With three-and-a-half years of pounding the pavement throughout the Midwest and a feverish social networking presence, heavy alternative rock/modern pop trio Icon For Hire signed the dotted line with Tooth & Nail Records. The ensuring Scripted serves as the Decatur, IL-bred player’s national debut disc, but between the immediately apparent chemistry amongst front woman Ariel, guitarist Shawn Jump and drummer Adam Kronshagen, coupled with powerhouse production from Aaron Sprinkle (Anberlin, The Almost, Acceptance) and Rob Hawkins (Fireflight, Philmont), the group sounds nothing short of innovative, infectious and explosive.
“We started up as being a rock band, which is something that will never change, but we had the chance to put over the top production elements that we never had the budget or skill set to do before,” notes Sweden-born singer Ariel, who’s just as personable in conversation as she is ferocious behind the mic. “Throughout the sessions for Scripted, we found ourselves developing heavy and brutal in your face moments, but also a pop sensibility. There’s a tension really between heavy rock and pop, but never at the expense where it would overshadow the rock side. The pop part is like the sprinkles on top of a cake, but the actual cake is rich, dark and heavy.”
Though it might be natural to make comparisons to current tastemakers like Paramore and Flyleaf because of their kinship of female leadership, the guys in the group add additional gasoline-induced instrumentation, while the more menacing elements suggest listeners shouldn’t necessarily judge gender before genre. In fact, Icon For Hire seeks to shatter stereotypes of every nature, ranging from its tongue-in-cheek moniker to the equally ironic album title Scripted.
“We’re basically making fun of how our culture makes idols out of musicians, but at the same time, we have a responsibility to listeners to really make sure we’re living the best lifestyle we can live,” explains Ariel. “Even the album title has a bit of irony and sarcasm to it. It’s commenting on the fact that society seems to force us to conform to a certain way of saying things, almost like everything’s fake and polished, but what we did instead was make a record that’s really honest, raw and genuine.”
A case in point can be traced throughout the lead single “Make A Move,” which uses monstrous hooks to convey an empowering call to action to shatter the chains of complacency. As a further extension of that concept, the group often shares at their merch table information about various social causes as diverse as the clean water crisis in Africa to the global epidemic of human trafficking. Adds Ariel: “It’s easy to have a passive self-pity party when things aren’t going your way, but when you see what people are struggling with in other places, it helps you realize things aren’t so bad in your life.”
Even so, Icon For Hire is intent on giving fans going through rough patches an outlet to release their frustrations by offering up a slew of autobiographical lyrics chronicling members’ checkered pasts. “I’ve gone through depression and found in talking with listeners that at some point almost everyone has hated their lives,” continues Ariel, citing the anthem of affirmation “Get Well.” “It’s so easy to get stuck there, but we want to encourage people to quit letting the past ruin your life. So many people were molested, abused, have messed up home lives or are dealing with their parents getting divorced, but we’re trying to make a statement about getting over the past to the point of not just being healthy, but actually being happy.”
In looking at each of Icon For Hire’s personal profiles, it appears as though everything’s finally falling into place. For Ariel, that includes balancing her band duties with a clothing line, making some of the group’s merch and holding everyone accountable to one another on the road. In addition to growling on the guitar, Shawn is the business-minded guy who helps the band balance the books and even sold his house and car to invest further in their dream. Besides keeping the beat, Adam spearheads the group’s booking efforts, also facilitating communication and networking aspects to further Icon For Hire’s reach.
“We’re a really tight knit group of friends and we put a lot of care into what we’re putting out there for people,” sums up Ariel. “We’re not the kind of people who want to hang out in the green room all day. We get out there to talk to our fans for hours before and after the show and we try to infuse a hopeful element in what we do and say."