A Place To Bury Strangers
Interview by Alexander Laurence
A Place To Bury Strangers is a band from New York City. They started in
2003. They gained some attention opening up for Brian Jonestown Massacre three
years ago. Soon they played with Jesus and Mary Chain and Nine Inch Nails.
Two years ago saw their first album, self-titled, A Place To Bury Strangers
(2007). The band played many festivals including Coachella and Siren Music.
Their second album is called Exploding Head (2009). The band members are
Oliver Ackermann (guitar/vocals), Jonathan Smith (bass guitar), and Jay Space
(drums). I got to speak to Oliver for a few minutes before their LA show.
AL: It seems like your guitar playing is all over the place. The bass
guitar and drum play the basic structure of the song. What do you think about
Oliver: People often say that they don’t know what the hell is going on
onstage. Even the sound guy for this tour was describing all these sounds he
was hearing. I was going “Really?” For me, I am hearing all this stuff that
maybe people aren’t listening to. I am controlling all these sounds. Maybe
people get it and maybe they don’t. What I am doing is in contrast to the
AL: How do you write songs in the band?
Oliver: All different ways. Some songs we all write together. Some are
ideas that come to me, and I write it down and record it. Something I am
experimenting with sounds. I am building electronics. I am listening to sounds. You
hear something and go Wow! Some sounds are an inspiration for something.
Some songs are based around some words that you write. You write a song around
it. Sometimes it doesn’t work out. You have to tell yourself when you
realize when it doesn’t work out. You can be critical.
AL: Some songs get cut out?
Oliver: All the time. Some songs I didn’t want to put on the first album. I
wanted to wait to re-record them, and do it for real.
AL: Do you use any loops or electronic stuff?
Oliver: There are no loops or pre-recorded things. I like to play around
with things. I like to change around the set. I want to change it up anywhere
at any time. We are constantly playing with those sounds. I would not want
to be constrained to something that is already pre-played. It’s all guitars,
bass, and drums.
AL: It sounds like you have some keyboards on there.
Oliver: I build effects pedals for a living. I have my own company. I
can build stuff that no one can have. I am working on stuff all the time. We
make expensive gear. But you can make music with any piece of junk.
AL: Do you have the “gear nerds” looking at your effects pedals at gigs?
Oliver: All the time. It’s ridiculous.
AL: It’s 2009. You will probably be touring all the way to next summer and
beyond. Are you just playing songs off the new record?
Oliver: We are playing old songs. We are playing songs that no one has
heard before. Some oldies. I like to keep the sets as fresh as possible, and not
play the same songs every night.
AL: Did you play some festivals this summer?
Oliver: We played Reading and Leeds. At those festivals you see some really
big bands. We saw My Bloody Valentine and Jesus Lizard. There are tons of
awesome bands. There is a whole new fresh band scene that is going crazy.
They are young, wild, and smaller.
AL: Your band is fairly new. Are you still in that “crazy” period?
Oliver: When you play those festivals there are bands like Fall Out Boy and
Faith No More. It’s ridiculous stuff. That is one end of the spectrum. You
travel around and play places like Ricky’s Basement. It’s ten people and
AL: Did you play All Tomorrow's Parties yet?
Oliver: We played the Pitchfork Media one. We are playing the upcoming one
in December curated by Kevin Shields. It was at Camber Sands.
AL: Are you inspired by books?
Oliver: Everything is an inspiration: movies, books, and the places we go.
We get to have crazy adventures all the time. We get to hang out with people
in all these little towns. It’s super-fun.
AL: Do you see a lot of bands play?
Oliver: Yes, on tour. I also see a lot of bands play in Brooklyn where I
live. I live in an illegal warehouse. There are ten of us who live there. We
have a studio. Some friends of ours built a maze in the space. We have played
in different parts of the maze for the whole month.
AL: I haven’t been to NYC for a few years. Am I going to be shocked at all
the changes when I go there for CMJ next week?
Oliver: It’s always changing to some degree. You are not going to be
shocked. There are condos in Williamsburg.
AL: Are you touring to any new places?
Oliver: We are going to Greece soon. Never been. It sounds fucking amazing.
We would like to go to Australia. Soon.
AL: Do you write the setlists down?
Oliver: We have to write it down, because you have to have some idea of
what is going to happen. Sometimes you don’t know what the fuck is going on
onstage. At different places, I can’t hear what the other guys are doing. I am
struggling to barely hear them. You are trying to make the sounds as good as
AL: Is loudness still a factor in the band?
Oliver: To a degree. I like to hear things and play them really loud. It
helps me get into it. There are some places like Switzerland were the decibel
limit is 100. You just have to push it as much as you can. We will try to
break the rules, and some people get pissed off.
AL: Do people get sick because it’s too loud?
Oliver: Sometimes. We will try to make it as annoying as possible, if you
are watching. We have a bunch of strobe lights. People can handle a little
AL: Do you like to give the audience some pure white noise?
Oliver: You might perceive the whole thing as white noise.
AL: Where does the name come from?
Oliver: It was our old drummer. He got it from an Aleister Crowley poem.
That was the name we put on the first flyer. Some people like it, some don’t.
I didn’t the name for a long time. There’s something to be said about
rising above something that you don’t like. I think that is cool. I think some
bands have risen above some bad band names.
AL: The Stooges was a bad name.
Oliver: Exactly. The band’s fucking awesome. You can easily think that was
a dumb band name, and they suck. The band is fucking wicked. You’re like
“Fuck yeah, the fucking Stooges!” You know what I mean.
Gallery is here. All photos taken by Angel Ceballos.