Art Rock

A Place To Bury Strangers Return Stronger Than Ever

A Place To Bury Strangers get better with each new release.
A Place To Bury Strangers get better with each new release. Photo by Ebru Yildiz

If you play guitar, you should know that there's a space between the feedback and the notes you can create in feedback that exists, though few ever really take those notes and do anything with them. Anyone who isn't paying close enough attention would call that space noise, but for Brooklyn's A Place To Bury Strangers, that space is where they exist and create. Easily one of the more intriguing bands to come out in that past 15 years, the trio has always pushed the boundaries of what noise can sound like while incorporating dark electronica and post punk to craft something that doesn't sound like anyone else. Tales of custom made 600 watt amplifiers and a reputation as the loudest band in music today, were more than enough reason for the Houston Press to have a chat with founder and lead guitarist Oliver Ackerman ahead of the band's date here on May 31.

There's never seemed to be a rule as to how A Place To Bury Strangers has operated, other than that they've never lived by rules. In fact, it's hard to believe that they've been around for 15 years, something that Ackerman acknowledges that it feels like that long already. "It kind of has felt that long. You look back on everything you've done, and it seems longer. You think there's so much more that you wanna' do, and the time keeps going," says Ackerman.

With a reputation as the loudest band in New York, it's always seemed to be about the live performance for the band. Though, with that reputation, it made us wonder if it'd always been that way, and if it had ever caused problems for the band. "We try to play loud, I like what it sounds like when it's loud. Sometimes you're borrowing gear, and you get shut down. But there's something about when the speakers sound like they're about to rip out of the cabinets that I really like," Ackerman says.

Now that Ackerman's other project, Death By Audio has closed its doors, we were curious if all the rumors about their sound were true, such as the use of crazy pedals and high wattage amplifiers that create the insanely loud sounds that the band makes on stage. "We use the most watts available," Ackerman says.  "I was a big pedal junkie and as far as sounds go, you hit a wall on what you can get. I didn't start Death By audio for that but I was broke and I just wanted those sounds. I wanted new stuff for me and for everyone else."

The band's previous record was a whole new sound for the band, complete with more electronics. , Asked if anything is ever off of the table in as far as what the band will incorporate into their music, Ackerman says: "We just try to keep it primitive. I like bands that still play instruments over using just a laptop. We still wanna' push this band as much as possible, and that might be a dumb fun rock ideal. It's a challenge physically to do that, but that's what I want to do."

The band has always been up for re-invention, or at least re-inventing what they sound like from album to album. When you're constantly changing like that, it makes you wonder if there was ever a time when the band didn't know what would come next. "All the time, always pushing things forward means that will happen. When Lia (Simone) joined, she comes from a place musically that's different from what I'm used to. It opened us up to lots of different directions," replies Ackerman.

Speaking of Lia Simone, the band's latest album Pinned features drums that come off as insane while creating an explosive sonic dissonance. Tracks like "There's Only One of Us," and "Too Tough To Kill," almost feel like they were led by the drums. Asked if her drumming style helped shape the direction of the record Ackerman replies: "Yeah, I think so. There was so much of the veiling of her parts, she's so focused and driven. She doesn't know this type of music and once she did, it opened her up to exploring."

click to enlarge Pinned is as progressively delightful as it is minimalist in its approach. - ART COURTESY OF DEAD OCEANS
Pinned is as progressively delightful as it is minimalist in its approach.
Art courtesy of Dead Oceans
The new album in many ways, feels a lot like what catching the band in person feels like. It's so present that it made us wonder how they went about recording it, and if the way it was played live factored in to how it was made. As per Ackerman, "I think so. As the years go on, you think of what the songs will sound like live. I love a really great live show, and so many of the songs were written in a practice space where we really gel. We recorded in my apartment, and at a studio that was being constructed, as well as live in the studio. There are plenty of live and living room elements on the record. The different moods and sounds where there's no rules aside from the emotion and power."

The band's live shows are where the magic to them lies. Saying that they're intense might be an understatement, as I almost threw up from their feedback, strobes, and smoke machine at one of their sets years ago. When asked if the live shows have been a factor that the band likes focusing on, as well as what they have planned for their tour, Akerman says, "We end up playing so many shows, we're doing what we want, and sometimes people don't get that. We try do to what we can with that moment. Sometimes you can transform people out of their every day lives, and it helps us go to these places that are in many ways like you going to my house."

"For this tour, we have a lot of different things. We've been building lights and building other instruments. For us, we don't know what we'll do until right before we leave for tour, but no matter what, I'll always build more than we'll take with us."

No matter what they have planned it should be something mesmerizing and mind altering at the same time. You can stream Pinned in all of the usual places, or order it on multiple formats and packages directly from Dead Oceans. You can catch the intensity of A Place To Bury Strangers live and in person at The Secret Group on May 31. The all ages show will also feature performances from Prettiest Eyes and Houston's Narcons. Doors at 8 p.m.; tickets $12 to $14.
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
David Garrick is a former contributor to the Houston Press. His articles focus primarily on Houston music and Houston music events.