A Place To Bury Strangers

Huw Jones | Monday, 06 April 2009

A Place To Bury Strangers

"It’s really just funny," says Oliver Ackermann talking about the unplanned moniker his band carries as New York City’s loudest; "I don't really see how we could be that loud, but I’ve never seen us play live so I don't know..."

It’s not a wholly inaccurate signature; A Place To Bury Strangers do reside in New York with a cacophonous back-catalogue, amplified further with the band boasting just three members. But although their music speaks volumes, the comparisons they unwittingly carry are as accurate as misleading as they are accurate. When not being described as being 'New York City's Loudest Band' they’re whimsically branded with the shoegaze iron; a short-lived, self-proclaimed scene born in the late 80’s out of the layered distortion of UK bands such as My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus And Mary Chain.

"I’ve been asked this and seen comparisons many times, I just usually don't pay much attention. It’s interesting if someone has some constructive criticism to give, but if someone wants to compare us to bands of the past, I'm just as comfortable being compared to the Beatles as to any of those shoegaze bands."

Although seen as one of this year's many hot tickets, acknowledgement of their music has been more of a slow burn. After spending years honing their craft in relative obscurity, the band began to subsidise their existence by selling self-recorded demos - demos that caught the ear of Killer Pimp's Jon Whitney who offered to release their album - which was nothing more than a collection of demos recorded between 2003 and 2007 - as a limited run of 500 CDR's.

"It took a really long time to put the album together, but that was really only because I was reluctant to release it. I always figured it was pretty good but not exactly what I had in mind. There are even a bunch of tracks we omitted from the CDRs because we really wanted to re-record them and get them right. Some of those will be on our next record and some may never get heard unless you were one of those kids at some random show when we had decided to release an EP that week.”

Oliver continues: "I think that it worked as an album because of all of that. The songs went to a lot of different places and I like that sort of movement of experience in an album. But the album never really felt like an album until after it was released, and then a lot of the previous personal context for those songs had disappeared as well.”

Post-album media speculation grew in tandem with record label interest; OK, so there was no bidding war but the band eventually signed to Chicago-based label Highwheel. A fleeting deal that would sour just weeks later due to contractual disputes. It was a setback that in hindsight would prove highly beneficial.

"I think it’s really cool to be on a label this amazing," says Oliver of their new label Mute, a label to have given a renewed sense of enthusiasm to the band, who are back in the studio working on their second album.

"I think it’s gone at a very appropriate pace and made it so we’ve been able to stay in focus with what we are doing. The second album is coming close to being finished and I think it’s going well. We’re really writing more and more songs up until the point at which we think the album will be finished, so if we were going to take more time it could even turn into something different. The sound will definitely be a lot more focused on being what we want for each song. There are songs that we left off the debut because we thought they were too good to be thrown away on that...hopefully that is the case!"

"We really never let anything bother us or interfere with the recording and music-making process. That being said, now we've signed with Mute there is sort of this extra inspiration that kicks in. I'm intimidated by their catalogue of amazing work and it's really been pushing me to go the extra mile for this next record and make it something really special to hold up with their history. We've been big fans for a long time so it's nice when you can blend into something that's been an inspiration."

When asked about the musical direction of their forthcoming album, Oliver revealed that he's "always experimenting with new things to get the right kind of sounds and work and rework the songs into better songs. I think there will be more of a focus of it sounding like a real album, but still retaining huge shifts in dynamics similar to the first."

But Oliver was reluctant to reveal anymore: "I’m not able to disclose the title or theme of the album as I feel like it would perhaps build up preconceived notions of what it is."

And, of course, there’s the matter of Ackermann’s extracurricular interests: the design and manufacture of custom-built guitar-effects pedals for his company, Death By Audio. With previous clients including U2 and Nine Inch Nails, it's far more than a casual hobby, but not one that necessarily gives them an edge over their peers.

"It probably inhibits us as much as benefits us. We can get so deep into the exploration of sound at times that perhaps it would be better to just say 'fuck it' and rock out!"

Spoken with a true rock tongue, who can argue with that..?!