There was just something about these guys. When IRONTOM stepped onto the outdoor stage at Industry City in Brooklyn, the colors of the sunset were starting to seep into the sky, and a cluster of chattering guests were watching airplanes soar above the lawn. But within minutes, every distraction seemed to vanish. It was impossible to avert your eyes as lead singer Harry Hayes forced his every muscle into action; moving his hands in tight coordination with the band’s hard pulse as he sang, mouthing paragraphs of unwritten lyrics between the real ones, and letting the ruthless guitar work of Zach Irons cut him up like daggers. Zach, shredding in his innate rocker stance, continuously cooked up something akin to a science experiment – explosive riffs with unexpected reactions, one catalyst after another inciting the next blast. Powered by the memorable songs from their new full-length album, Partners, IRONTOM were on fire, and it was the kind of pure rock set that hit you right in the chest. Having had some idea of what we were in for, we were psyched to interview them backstage before the show and find out where all that energy comes from.
“We started off just really trying to excite ourselves with the songs we were making,” said Harry. “They were really just wild rides. And that’s still kind of the approach we take. But on this record, we definitely focused more on having kind of relatable songs. I mean, to us sometimes, we find that if something feels relatable, it’s still weird to other people. So it’s hard to say how people perceive it. We’re not trying to fully self-serve ourselves; we want to invite people in to have fun with us.” Zach agreed, recalling his own change in thinking. “I used to think about what would be fun to play onstage, or what young guitar players would want to learn – and really, that’s not what makes a great song at all. I mean, there’s no formula to making a great song,” he said, “but it definitely doesn’t have to do with what other people may or may not think.”
While IRONTOM have earned a strong following and clearly made their own name, a number of rock fans hold them in high regards for their ties to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with whom they are currently touring. Zach’s connection to the esteemed group is particularly special, given that his father is Jack Irons, RHCP’s founding drummer (and Pearl Jam’s former one). We couldn’t resist the chance to ask what it was like growing up with that kind of influence. “There were really zero challenges, other than the fact that he painted a very clear reality about what it meant to forge into this industry,” said Zach. “He basically just said, ‘I’m warning you.’ You know? He just told me about the harsh realities of what it takes.”
“To me, I’m so close to my dad. He’s such an inspiration to me, and it’s such a cultural band, that there’s no shadow at all. It’s more like we’re part of the family, and I’m just carrying the torch of music. And I love music that much – to where it’s not a competitive thing, it’s just what I wanted to do. I never thought ‘Okay I’ve decided, I’m going to play music.’ It was always the thing I was best at; the thing I was most interested in and passionate about. He just encouraged me to do whatever I love to do in this life, which just happened to be music. So we also had that deep friendship as musicians. Anytime we need advice, he’s there. We talk a lot for a father and son in our position, I’d say. We keep in touch a lot. And we were on the same tour together, so he had his room in the arena, we had ours, and I would sort of sneak in and say hi.”
IRONTOM have also been busy touring with Awolnation, and they’ve found another strong influence in the band’s frontman, Aaron Bruno – who, in fact, produced their new record. “We learned a lot from Aaron,” said Zach. “He’s got a very strong creative mind and a really clear vision of what he wants to achieve. The path that he’s on is very direct and quick, and with us, he had that same vision. So we learned a lot about the consistency of the mind, and how songs can be…not what you think they are.” “He’s a great producer, great writer, and a great musician,” agreed Harry. “And he challenged us. He would hear a part of a song and say, ‘Explore that,’ or we’d bring him something and he’d be like, ‘It could be better.’ He just pushed us to be better overall.”
Perhaps the strongest driving force, though, is what got them started in the first place – the sheer feeling of performing, and the fact that they really love it. “We’ve been touring about two years, and since we’ve started doing that, being around audiences – we’ve seen what affects them, and we’ve seen what gets them excited,” explained Harry. “Those things have all become elements of what we’re doing now. It goes back into everything we’re working on. I mean, I think we’re just having fun. And I think if we’re having fun, it will translate to other people.” “The main goal is just to be free,” said Zach. “Be creative as we want to be. Make the kind of art we want. And bring what we feel is naturally coming through us to the people. Whoever those people are.”
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley