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I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness shine a light on their shape-shifting gloom

I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness should be a metal band. After all, they have all the prerequisites, from the indie-long yet metal-dark band name, to music that quite literally sounds like it was performed on instruments welded from pure steel.

Yet, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness would never make it in the metal world, as there's nothing laughable, pretentious or obnoxious about the group or their music. Instead, ILYBICD make beautifully jagged and hauntingly austere music that firmly places them among the ranks of the cluttered indie rock genre.

The Austin, Texas-based band, however, has a dark and shimmering sound that comfortably distances them from indie stalwarts like Franz Ferdinand or Modest Mouse. Rather, the group's eerily soothing grooves place them musically alongside We Have the Facts and We're Voting Yes-era Death Cab for Cutie, while Christian Goyer's vocals somehow balance the choked sentimentality of Spoon's Britt Daniel and the gloomy morbidity of Joy Division's Ian Curtis.

In a recent phone interview, bassist Edward Robert talked about the band's origins. The group came together after the split of the members' former bands, which included locally respected Austin acts Paul Newman, Windsor for the Derby, Glorium and Salute the Curse.

Around 2001, the group coalesced, initially content just to jam together. However, as the band's chemistry tightened, and famous friends took notice, they soon changed their tune.

"We decided early on when we talked about recording anything that we wanted to have someone come in with us, just because there are so many of us with so many ideas, it's good to have someone to organize it all," Robert said. "So, we asked Britt (Daniel) to do (the self-titled EP), because he was a friend of ours, and he wasn't super-busy at the time. He'd never produced a record (for another band) before, so it seemed like a good idea."

And a good idea it was; the EP is a lean, catchy slice of gaunt pop with mere hints at the group's later, cloudier sounds. Aside from just proving himself a deft producer, Daniel proved the perfect paternal fit for the band.

"He'd always made all his own records, and he knew what good songs sound like, so it just fit together well for the EP," Robert said. "He actually really got into it and made the record happen in a lot of ways. Like he found the studio and did that sort of stuff, which we were too scatterbrained to take care of."

The EP proved a success, and ILYBICD came to terms with being dubbed a real band. This meant touring and dealing with the obligatory hailstorm of attention their band name would attract (Robert swears the name "was just cooked up"). The rising interest in the group required they reconvene in the studio and begin tracking their debut album. Consistent in keeping famous producers on board, the band snagged former Ministry bassist and programmer Paul Barker to work his magic on Fear Is on Our Side.

Listeners will note a remarkable transition in sound, from the U2-isms of the EP toward the murkier catchiness of Fear Is on Our Side.

"It's a couple different things" Robert said. "Obviously, you evolve over that period of time, but also, we were able to spend the time on this record, making it sound like we wanted it to. I think the record sounds like we always have live, whereas the EP had a tight and sort of stark production."

Released in March, Fear Is on Our Side, coupled with the EP's success, has helped catapult the band into the upper echelon of an already phenomenal Austin scene, joining the ranks of bands with similarly long-winded names such as ... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead (pals of ILYBICD) and Explosions in the Sky (certainly musical brethren). Still, the sparkling gloom of ILYBICD makes it difficult to cleanly bunch them in among the others.

"As far as where we fit in it, I'm not sure," Robert said. "There are a lot of rock bands, but they all sound a lot different. It's not super cutthroat. All the bands are generally friends."

It's that kind of genial acceptance that separates I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness from the pack. These guys exude neither the hipster musk of Spoon, nor do they vie for the aggressive outrageousness of ... And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. But somehow, fans of both groups could easily dig ILYBICD for their memorable music and carefree persona (no rock posturing to be found). Or perhaps the appeal stems from their music's collective feel--unlike that of Spoon or Trail of Dead, who are ruled by one or two dominant songwriters.

"I think that for the majority of the songs, they start out with someone bringing in a riff or a little thing they've been tinkering with, and we just hammer at it until it becomes a song, or until we think it sucks and are tired of it and don't want to mess with it anymore," Robert said. "There've been rare occasions where songs have been structured and brought in, but that's (an) exception; that's not the rule. Usually, it's just all of us in a room hashing it out."

In that vein, the group is currently hashing it out during a brief West Coast tour, before a short East Coast/European jaunt this summer. I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness will also put out a single in July (the propulsive, gleaming and magnificent "According to Plan"), re-release their EP (likely with additional tracks), possibly put out a United Kingdom-only single, and maybe even drop some remixes by year's end. Oh, and somewhere in that shuffle, the band plans on working on a follow-up.

"We're going to get started on it this year," Robert said. "We haven't made any big decisions about how we're going to go about recording it, but every situation has been pretty unique, and I'd like to think that we'll do something completely different this time as well."

Somehow, we figured that much.

More by Michael Petitti

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