It's a little too perfect that A Place to Bury Strangers is headlining Moonfest 2010. The Brooklyn shoegaze act not only has a name that screams spookiness, but the trio's history of sheer sheets of noise suggests that the decibel level should stretch all the way up and down West Palm Beach's Clematis Street.
The group is busy on a few projects following last year's release of sophomore album Exploding Head, which still features buzz-saw guitar parts cutting close to the Jesus and Mary Chain, but rises above the static of 2007's self-titled debut. Recently, frontman Oliver Ackermann has remixed several like-minded (if not like-sounding) artists such as spooky Nick Cave side project Grinderman and ethereal synth troupe School of Seven Bells ("I pretty much just rerecord everything except for the vocals"). Also A Place to Bury Strangers is listening through dozens of past concerts to compile a live album, and working on a brand new set of songs.
In a conversation with New Times, Ackermann acknowledges that the band has Halloween experience.
New Times: It's fitting that you're performing for a Halloween gig down here.
Oliver Ackermann: We're psyched. We've done a couple. One we all dressed up as mummies, and we bought this huge 48-pack of toilet paper. It turns out that one roll of toilet paper is plenty to wrap someone up like a mummy. We had like 45 extra rolls of toilet paper. It was quite a caper. First of all, it's really hot. I would not suggest dressing like a mummy if it's really warm outside. Definitely not while playing a show. It was still really fun. It instantly became a huge mess onstage where it looked like the Hulk ripped out of his clothes a bunch of times. It was fun, but kind of crazy.
Where did that go down?
It was an event in New York called Shindig. There were just a bunch of bands in a Manhattan warehouse rented in between a store or something. It might have been 2006, not sure. We also played a haunted house. The cops shut us down, but they let us play one more song because one cop was saying, "This band is sick, let 'em play one more song!" That was the day before Halloween.
Does playing at your usual loud volume outdoors have additional challenges?
It depends. Sometimes the stuff really works and sometimes it doesn't. We don't really even know what it's going to be like until you get to places, and then you try to adjust and make something really cool out of whatever situation you're in. Sometimes being outdoors can be ideal, and sometimes it can be the worst.
Are you big on the Halloween mythology?
I don't believe in that kind of stuff. I think it's interesting. I don't really know. I'm pretty laid back. It's like a Halloween event. You think we should dress up?
You do have a pretty scary moniker for the band. If you want to get a little bit costumed, the temperature will at least be agreeable.
So it could be expected. I don't know if we'll dress up, but maybe we'll have a Halloween surprise. Like bring out a severed head or something.
Or a — wait for it — Exploding Head.
Yeah. There you go. You wanna join the band? You got the ideas.
Have you ever witnessed anything particularly scary at a show?
I guess so. I've seen people get hurt really bad moshing and stuff. I've seen shows where I felt like I was going to black out and I couldn't see. It was kinda scary when I hit my head while jumping around. Then there've been some bands that portrayed something that ended up being really awesome and scary, and an inspiration. Some bands, like Sonic Youth or something like that, and maybe it was the aid of drugs or who knows what, but you can really feel these superintense moments of either something's about to happen or something's happening where you don't know what's up and what's down. And it is actually kinda scary.
Sounds like the perfect stuff to feed into the new album.
We've been setting these goals where we're trying to record as much music as possible in as short an amount of time as possible. We've been writing a lot of really different songs than the ones we've done in the past. There's some stuff it's similar to, but because we've been going stream-of-consciousness or whatever, it's been a wide range of song, sound, and craziness. I'm not sure what direction this record is going to take at all. I thought I knew maybe when we started. We've been writing all sorts of different types of sounds. It should be pretty cool, but it could go in any way.
A live album is on the way too?
That's what we're working on. We'll see how it's coming up. We're trying to finish that as soon as possible. It's kind of like a compilation of different tracks from different shows. It gets to be a bit mind-numbing listening to too many of the shows at once.
Just sitting around listening to different versions of the same songs?
Trying to look for some cool moments within some of the shows. Stuff that was really neat. We just got, I don't know how many, like 60 or so. There's a lot of listening to shows.
Right, you were there the first time.
It's exciting to listen to a couple, but you're like "My goodness." Wondering why we're using our time for this, but it's all right. We kind of have an "immediately" deadline. If that doesn't happen, maybe we'll abandon the project for something else. We're mostly focusing on recording our new record. If we don't hurry up and do stuff, it could take years.