“This is definitely the best band that I’ve ever played with. We all know what’s needed in every aspect of the music and we’re all working on making things crazier. It’s a luxury that I’ve never really had with people I’ve played with before. It makes it a lot easier and fun to play when you know that the music is going to be insane every night and you don’t have to worry.”
Critically regarded as ‘New York’s loudest band’, APTBS’ non-stop touring schedule (in 2012 alone they did three European and three US tours, as well as hit South America), actually makes it difficult for them stay up to date with the status-quo of the local scene. However, Ackermann confidently states that APTBS have never conformed to the demarcations of a particular movement.
“Once you start trying to pick-up on trends, I don’t know exactly what you’re doing as an artist. It doesn’t feel like it’s a pure and true. We’ve always been doing this kind of thing, experimenting with noise, aggression, making things crazy, always trying to make things a little crazier and faster. You don’t really see bands doing that kind of thing too much. It’s really good to be still exploring that realm.”
The first two APTBS albums are essentially pointed towards a live impact whereas 2012’s Worship shows more care and delicacy in song construction. Ackermann explains that all ingredients of song construction were given extra attention on Worship.
“With this record we had more interest in every single detail of the music. There was more time spent before the final product so we really had to craft every element. It was good to have to hold a meeting with everything and work together. Sometimes, I guess, I haven’t done that in the past.”
The vocals on Worship receive greater emphasis than on the previous records. Ackermann says the songs’ well-formed definition prompted him to boost the level of the vocals.
“You can interpret things in any way you want, and maybe people still don’t understand what we’re saying or what’s going on, but it made a little bit more sense to me. That gave me the confidence to put it higher in the mix.”
Desolation and shattered hope are the dominant lyrical themes and Ackerman attests that these feelings are foundational to his drive to make music.
“I think that life and lots of aspects of it are kind of miserable and so I think that’s an important thing to write about. When you’re thinking about how miserable life is, you need something to redirect you and get you energised about things. You feel like you want to kick someone’s arse or do something about it. For me you think ‘ok, this can end with crazy, fucked-up rock and roll and misery’.” The toughness of the music could also be perceived as an attempt to allay life’s harsher moments.
“You do have to beat it out somehow. Sometimes you’re getting beaten by it or sometimes you can’t take it anymore and you have to do something about it.”
The magnitude of sounds inextricably associated with APTBS makes perfect sense in light of the fact that Ackermann runs the successful guitar effects company, Death By Audio. He explains how effects pedals can be creative accomplices.
“When you find something that’s really unique and interesting it can spawn an idea for a song; you’ll hear a really interesting sound or effect and it’ll make you think of an idea for a song. Sometimes you’ll have a specific goal in mind and you won’t be able to achieve that but you’ll be able to discover something that’s even better than what you had originally planned.”
A Place To Bury Strangers enter every live show with an acknowledgement of the singularity of the event and seek to carry the songs into new territory.
“We don’t stick to any sort of formula. I think things can be way more exciting and crazy live and we really just try to capture that, as well as take songs to different places and make it something completely different. Depending on the room or wherever you’re playing, you have to be open to what sounds are going on and what that song becomes at that moment.”
When questioned about the future, Ackermann refrains from projecting too far ahead but he does reveal that the band are working on new material.
“We’re going to strive for something which has more of that live feel, when something magic happens and is exciting – which brings things down to lower fidelity – and not be so concerned with some of the details we were concerned with in the past.”
At this stage they’re letting things develop in an organic manner without specific intentions on what will become of the experiments.
“We don’t have any total goal except for that we want to do something fresh and exciting and push what we’ve done.”
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY