year ago, when they were about to go off on a mega tour, supporting Kimbra, which had them playing their biggest local show ever, at Union Transfer. Since then they’ve released two full-lengths, Foggy Lullaby – Arc Iris Reimagines Joni Mitchell’s ‘Blue’ (which we got to experience live at Boot & Saddle in 2017) and Icon of Ego, their third LP of original songs. Arc Iris are currently on the road and will be double-headlining our very own MilkBoy tonight with local trio Square Peg Round Hole. Earlier this week I got a chance to catch up with Arc Iris mainperson Jocie Adams (who you may remember from The Low Anthem) about how the band spent the past year and how they’re hoping to spend this one.
Izzy Cihak: So, the last time I talked to you was just about a year ago, when you were about to go on tour with Kimbra and prepping the release of Foggy Lullaby. What have been some of the highlights of Arc Iris in the past year? I know you’ve done a bunch of touring and even released an additional full-length.
Jocie Adams: Thanks! Our year highlights are definitely our tour with Kimbra, including our show at Union Transfer, and our release tour. The actual show on this release tour has been the most rewarding to perform, yet. I look forward to sharing it with Philadelphia.
Izzy: How do you feel like Icon of Ego compares to your previous releases? Did it feel like a natural evolution, or were you trying anything for the first time on this one?
Jocie: Icon of Ego is indeed a natural evolution from our previous albums. The main difference, sonically, is that this record was arranged as a trio rather than an 8-piece band, and Zach and I wrote string arrangements to accompany us as a trio. The approach is not better or worse, but just different. I have to say that I am really enjoying the freedom that comes along with playing live as a three piece band and I suspect that that part of the evolution will have a lasting impact on our band.
Izzy: What would you consider to be your most significant influences as of recently, both musical and otherwise? The last time that we spoke you said that you had one new record done, which I’m assuming is this one, but another that you were working on that was largely based on the current political climate and inspired by “witty nihilism” and absurdism.
Jocie: Yes, that other record that you speak of is still in the works. The songs and stories that it is made up of are tricky to perfect because they live in the future but comment on the present. I will be able to tell you more about that album when it is revealed, but I can say that we will be finishing it this Winter, which is fantastic news! I can also say that if you can make the show, you will be able to experience some sneak previews of that record.
Izzy: The last time we chatted we talked about your video for “Long Time Coming,” which I think is still my favorite video of yours, but I also really love your recent videos, especially the one for “$GNMS.” What were the particular influences behind that video? I know you were working with Julia Liu again.
Jocie: Thanks! Yes, we absolutely love working with Julia! She is a dream. The new $GNMS video comments on the natural beauty of Earth that is slowly being gobbled up by the byproducts of human greed and entitlement. The contrast between our world in its previous natural state and current city state is viewed through VR by an alien life form who was unexpectedly dropped on our planet. The song is earthy yet current in its production and the production of the film reflects that delicate balance. Although you think you see special effects, they were actually created in camera with mirrors and this kind of trick of the eye reflects the kind of magic tricks we like to perform in our music. The contrast between the studio shots and the outdoor shots allows one to pick out the beauty of each more thoroughly than if the video had only included one or the other, and that kind of beauty and intensity through contrast is also reflected in the orchestration and arrangement of the song.
Izzy: Since this is a Philadelphia-based publication, I have to ask your thoughts on the city, as you’ve played here quite a bit in recent years. Any favorite performances or memories?
Jocie: Our best show in Philly so far was our last show at Union Transfer with Kimbra. The audience was so warm and ready for us even though they didn’t know who we were. Kimbra has great fans already and this show was particularly meaningful in terms of our connection with the audience. I hope the people that saw that show are able to find out that we are returning to their city this Thursday.
Izzy: That show definitely saw your biggest production this city has seen from you. I’m curious what we can expect from the live show on Thursday at MilkBoy, which I’m guessing will be a bit more intimate and a bit more like your headlining shows at Boot & Saddle.
Jocie: You can expect new songs, new lights, new costumes, and new energy. The show we worked up for this tour is hot.
Izzy: Finally, what are you most excited about in 2019? I’m guessing, based on our last chat, that you have more music to be released. Can we expect to see you on the road again, as well?
Jocie: We will be out and about in 2019 but only after we spend February and March finishing up some new music. We have a couple new projects that we are trying to button up this Winter. We also have another EP that will be released sometime this Spring and we will do some more touring in the Northeast around that. I hope to make it outside of this strange country again this year as well, but that depends on so many moving parts, we just have to wait to see if the right opportunities and finances arise.