Every great songwriter has a personal technique for summoning material from thin air. Iceage guitarist Johan Surballe Wieth makes no secret of his.
He relied on a piece of furniture that has been in his family for decades to come up with the brutal power chordings of his Danish band’s first two albums, “New Brigade” and “You’re Nothing.” He also used it to create fluid, The Birthday Party-bluesy filigrees on the new album “Plowing Into the Field of Love,” a stylistic quantum leap from the band’s previous efforts.
“I have my chair, a really nice old chair that I inherited from my grandfather, and it’s not a rocker – it’s stationary and big, like something Sherlock Holmes would sit in, idly smoking his pipe. That’s how I come up with my stuff. I’ll just sit in it and spend most of my day just plucking my guitar. I’ve done a lot of guitar parts just sitting there in front of the TV, watching a ton of weird movies,” says the musician, who brings Iceage to town this weekend with a caveat. The quartet has matured so much in the past year, it rarely plays any of its earlier proto-punk material.
Wieth, 23, is prepared to take a cushiony seat with his 1972 Gibson Gold Top at any hour. “Often I’ll just be getting to bed, or going to sleep, and all of a sudden I’ll have an idea and have to get up again – that happens a lot at the end of the day, when I think I’m done with everything,” he says.
He’s learned much over the course of three records, he adds, “Like how to set the best mood for creating things, and how we as a group motivate ourselves to make music. Now I have this insight into how to shape songs that I just didn’t have before.”
Wieth and chums were teenagers when they coalesced six years ago, in a Copenhagen scene revolving around the local store/label Posh Isolation. But with the remarkable “Plowing,” Iceage has outgrown it.
The recording opens with the military march “On My Fingers,” then jarringly shifts gears into a retro-rockabilly “The Lord’s Favorite,” then the funereal blues of “Stay” and “Abundant Living” – all crooned with Nick Cave-like detachment by frontman Elias Bender Ronnenfelt, previously known for snapping like a pitbull.
“We’ve just become much more capable of expressing ourselves,” says Wieth, who has steeled himself for “Plowing” backlash.
“Some might wonder what’s going on with us, and that’s fair enough – people sometimes just want to hear more of the same,” he says. “But anyone who has a real relationship to our music? They’ll stay on and truly appreciate it.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Elbo Room, 647 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 9:30 p.m. Friday
Contact: (415) 552-7788, www.brownpapertickets.com