Interview with Alaskan Gothic/Dark Punk/Death Rock Duo Cliff and Ivy

Having incorporated various influences into their music over the years, Alaskan gothic/dark punk/deathrock duo Cliff and Ivy have gone for a rawer punk sound for their new EP, Bring Us The Night.

Originally from New Jersey, Cliff and Ivy began collaborating on music together in the ’80s. They formed the industrial band Parallax1 after moving to Anchorage, AK, in 1993, and began performing as the duo Cliff and Ivy in 2011. Cliff and Ivy’s highly theatrical music is influenced by magic, and their lyrics are often based on synesthesia. 

In an email interview, Cliff and Ivy discuss their new release, what it’s like to be a gothic band in Alaska, their creative process, and more.

I know that you’ve been music together for many years. Could you discuss your musical history leading up to what you’re currently doing as Cliff and Ivy?

We are originally from New Jersey. We met for the first time at a Clash concert in 1984. We were both in the punk/hardcore scene and formed bands over the years. We’ve always been very DIY, just getting inspired by other bands, we were lucky to see many of the early hardcore bands and be part of it. We started forming hardcore bands: The Gout, Warm Love, and we did garage punk – The Dolphin Room, then post-punk and industrial/goth: Moby Dick, and Lesser Koodoo. We moved to California, and did dark experimental music with our band Turan Sul. Then we moved to Anchorage AK, in 1993 and formed our industrial band Parallax1, then we began performing as a goth duo, Cliff and Ivy in 2011. In the 90’s we formed a DIY label called Antifreeze, then we formed our current label, House of Extreme Darkness. Parallax1toured and was included on a lot of various industrial comps from Invisible Records and Underground Inc.      

In exchange for getting good grades, Cliff was given the choice of a guitar or a gun at age 13, he chose the guitar and has played ever since. Ivy played piano as a child and ongoing, and played drums in our previous bands before doing lead vocals.   

“Bring Us The Night” seems to have more of a raw, punk edge than a lot of your previous work. What made you go in this direction for the EP

Cliff and Ivy welcome diverse influences, we’ve done music inspired by many genres including punk/goth, blues, world music, and more. We did a punk cover album called American Saints. We were inspired by our fanbase in Texas to explore what we could do with a harder dark punk/western sound. It’s not really new to us, our mid 80s band The Dolphin Room also drew on these influences such as X and The Gun Club. We were on a 2020 gothic/western comp called Blood and Dust from Venus Aeon with our single 8Star. Texas label Saustex Records invited us to be on their 2021 comp Only the Strange Survive. 

You’ve been referred to as “Alaska’s only goth band.” Do you feel that being based in Alaska has an impact on you as a band? Do you generally perform locally, and if so, do you perhaps need to be creative in terms of finding appropriate venues/events?

We don’t perform in Alaska at this time. We’ve done streaming events online in the past 2 years. We did do an Alaskan streaming event, with our local music advocacy organization, and some national streaming events – Dark Side of the Con, a benefit for Suicide awareness (LA), and the online Horror Fest 2020 out of Brazil. We have performed locally in the past. We were included in the CDBaby DIY musician conference, Alaska contingent, in Austin TX in 2019. Throughout the years we’ve played at the local rock clubs and festivals. Although local gigs are starting to begin again, as you can imagine the live music scene is small and we have lost some venues. There is a new group of Alaskans on social media called Midnight Sun Goths.   

We have played more outside Alaska in terms of live gigs. We are headlining in LA in October, Klub Terminal, we will play in Texas again in 2022, and we are playing at Dark Side of the Con in NJ in April 2022. 

Being based in Alaska has made us more creative in isolation. Exploring the theme of being different from most of the human creation around you, but feeling unity with the power of the earth and nature around you. The mountains, sea, sky and animals are all influences.    

Who would you cite as your initial musical influences, and are there any bands/artists you’ve discovered along the way who have inspired you?

Killing Joke is a huge influence, we’ve seen them many times, and Cliff roadied for them in 2003.  Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Ramones, PIL, 45 Grave, Christian Death, The Germs. 

We’ve been fortunate to be able to collaborate with some of our musical heroes and influences: Don Bolles (The Germs, 45 Grave), KRAMER (Shockabilly, Butthole Surfers) Paul Roessler (Screamers, 45 Grave, Twisted Roots), Rikk Agnew (The Adolescents, DI, Christian Death), Gitane Demone (Christian Death, Gitane Demone Quartet).     

I see that you’ve created music for theatrical and art events.  Could you discuss that type of work? How does it compare creatively to your own releases? Is it something you actively seek out or is it a matter of opportunities arising through people you know? 

We performed at Ivy’s art college in the 80s. We did installations with music performance and sound, as we were aware of what was going on in the experimental art scene in the 80s. Ongoing, it was natural to put music with art and vice versa. We’ve been asked to do music for art installations by artists who knew us. We have performed at art openings and galleries, our first gig in Alaska was performing experimental soundscape in an art installation with a dancer doing movement to our industrial improv music. We created sounds for speakers playing within artwork in a gallery. We did our own performance art with music, projecting film onto us as we played live to our industrial backing tracks and programs. The opportunity was there, in terms of being a gig – for something experimental, as opposed to a bar gig where people want to see a cover band. We did prop master and experimental instrument building for local theater plays.  There was a lively local theater scene in the 90s and early 2000s. The local Anchorage paper – Anchorage Daily News – once reviewed us by saying we “sounded like death” – greatest review ever! We did a local cable access show for 8 years, called Weird Alaska, where we interviewed artists, actors, musicians, personalities, conspiracy theorists and the like. We still do music for local filmmakers and theater groups. This comes from our past here locally and usually the theater group or filmmaker will reach out to us when they need something goth/weird/dark/modern. We did recorded modern experimental incidental music for a local stage production of Macbeth. Most recently we did music for a locally made horror film called Vampire Foxes from Space which is currently touring horror film conventions.   

We often put theatrical sounds into our “regular” music. There is not a lot of separation for us. We’ll take any sound we need and use it.      

Do you feel that you have a typical collaborative process in terms of how you start songs and write together?

Depends on what type of music we are going to write. If soundtrack, we usually start with the piano. Generally, Cliff will do the songwriting and arranging, but this can be collaborative too. We generally bark and howl at each other and then it’s a song. Cliff has recorded music since the 4 track days. He has done remixes for other bands too. There’s been a lot of experimentation and we’ve done a lot of improv.   

Ivy does the lyrics, many times using an intuitive process based on synesthesia. She is able to see letters/words/colors together, and will choose words based on their perceived color, and create a pattern/imaginary painting with the words. Other times it is more like a condensed story with hopefully striking imagery within the words. We’ve had a lot of experience with quickly getting in touch with our creative process as we have 2 young adult sons with autism. In raising them we continue to get closer to using the visual and auditory senses in different ways, they often appear in our videos and provide vocal sounds on recordings.    

Stylistically, does “Bring Us The Night” represent what we can expect from future releases? Is there a full new album in the works?

Yes, we are currently working on a brand new album with surprise guest collaborators that we are sure you will find interesting! There will be more along the lines of dark punk and the aesthetic of Bring us the Night, but we will have more to offer too – goth, dark punk, pop and dance!

Is there anything else that you’d like to mention?

In addition to a new album, we hope to make more soundtrack music with DIY horror theme video, and to grow our music video portfolio with some animated imagery. We want to officially release most of our back catalog, along with many unreleased recordings and videos, which have not yet been made largely available.  

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