Icon for Hire is an American rock band from Decatur, Illinois. Formed in 2007, the band's current lineup consist of singer Ariel Bloomer, guitarist Shawn Jump, bassist Josh Kincheloe, and drummer Adam Kronshagen. They released two EPs independently before signing to Tooth & Nail Records, through which they released their Billboard-charting debut album Scripted in 2011 and Icon for Hire on October 15, 2013.
The band was formed in Decatur, Illinois by vocalist Ariel Bloomer and guitarist Shawn Jump. When the two met in 2007, Ariel, upon discovering that Jump played guitar, initiated a musical collaboration between the two of them. When the need for a drummer arose, Jump recruited Adam Kronshagen, an old friend he had held jam sessions with as a member of the local party scene (Jump was six months clean at the time). Bassist Joshua Davis joined and the band was officially formed in November of that year, choosing their name as a satirical comment on the state of the music industry.
The band played their first show in a local club before an audience of family and friends, who gave them a positive reception even though, by the band's own admission, they gave a terrible performance. Ariel has been quoted as saying of the performance, "Our passion for music was there; whatever we lacked in sound we made up for with enthusiasm." Over the next two years, the band toured throughout the Midwest and released two EPs, the self-titled Icon for Hire EP in 2008 and The Grey EP in 2009. During that same year, Davis left the band.
Tooth & Nail and Scripted (2009-2011):
In late 2009, the band was contacted by Tooth & Nail Records through Myspace. The label then sent representatives to one of the band's shows, and eventually signed them in July 2010. "We are thrilled to be joining such an established and well-respected group at Tooth & Nail," shared the band upon their signing. "It's a label that has a history of consistently putting out good music and really working side by side with their artists. Because we've been doing this thing on our own for over two years, it feels great to partner with Tooth & Nail. We can't wait to record our debut full-length and see where this road takes us." They spent the last quarter of 2010 in the studio with producers Rob Hawkins and Aaron Sprinkle recording their first full-length album, Scripted, which was released by the label on August 23, 2011. The album made it on the US Billboard charts at No. 7 for Hard Rock Albums, No. 5 for Christian Albums, No. 16 for Alternative Albums, No. 22 for Rock Albums, and No. 95 on the Billboard 200. It also sold more than 4,300 units in the first week of release and broke the record for first week sales on a Tooth & Nail debut album. The band also achieved success with the album's lead single "Make a Move", which peaked at No. 13 on R&R/Billboard's Christian Rock chart and had an accompanying music video exclusively released online by Guitar World magazine's website. Also in 2011, the band acquired current bassist Josh Kincheloe.
Icon for Hire (2011-present):
In December 2011, Ariel stated that, while the band had been focusing on extensive touring rather than writing new music, she had "a feeling that we'll start piecing together some demos shortly." In a later interview with TVU Music channel, she revealed that the band was in the early stages of writing songs for a second album. In an interview with KHRT-FM, the band expressed their desire for the album to be "heavier....more aggressive", with more bubblegum pop production and possible hip hop elements. On August 15, 2013, Icon for Hire premiered their new single "Cynics and Critics" via lyric video and announced their second album, the self-titled Icon for Hire. The album was released on October 15, 2013, whereupon it reached number 66 on the Billboard 200 and received largely positive reviews.
Icon for Hire supported Red on their "Kill the Machine" tour in October 2011. They also participated in that year's Christmas Rock Night festival in Ennepetal, near Düsseldorf, Germany, along with Red and Skillet. The band toured with Jamie's Elsewhere and These Hearts in early 2012, and toured with Emery's "Emery and Friends Tour" with I Am Empire and Sent By Ravens in March 2012. They have announced a May 2012 tour with P.O.D, Red, and Love and Death.
Musical style and influences:
The band's sound combines pop punk and alternative metal elements with strings and electronics. Jamie Maxwell of Cross Rhythms describes them as a punk band, but notes that "the electronic influence evident in some of their tracks is a definite nod to the likes of Linkin Park and others in the nu metal mould." In describing the band's sound, lead singer Ariel has said that the band is "first and foremost just a rock band. That's where our roots are and where our hearts are. But a few years ago we started really getting into synths and programming. We love the combination of brutal, in-your-face riffs, with the fun candy of pop production sprinkled all over it."
Influences cited by the band have included hard rock bands like Linkin Park, Breaking Benjamin, Pantera, Mötley Crüe, and Rage Against the Machine, as well as pop- and hip hop-oriented artists such as Skrillex, The Black Eyed Peas, Dessa, and Lady Gaga.
Comparisons to other female-led rock bands:
The band's sound has often been compared to that of other female-fronted rock bands, particularly Paramore. Nathaniel Schexnayder of Jesus Freak Hideout went so far as to label the band's debut album Scripted as generic, saying that the band "borrows their elements from other female fronted acts like Flyleaf, Fireflight, and Paramore at an alarming degree.". Ariel has taken issue with these comparisons, citing the band's "unique combination of programming/pop elements, mixed with a commercial rock sound" as a distinguishing element, in addition to the band's live performances: "We've never had someone come see us live and compare us to other bands." She has also noted such comparisons as unfairly discriminatory: "It frustrates me how in so many other industries you are acknowledged for your skill and education, but in music somehow if you're a chick you better be bringing something extraordinarily mind-blowing to the table in order to have a shot. It's a bit sexist I think."
Like many Tooth & Nail artists, Icon for Hire have had complicated relations with the Christian music market. Since early in the band's career, they have denied that the group is a Christian band, with Ariel stating, "We are very intentionally not trying to save the church; we are trying to save the world. We believe that if we follow the pathway of a typical Christian band and stick to only playing churches and stick to being signed to a Christian label, we're not going to fulfill the purpose that we are called to fulfill. That's great for a lot of bands, and I'm really glad that there are bands doing that, but we know why we're here, and we're not here for that."
The band largely maintained this attitude into their Tooth & Nail years. On her tumblr. blog, Ariel explained that "the average rock music lover will never have a chance to be impacted by our music if all these Christians keep calling us a christian band online and scaring them away. Posting that we're playing 'Holy Tabernacle Christian Fellowship' on our facebook is a death sentence for us, it alienates us from our potential or realized non-christian fans."
Despite this, several writers have identified Icon for Hire as part of the Christian music scene, and some critics have noted references to the members' Christian faith in their lyrics. David Jeffries pointed out that "Christian ideals are the driving force" in the lyrics on Scripted, though he acknowledged that "you could look at this as a secular rebellion against the mopey 'scene' bands and still thrill at Icon for Hire's fresh attitude and sense of purpose." Schexnayder, while admitting that "the group doesn't wear their faith on their sleeve in their messages", noted a general encouraging message on the album and singled out the song "The Grey" as containing "spiritual references". Kim Jones of About.com said that the categorization was inaccurate "if you're looking to use the term to put them into a nice and safe box, limited to only a Christian audience."
Ariel Bloomer - lead vocals (2007-present),
Shawn Jump - electric guitar (2007-present),
Adam Kronshagen - drums (2007-present),
Joshua Davis - bass guitar, unclean vocals (2007-2009),
Josh Kincheloe - bass guitar (2011-2013)