A Place To Bury Strangers

A Place To Bury Strangers
A Place To Bury Strangers have been dealt the overwhelming tag of "New York City’s loudest band,” and while they don’t exactly embrace that heavy-handed description for their music, they don’t exactly try to prove it wrong. Forming in 2003, it wasn’t until last summer’s release of the band’s debut self-titled LP that people took notice of the band’s deafening rock blitz. An invitation to open for heroes the Jesus & Mary Chain was sent, a tour with Black Rebel Motorcycle happened, a favourable review by Pitchfork was written and soon the trio found themselves in the middle of a blogger frenzy, performing legendary gigs while taking old psych and shoegazer fans back to their heydays, Diet Pepsi-style. Now the band have Western Canada in their sights, hitting the unforgiving winter roads with Holy Fuck, their partners in noise, for five shows in February (see below for dates, cities and venues). The day after playing a gig set to become the performance they’ll use for an upcoming live album, vocalist/guitarist Oliver Ackermann sat down and discussed the band’s "loudness,” his effects pedal enterprise and what’s next on the band’s plate.

You’re coming up here to tour with Holy Fuck. How did the two bands end up on tour together?
I think it was all through our agent, but we had seen them once when they played CMJ and just thought they were awesome. So we told our agents that we’d love to play with them and they just hooked it up. We just did a mash-up with them, where they played one of our songs and we played one of theirs. That was the first time we really hung out with them for a while. They’re such awesome guys. We’re so happy to be doing this tour, we couldn’t ask for anything better. I think it’s gonna be real cool.

Have you done any research on touring Western Canada in the winter?
(Laughs) I’ve only played shows in Southern Ontario in the wintertime, but I’ve still had some bad experiences, like driving a van down a really steep hill that was covered in ice. It might be a bad idea, but whatever, I’m up for an adventure!

I'm curious about this "loudest band in New York” title you’ve been given. Is that something you came up with or did someone else give it to you?
No, it’s just one of those things where a couple of people had written that in some reviews for our live shows, so that was it. It’s really nothing we’d claim to be. We probably play really loud though for people to think that. I think Jono [MOFO], our bass player, put it up on the MySpace page for a while as a joke, and some people take that very seriously so…

So do you embrace it?
I don’t really care, whatever. We play pretty loud, but we’re not in any sort of competition. I’ve been playing loud music for a while now, so maybe it’s gotten louder and louder, but I’m not really sure. Usually people say that their ears are ringing a lot; I don’t really feel my ears ringing, so maybe I’ve messed up my hearing, I don’t really know.

Do you wear earplugs?
Not when we play shows. We only play for a half-an-hour usually, so it’s not so bad.

What makes you play so loud?
It’s really just a thing where you want the crowd to feel the music at the same time and also, when something is so loud it kind of overwhelms and takes control of your thoughts. We use things like strobe lights and smoke, and we’re trying to use it as a drug to kind of bewilder you, and strip you of your natural senses to take you some place else.

I’m curious about your pedal business, Death By Audio. What got you designing pedals?
It was just me opening things up and experimenting to make sounds I couldn’t make other ways, with effects that I could find. It’s just like working with guitars and noticing there are tons of different sounds, even if it’s just through different pickups. I just wanted to embrace that sort of thing, and be in control of sounds that could be different.

Is this your livelihood or just a hobby?
It’s my day job, making effects pedals, custom jobs for people.

How would you say your pedals have affected the music of A Place To Bury Strangers?
Well, I think in many ways I can create sounds that we want to hear or through experimenting with electronics can be the inspiration when you hear certain sounds. Being involved in the creation of sound effects lends itself to sort of develop ideas for songs. I also think it’s just a way to keep myself completely involved in doing what I want to do.

To me it seemed that the high score Pitchfork gave your album back in August [8.4/10] really boosted the level of notoriety for your band. Did it seem like that at all to you?
To some degree, definitely things have been on the increase. Since the album came out more and more people have been finding out about us, and it’s definitely been a snowball of more and more [since the review]. It’s just crazy, it seems like I’ve been doing this thing for so long, it really has all of a sudden been very quick. At first it was a slow climb, but when the Pitchfork thing hit it definitely jumped for us. It’s definitely been a big help for us not having to worry about getting shows and stuff like that.

So what would you say has been the best thing to come from the spike in popularity over the last six months?
I think it would be other people helping out. It’s nice not to have to completely be your own booking agent and micromanage all of these things. I don’t think people realise everything that goes on around all of these bands that are going these days. All of the countless hours that you spend on things that don’t have to do with music — everything from co-ordinating shows to getting a CD made. I think that it’s so great to have some other people on board the team to help lighten that load so we don’t have to worry about that stuff. I can focus a lot more on the music and what I’m really interested in.

You guys are planning a live album vinyl release. Last night was supposed to be the gig you were recording – how did it go?
It went really well. We played the show in the Death By Audio space, which is where I live, and had a good time with lots of friends. I think it’s the only time we’ve ever done it, but we played the entire album from start to finish. The record is just gonna be a live take on the whole self-titled album. It was cool, and interesting to do.

What would you say are the biggest differences between the studio recording and the live recording?
Well, I think our live shows are very different from the recordings. We just embrace whatever medium we have at the time. When you’re in a studio recording, you can do so many things that you can’t do live, like put an amp in the oven or spin microphones in the air to pick up different sounds; you can experiment, layer tons of tracks, or use drum machines. In a live environment you’re there in the moment, and don’t play along with any samples or anything that’s arpeggiated. So we just embrace and work on that to make the most intense and craziest sounds that we can, but it’s such a different thing that we thought it’d be nice to have a whole other take on the album and record it as it would be played live.

Is it true that you’re also working on a new studio album as well?
Yeah, we’re starting to record it a little bit; we’re going to record it ourselves again, like the last one, and I think that, well, it’s a slow process since we’re just about to go on tour, then come back for a bit and then go out on tour again. If we can get a lot of it recorded, then we will, but it won’t get released until we’re happy with it. Who knows? Maybe it’ll be soon or later. It’d be nice though to get it out soon. There were a lot of things that we didn’t do on this last album that we really wanted to do. The self-titled album was almost a collection of demos, and we also saved a lot of songs that we thought we just better for this next album. So I think it’s gonna be good using the combination of everything that we wanted to do with some better songs.

I want to end things asking about Black Acid. What can you tell me about your involvement with Richard Fearless’ (Death in Vegas) new band?
I actually just quit Black Acid (laughs). I’m just too busy. I really like the band, they’re really cool, they’re doing some pretty awesome stuff. I recorded the album, we did it almost all live, and Richard is really great to work with. He’s one of the greatest, nicest guys you could ever meet. I couldn’t believe it when he called me and asked to play with him. It was really a shame to have to leave it but to some degree even though it was a collaboration it was definitely his band, and it’s nice to be able to have the ability to focus on your own music, I think. They’re all really cool guys, good friends of mine, and I’ll try to help them out any way that I can. I think it’s gonna be awesome.

A Place To Bury Strangers w/ Holy Fuck
2/20 Winnipeg MB, Parkway Theatre
2/21 Regina SK, The Exchange
2/22 Edmonton AB, The Starlite Room
2/23 Calgary AB, The Hi-Fi Club
2/25 Vancouver BC, Richard’s On Richards