By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
Since several influential, tastemaking blogs anointed A Place to Bury Strangers as "New York City's loudest band" last year, the buzz around the band's self-titled debut album has only continued to grow.
Strangers' ear-splitting, echo-drenched offerings—especially "Missing You" and "My Weakness"—reside on the darker end of the shoegaze/noise-pop spectrum, drawing easy comparisons to Ministry and early Jesus and Mary Chain. Dense blasts of supersonic effects (à la the fury of My Bloody Valentine or a grittier Cocteau Twins) abound, although slithering bass lines and brain-rattling reverberations can't bury Strangers' catchy melodies. Moreover, singer/guitarist Oliver Ackermann's morose guitar melodies and shadowy baritone vocals strike a perfectly dreary counterbalance to these frenzied barrages and help create vivid musical landscapes.
As for the trio's vicious live show? Well, it's not recommended for the faint of heart or the earplug-less. But the album alludes to what you might expect in concert. Picture yourself leaning firmly against a cinder-block wall in a damp echo chamber of a basement venue while being enveloped with an onslaught of sound—although it'll be tough to do that at the American Airlines Center as the band opens up for Nine Inch Nails.
Still, we're intrigued, so we recently caught up with Ackermann to find out more.
When did you form the band?
The band started around 2004 when I moved to New York and met some other kids and tried to do a continuation of the kind of music I'd been playing for a while.
You were in [Virginia dream-pop band] Skywave before, right?
Yeah, that kind of broke up the band when I left, which was kind of a bummer, but I just kind of had to move on. So I formed up with some other guys and started the same kind of thing.
It is similar in some ways, but it seems like you moved in a darker direction. Was that a conscious decision or a product of who you were playing with?
It maybe expressed a little bit more of what was going on in my life at that time or something. You know, moving to New York is tough and having to deal with that can be hard. So maybe that brings out a darker side.
Why did you decide to move to New York?
Well, I was in Fredericksburg, Virginia, which is a really small town, and there wasn't really room to grow and do good stuff that you want to do. I knew a lot of people in New York so it was fun to be in a bigger community with more things going on.
A Place to Bury Strangers is touted as the loudest band in New York. Is that something that you're consciously trying to do?
We're not really trying to be the loudest band per se. I've been playing really loud music since probably 1994, and what was loud to me then isn't loud to me now, so we're probably a bit louder.
Is that a product of hearing loss or just becoming immune to your own onslaught?
I'd say all of those things, definitely.
Do you feel a part of the recent resurgence of shoegaze? Your take on the genre seems unique for its darker, more abrasive qualities.
I don't think people are really doing that sort of thing, so it's really fun to be writing those kind of songs and going in that direction and creating the songs that I wish people were coming up with.
What do you think is a common misconception about your band?
I'm not sure. Our bass player would say that we're not a shoegaze band. But I don't know, I think we definitely go along those sort of lines. But I don't really listen to exactly what everyone says. I just like to go about whatever we're doing