Akimbo Jersey Shores

Akimbo Jersey Shores
Tempering their slash and burn, raucous noise metal party blitzkrieg on album number six, the mighty Akimbo also find a new home for this full-on concept record about the infamous 1916 Jersey shark attacks that, among other things, inspired a little film known as Jaws. Released on Neurosis’s Neurot Recordings, Jersey Shores is no novelty or "dun-dun-inspired” metal head pandering; it is an undeniably impressive accomplishment that melds ominous melodies, a newfound appreciation for moments of musical calm and peaks and valleys, and expanded vocal work from singer/bassist Jon Weisnewski with Akimbo’s trademarked spazz rock/metal pillaging. Obviously this musical ebb and flow is meant to mirror the concept — in 1916, a rogue shark (either great white or bull, repeatedly attacked swimmers along the Jersey coast — as well as replicate the ocean’s pulsating waves, calm before the storm and air of dread before the blue turns to red. Admirably, and successfully, Akimbo construct a six-song suite of songs that flow as a cohesive piece and actually convey the concept, emotions and events while still being catchy, rocking and, well, Akimbo. It’s an undeniable success at the often difficult "concept record” and shows that even at their ten-year mark, these old sharks can learn new tricks.

Give a brief history of Akimbo.
Bassist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski: A brief history is tough when your band have been around for a decade but here goes: Akimbo started in 1998 when Nat [Damm, drums] and I decided to try something a little outside of the punk rock stuff we had cut our teeth on as teenagers. Since then, the band have gone through a lot of changes in both sound and members. Sticking with us the longest has been Jared Eglington [guitar], who played on all records up to Forging Steel, Laying Stone, and Aaron Walters, our latest and last guitar player, and 11th member to date! We’ve always believed in a strong work ethic with the band, pushing ourselves to tour as much as possible and build a healthy catalogue of albums. Although it’s been ten years now, I have no desire to quit anytime soon and am looking forward to the 15th and 20th anniversaries to come.

Jersey Shores is a concept album about the famous 1916 Jersey shark attacks that, among other things, inspired Jaws. What made you want to tackle that?
I have a long-time obsession with sharks that started when I was a little kid and never really went away. I read the book 12 Days of Terror by Richard Fernicola around the time that Aaron joined the band and it’s a document and investigation of the events surrounding the attacks. Something about that story really hit me. The events and the setting are so unreal and eerie; it’s absolutely a "truth is stranger than fiction”-type story that is a relatively unknown piece of American history. After I mentally entertained the idea of writing songs around the events and the people involved, the ideas just started erupting and pretty soon the shit was writing itself.

You’ve just reached your ten-year anniversary. Did you think you’d last this long and are you just getting started?
Yup. Nat and I have known from an early age that we’d be doing this for as long as we can physically take the punishment. There are many more shows and albums to come.

What were you able to do differently with Jersey Shores, and why, than on past releases, musically? The big difference on Jersey Shores was the approach to writing we took. Right out of the gate I knew it had to be a concept record that’s meant to be heard and played as a single cohesive piece of music rather than an album fragmented into tracks. Knowing this, we weren’t afraid to use repeating themes in songs and have parts reference other parts of the album, and I think it created a really interesting flow to the music. There’s also a lot more melody to this album than in our other material, both in the instrumentation and vocals, but I think this is more a natural progression of our personal tastes coming through rather than a conscious choice to change the sound for this record.

How has the switch from Alternative Tentacles to Neurot been and what necessitated that move?
The switch has been good and bad. We’re really happy with both parties. Each one has an important history in underground music and we consider it a huge honour to be a part of both labels. Jello [Biafra, AT owner] has always been a huge advocate for us and been beyond supportive, and the entire Neurosis crew have been down to earth and supportive as well. The move wasn’t a necessary thing but early on we were thinking that the album could use a home better suited to its vibe to give it an element of separation from the other records. We ended up opening for Neurosis in Seattle and when they asked about future releases for Neurot we couldn’t think of a better option. The bad part is having to choose where to go next. We’re such fans of both labels and have had nothing but great experiences working with both of them. It’s not a decision I’m looking forward to.

The artwork has changed with Jersey Shores. As with the music, this seems a more ominous and cohesive piece of work. Was that by design?
Absolutely. Anyone who’s familiar with the story behind it will know that it is far from the standard "dragon fucking a dude, beer bong, caveman party rock” we usually go for. It was 100 percent deliberate to try out some new things and get a little more explorative with the sound. When you’ve been playing the same stuff this long it’s a huge help in the burnout department.

Akimbo, to me, are a band that have been slugging away for years but are still flying under the radar. Do you feel overlooked in a sense, considering the quality of your records, being around and touring for so long, and do you hope that teaming up with Neurot will change that?
Absolutely. We don’t take our successes for granted and have done everything out of passion and personal love for what we do but those are feelings that just can’t be avoided. We’ve had a lot of good times and I cherish every memory I have from this band but there are definitely times you wonder if you’re ever going to break out of the struggle. Seeing our peers start bands that just skyrocket while we’re still in "the shit” hoping to get support spots on good shows and fighting for meagre guarantees... It gets rough and a string of bad shows on tour can absolutely wreck your morale. However, I take it as evidence that we only do it because we love it and for no other reason, otherwise we would’ve been done a long time ago. There’s always hope that things will progress and that’s true for every band at every level, right up to the guys who are making a comfortable living off of their music. I’m not counting on Neurot for anything outside of doing what they do for all their bands and I think it’s naive to assume that association with any one label will make or break the band. I know that Neurot will bring new people to our music and that’s always good but if things stay just the same it isn’t going to make any difference in my personal involvement with Akimbo. As long as we can still get loud I’ll be happy.

Do you believe it was a great white, as the legend goes, or a bull shark that committed the original attacks in 1916?
There is a lot of speculation on the matter. I personally agree with the rogue great white shark theory examined in Fernicola’s book. If anyone out there is as remotely bothered as I am about marine life, I highly recommend it. (Neurot)