A Place to Bury Strangers' new album Pinned is out today, which is a bit of a departure for the long-running Loudest Band in Brooklyn. New drummer Lia Braswell (Le Butcherettes, TR/ST) brings not only her powerful unique rhythmic style but also her voice, sharing or singing lead on a few songs. The album is a little more minimal than the last couple APTBS albums, while still employing the self-made audio tech that gives them their unique, twisted sound.
The band kicked off their Pinned tour on Thursday night (4/12) at Brooklyn's Elsewhere and as good as their recordings are, it's obvious A Place to Bury Strangers are a sensory overload that is meant to be experienced live. They remain insanely loud, and frontman Oliver Ackermann broke a guitar in half before the first song was over. (I'm pretty sure it is a "stunt guitar" meant for just such a purpose, but it's still something to see.) There were strobes, projections and, as they've done for the past couple years, the action moved to the center of the crowd at one point, with the band carrying a mini mobile rig that bassist Dion Lunadon played atop of. It's a show that works well even in the daytime at a SXSW party, but it's best in the dark.
Ackermann, one of the hardest working, nicest dudes you're likely to meet, took some time to answer a few questions about the new album (their first since their former home Death by Audio closed), their live show, playing an insane amount of SXSW shows (one of which was introduced by Geto Boys' Bushwick Bill), Pinned's striking cover art, and more.
Ollie also talks about a playlist titled "Space Signals" that they put together for us that includes songs by The Fall, The Slits, Flat Worms, King Gizzard, APTBS' tourmates Prettiest Eyes, and more. You can listen to that playlist, stream Pinned, and read our Q&A below.
You played 14 SXSW shows which is a lot for anyone. Did you go into it thinking “let’s do as many shows as we possibly can?” or did it more happen by accident?
I was the insane one who was like “lets try to get as many shows as we possibly can” and somehow convinced everyone else to go along with it. I am really lucky to be surrounded by people who will dive in to any crazy hair-brained idea I have. I think we are all always thinking about how can we improve on an idea and sometimes the answer to that question is to just do more of it.
Apart from the BrooklynVegan day party, what was the highlight of your SXSW marathon, and did you get to see anyone else’s sets with all that running around? Any good stories from the week?
Yeah I saw a ton of great bands over there. Idles, Acid Dad, Bambara, Drab Majesty, Sunflower Bean, Peelander Z, Andrew WK, My Education, Bodega, and a ton of bands that I cant remember their names but a bunch were really good as well. Maybe something like This band Sucks? I don't remember exactly but they were really great too. It was a pretty fun and wild one, with every night ending in total exhaustion. I remember being so excited someone cut the lights at this party we were playing because I was so beaten and bruised I could barely move at that point. Another highlight was seeing this good friend of ours emerge out of smoke in Satan's cloak blaring the sign of the devil. Come and party with a necktie and jump up on stage, I want to have a good time. And of course being Introduced at Hotel Vegas during Burgermania by Bushwick Bill was awesome:
For a group who have been called Brooklyn’s loudest band, there’s always been a lot of space in APTB’s recordings, but this one feels even more minimal. Did you have idea of the kind of record you wanted to make going in?
Not really. This one was less planned than some of the others. I was just recording a lot of music on my own at the time. I had just moved a bit further away from everyone else and spent a lot of time building up these different spaces, so we weren't really able to get together as much. We had a rehearsal space but it ended up getting over run with mold (hence the Live at the Mold House cassette we recorded with the band Grooms). That being said, most of these songs were stream of consciousness compositions written while they were being recorded. In hindsight, I think it is a purer way to write reflective, real life songs that wind up being a bit more minimal.
This is your first album since moving out of DBA, was it a different process?
It definitely was. Most of it was written alone by myself reflecting and dealing with the changes in my life. Then more and more things started to change and get more and more intense. These songs track that journey. I am still not even done dealing with all of these changes but that is life. More and more crap just keeps on piling up. So you've got to just have as much fun while you are dealing with it all and make sure to focus on some of the things that make you happy.
There are more drum machines on this record (at least it sounds that way to me)...you’ve been doing that mini-set at the end of your shows for a while now, which involves drum machines... did that influence the direction of the album?
For sure. I think a lot of those performances ended up being some of our best. It doesn't always work out but throwing yourself in there and writing something on the spot is really the ultimate way to potentially come up with the song that saves the world. Well at least we won't know unless we try right? It's just basic math, if we write 100 unique songs on a tour there's got to at least be some good ones. Some of those choice songs from those sets are on the bonus record from Pinned which is called Brainwashed.
Speaking of, you have a new drummer who also sings. How much did Lia change the group dynamic?
I think she changed it a lot. Lia really pushed us in a cool new direction because she comes from a very different musical background than we do, but she’s also very versatile and talented. She brings dynamics to this group that we might have resisted in the past but now she’s really pushing us forward toward something really special. She is also open to trying almost anything, so it really pushes us to think of more insane and crazy things that we can get her to do without her realizing anyone else could have just given up.
Tell us about the cover art. I know (BrooklynVegan contributor) Ebru Yildiz shot it, but whose eye is that?
I love the cover art. Miles Johnson did the design and it is Ebru's photographs. She can do no wrong and has really got an incredible eye for creating something completely striking. It's Yasemin Esit's eye and when we all saw it we knew.
Your tour kicked off last night at Brooklyn's Elsewhere. What can folks expect?
We've got the super classic crazy crew of wild animals on these upcoming tours and so we will definitely be having a good time. We built a lot of machines and crazy things to bring with us and for as long as they work the soundscapes we will be pushing out will have some intense bends. All of our amplifiers work at the moment so we are back to a full 4,200 watts of power and I've had a little time to pull out my dead frets and replace them with toothpicks so most of the notes on my guitars work again. All of this will have fallen apart by the end but it will be fun to see what remains.
Can you tell us a little about your tour mates Prettiest Eyes?
They are so intense and so wild and really all over the place. It is a thrill and a party and really freaked and weird. I can't wait. In Europe, we are bringing Buck Gooter from VA and they are incredible as well. We are extremely fortunate to play with bands we love.
The playlist you made mixes both classic bands (The Fall, Dead Moon, Lilliput) with a lot of new stuff. How did you choose the songs? Is this what you listen to in the van?
We made it from a mixture of bands that we all feel like everyone needs to hear and songs that we are all personally into at the moment and stuff we listen to in the van on tour. I think we are in a really cool time for new music in this world. Music is in a very different place than it was when I was a kid. There is so much to be pissed off about which leads to a lot of inspiration. People are coming together to share and experience art. It is really what I love to do as much as I possibly can.