You’ve got to hand one thing to A Place to Bury Strangers—they don’t believe in subtlety. Already the self-proclaimed “loudest band in New York,” the group went into their sophomore album Exploding Head intending to make the “craziest, most f*cked-up recording ever,” in the words of frontman Oliver Ackermann. Indeed, as their new album’s title suggests, the band who once wanted to fix the gash in your head are ready to tear open a new one, and have been doing just that during their ear-shattering recent tour. That didn’t stop Ackermann from taking a time out to let MXDWN pick his brain on what went into making said heads explode, their current musical tastes, and exactly how they manage to get through the tour without destroying every piece of equipment they have.
You signed with Mute Records earlier this year. How did that partnership come about and how has the tradition to a major label been for the group?
We met at a show that they came out too. It’s been fun. [The Mute people] are really easy to work with.
Has the transition had any impact on the way you record?
Working with different people has made us more coordinated.
Your original goal for this record was to “create the craziest, most f*cked-up recording ever,” and it definitely pushes both extremes of your sound—the noise and the hooks—sometime closer together and sometimes further apart. Do you try to keep those elements at odds with each other or do you like them to work in sync?
Everything kind of comes together on its own. The songs speak to us and the different elements come together when appropriate.
Is that always the case, or do you ever go into the songwriting process with a direct narrative?
We usually just come in with an idea for a melody and the song is based on that melody. Sometimes songs will turn into other songs and other times we’ll destroy our initial work and start over. The sounds inspire us. When we try to force it it doesn’t work.
Your vocals are also more prominent in the mix this time around. Does that affect your performance knowing that?
Not really. It was kind of something we just went for with [producer] Andy Smith during mixing.
People keep wanting to compare you to acts like the The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine. How do you feel about those comparisons?
We try to ignore them. That way, we don’t cater to them or become too in tune with them and stick to trying different things.
First single “In Your Heart” from the record has already been impressively remixed by Vince Clarke and Cereal Spiller. Have you considered exploring your music further via the remix community or perhaps even remixing other artists’ songs yourselves?
We actually just did our first remix for Maps. It’s really cool, very electronic. We hope he puts it out.
In addition to your current headlining tour, you’ve done some fairly high profile ventures with Holy F*ck, MGMT, and perhaps most famously, Nine Inch Nails. Which shows do you prefer, the small venues or the large arenas?
The shows in small rooms where you can’t be in complete control and have to adjust and adapt. It’s more like a party.
How has your live show evolved on this tour compared to previous tours?
We’ve been experimenting a lot, building effects.
What kind of pedals and equipment do you like to use? Do you have a preference of analog or digital pedals?
I create and use my own stuff. I’m kind of anti that whole argument. I just go for the sound and what sounds good.
The last time I saw you you were kind of awesomely violent on your guitar. How many guitars do you actually go through on tour?
I’ve already blown an amp and broken a guitar on this tour. It’s part of learning. Nothing just some glue and tape can’t fix.
What are the band’s immediate plans following this tour?
Our tour ends [in Cambridge, Massachusetts] on the 30th [of October]. Then we’ve got the UK and Europe. We’ll take a one week vacation after that and then we’re recording again.
Any plans to expand your sound with more instrumentation: pianos, strings, acoustics?
We just want more of everything. We have so much time to record this time so we want more layers and also to reflect our tours and keep it stripped down with that live kind of sound.
And finally, any cool new music you guys have been discovering on tour?
We’ve really been into our openers for this tour, Darker My Love and All the Saints. Also, Death by Audio and Coathangers.
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A Place to Bury Strangers will be blowing heads, minds, and ears in Europe through December 12 before beginning work on album number three. Hopefully that should be enough time for us all to pick up the pieces of our skulls.