At first glance of the band name, A Place To Bury Strangers, one might assume that they could be a death metal thrash band. Upon closer inspection of the band's music, you'll find that this Brooklyn based trio has a dark atmospheric wall of sound quality with heavy psychedelic space rock elements. The band has toured and performed along with several musical pioneers including The Jesus And Mary Chain, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and Nine Inch Nails. Critics from all corners of the buzzosphere have dubbed them "The Loudest Band In New York City."
I caught up with lead singer and guitarist, Oliver Ackermann, in advance of their July 18 concert at the White Rabbit Cabaret in Fountain Square, and talked to him about the band's latest album Worship, performing at festivals, his effects pedal company Death By Audio and the real loudest artist, Barry Manilow.
NUVO: A Place To Bury Strangers recently performed at Metallica's Orion Music + More Festival. How was your experience being a part of that festival?
Oliver Ackermann: That was awesome. That was really cool. It was an honor to be asked by Metallica to come and play that festival and play with all those really cool bands. We played in the middle in the day but it was still fun and we had a good time and made the best of it.
NUVO: I saw a photo of you tossing your red Fender Jaguar guitar 20 feet into the air at the Orion Fest. Was it completely smashed on impact?
Ackermann: It definitely adds sounds to fly a guitar through the air, you never know what's going to happen. It's not completely broken. We always end up gluing our guitars back together and finding the pieces from one guitar and gluing them to another. Whatever we can do to continue the show and keep on playing. You always bring a few guitars if you can because sometimes it takes a little over a day to glue. Once they're glued, you're gonna need another guitar.
NUVO: Were there any bands in particular at the Orion Fest that you were happy to be sharing the stage with? Any crazy backstage antics?
Ackermann:We hung out with some old friends, The Black Angels, Jim Breuer, and that was kind of cool to hang out with those people briefly and see them, but nothing crazy happened. There was a bunch of super nice people, and I'm not even sure what some of these guys' bands were, but nothing too wild. It was neat to see some dude who had makeup, like his throat had been cut and dressed like a bloody alien or something, enjoying spaghetti and meatballs at the food concession. It was like a laid back kind of weekend vacation kind of thing. The security wasn't hardcore so it had this kind of heavy metal family picnic kind of vibe.
NUVO: The band's third album Worship just recently came out on Dead Oceans, and the tones of the guitar work are otherworldly and noisy, yet controlled. Are you using any new pedals from your Brooklyn-based effects pedal company, Death By Audio, for the album, or are there standard A Place To Bury Strangers pedals that's used across all recordings?
Ackermann: I'm always using different stuff so there's lots of different things built for this record and also not necessarily built for this record, but I'm always trying to change things up and do different things, to utilize those tools, and some of that is new equipment that we've bought, some of it is new equipment that I've designed as of recently, and it all just comes together as well with the skill set that develops over time. So, sometimes that works out and sometimes not.
NUVO: Which comes first in the band's song writing process, does the band drive the effect pedals, or the pedals drive the band in song creation?
Ackermann: It's mostly the band driving these things, but it kind of goes hand and hand to some degree. You have to really be there and aware of what sounds are going on, but a lot of times you'll kind of have melodies in your head going around but sometimes that stuff doesn't work out and something comes out of the effects. You just have to be kind of open for when there's a good idea and when there's a good realization and then go with that.
NUVO: Based on song titles from Worship and the band's previous releases, is there a muse in your life that inspires the dark and isolated lyrical content of the songs and song titles?
Ackermann: Sometimes, it's like a reflection on past relationships and hardships in life and some things that are driven to relating to other people who have these kinds of things going on or you're reflecting on other things. It's not usually that we're quite so dark or think about the dark things that could happen. Like right now, things are really good in my life and I've been very happy, but you can't help sometimes recall or draw upon those things which are miserable.
NUVO: It must be tiring to always be asked about being "the loudest band in New York City" from other interviews. What current bands besides A Place To Bury Strangers would you consider as being the loudest currently?
Ackermann: I guess maybe Lightning Bolt is usually really loud or there's this band called Fuck Ton which is really loud. Maybe All The Saints. They are really crazy loud, but you could run any band through a P.A. and I remember talking to this sound guy who said that the loudest band he's ever mixed was Barry Manilow.
NUVO: Barry Manilow is the loudest? (Laughing)
Ackermann: He said that it was peaked at around 130 or so decibels at the time or something. It's pretty insane. Who knows? It's all really kind of relative. I think we sound really loud and it sounds really crazy and we do play at really loud volumes but when you start playing at theater places or at a Metallica festival, it's not completely up to us. We can tell whoever's doing sound to "Turn it up, man!" or something, but there's only so loud you can be with however many speakers are being used.
NUVO: Regarding your effects pedal company, Death By Audio, are there any high profile musicians that use your equipment?
Ackermann: Lady Gaga, Lou Reed, Kevin Shields, Trent Rezner, The Edge, and a bunch of other people. It's mind blowing that I would have anything to do with it.
NUVO: Are you excited for the upcoming tour that starts July 11th in Brazil, and have you been there before?
Ackermann: No, I haven't and I'm so psyched to go there and play and it's going to be great. I'm really excited about that. We've been to Columbia, Mexico, and it's great going to a country where people from America don't usually go. You get to be the outcast in a wild land and usually it's really good.
NUVO: Are you packing extra Fender Jaguars?
Ackermann: Of course, we will. Definitely.
A Place To Bury Strangers - "Revenge"