A Place To Bury Strangers – Brooklyn
When you’re crowned the Loudest Band in New York, you know you’re loud. Amid the screeching of cab tires, the grind of subways, and the general noise that soundtracks a city of millions upon millions, Brooklyn’s A Place To Bury Strangers drowns those other noises out.
Originally bursting eardrums in 2007 with their debut self-titled LP, the New Yorkers define what it means to be a power-trio. Comprised of vocalist/guitarist Oliver Ackermann, bassist Dion Lunadon (previously of D4), and drummer Jason Weilmeister, A Place To Bury Strangers is indeed startlingly loud for a band of three men.
Ackermann owns and operates Brooklyn-based guitar-pedal company and venue Death By Audio. The fact that someone in the band actually works with the science of sonics doesn’t hurt the band’s ability to rattle more than a few brains. However, volume is only one aspect of the band’s overall sound. To be sure, the trio has the chops to match the squall coming out of their amps. Their debut rocked with a dense ferocity rarely matched these days. “Don’t Think Lover,” “To Fix the Gash in Your Head,” and “Ocean” somehow were able to have gorgeous vocal melodies coexist with jet-engine turbine guitar squeal. That alone is something to behold.
Their second LP, the aptly titled Exploding Head, further traveled down the rabbit-hole in search of a balance between nasty volume and pop melody. Tracks like the 60’s surf-meets-Revelations “Deadbeat” and “Exploding Head” were proof that they found it. Weilmeister’s electronic-sounding drums lend a certain elements of disco-groove, but that’s where the dance comparisons end. Often times, the band is thrashers with a love for pop melody.
When all is said and done, Ackermann could very likely be hailed as one of the most important guitarists of his generation. That’s no tossed-off praise. His guitar chords are pure rock’n’roll classics, but the tone he is able to coax out of his amps is something of gnarled beauty. It won’t be for everyone, but if you consider yourself adventurous listeners, you’ll know immediately that Ackermann occupies some odd space between My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shield’s and the soundtrack to Darth Vader’s takeover of the universe. Maybe the most impressive aspect of Ackermann’s sound is that he creates all of it by hand, literally. As the operator of the well-respected Death By Audio, he handcrafts all prototype designs. In a way, he’s handcrafted an empire of doom through his pedal craftsmanship.
The band recently released its third LP, Worship, and again they refuse to stand in one place. While it still maintains the raw power of the band’s previous work, Worship continues to hone the hooks the band hinted at before. The feedback drenches every track, but cuts like “Alone” and “You Are The One” sport flashes of desolation and openness that haven’t showed up on earlier releases.
Despite Ackermann’s distorted croon, the band hasn’t lost its knack for waking up the neighbors. Even in the near-ballads, there’s an element of confrontation that seems to be one of the band’s indisputable strengths. “And I’m Up,” one of the new tracks, rides a thundering beat while Ackermann’s spiny stabs ratchet up the tension before the chorus breaks loose into “My head is a curse and it needs to be nurses/And there’s no one to repair and the damaged reverses.”
Currently signed to Dead Oceans, the band is gearing up for tour dates in 2012. BANGSTYLE had the pleasure of speaking with the band’s bassist Dion Lunadon about the band’s recording techniques and what it means to be the Loudest Band in New York City. Consider your eardrums warned.
BANGSTYLE: A Place To Bury Strangers has a reputation for being one of the loudest bands around. When the band formed, was that a goal or did it just happen?
Dion Lunadon: I was not in the band when it formed. Judging from Oliver’s previous act, Skywave, it was a conscious thing. With volume comes unpredictable, uncontrollable noise, and that’s a large part of our sound.
BANGSTYLE: “You Are The One” seems to show off a more subdued sonic quality than previous singles. Was there a theme you guys wanted to follow on Worship?
Dion Lunadon: No theme at all. We just wanted to push ourselves further in the same direction. We didn’t really try to do anything other than just let it happen. I’m glad the record seems to have more dynamic maybe than past efforts.
BANGSTYLE: Considering that Oliver creates effects pedals and the press release for the new album states you guys recorded the album entirely yourselves, you seem to have total control over your sound. Is that liberating, or is it stressful to have that kind of power?
Dion Lunadon: I think it can be good and bad. In this case, I think we were confident enough in each other’s ability to know we could create what we were trying to do without outside parties fighting against it. Sometimes, lack of freedom or a time frame can make things happen quicker and put you on the edge, which can also be a good thing.
BANGSTYLE: The band is based out of Brooklyn; what is your favorite venue to play in New York? Where is your favorite venue to go see live music?
Dion Lunadon: Death By Audio is probably our favorite venue to play and see live bands. They always have good bands; most importantly, it’s fun to play there because it feels like home.
BANGSTYLE: APTBS has a sound instantly recognizable c.2012. What comes first in writing for a record: the structure of the song or the sonic theme of it?
Dion Lunadon: There are no rules when it comes to this. Anyway you can make a song happen. I would say usually for me a basic structure or a song title.
BANGSTYLE: You’re exiled to a desert island. You’re allowed five albums. What are they and why?
Dion Lunadon: Anything early Beach Boys – I’m on a desert island
Bob Marley – Exodus – I’m on a desert island!
The Sonics – Here Are The Sonics – To keep my spirits up
Cheap Trick – Live At Budokan – So I can hear other people
I’d leave the 5th at home so I could enjoy the silence.