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LOSTATSEA.NET > FEATURES >

March 14, 2008
Brooklyn buzz (read: above-the-radar and copious effects) band, A Place to Bury Strangers, drove into Tucson last week for a rollicking live show with touring mates Holy Fuck. The band had just played at the 16th running of San Francisco's esteemed Noise Pop Festival [LAS feature], wound their way down the coast to The Casbah in San Diego - where bassist Jono Mofo forgot his equipment bag and didn't notice until after the joint closed - and then made for a just-in-time-for-load-in arrival at Tucson's venerable club Plush.

It was there that I met up with all three members - Mofo, drummer Jay Space, and guitarist Oliver Ackerman - for a candid conversation in the parking lot. More precisely, in their home-away-from-home RV, which was parked in the lot. All three members were gracious enough to spend the better part of an hour chatting, prior to hitting the stage.

Herein, our interview.

---


LAS: So, did you ever get the bag you left behind last night at The Casbah?

OLIVER ACKERMAN: Yes! And it was worth staying late - we actually found this sweet place and had a wonderful English breakfast.

When did A Place to Bury Strangers officially form?

ACKERMAN: The band has been slowly going since 2003, when I first moved to NYC, with a bunch of revolving members. It first started out just for fun.

JAY SPACE: The first time I saw A Place to Bury Strangers, I thought this is the band I want to be in.

How many tours have you done with this current line-up?

JONO MOFO: This is the first national one.

All on strength of your debut, which came out last year?

ACKERMAN: Yeah, that's what's made it all possible. Living in NY, all your time is spent hustling to make money. If you were to spend all your time trying to book a tour you couldn't focus on music.

The album began with a small run of 500 copies, yes?

ACKERMAN: It started that way, but now we're up to about 10,000 pressed and sold.

MOFO: We've also sold about 2000 vinyl. And we're seriously low on CDs right now, so I hope you have a copy!

Actually I've been onto it for months, it was my #3 pick of 2007.

MOFO: What were #1 and #2?

Kevin Drew and Cloud Cult. I'm guessing you guys know my #10, fellow Brooklynites Parts & Labor?

ACKERMAN: Oh yeah, those guys are awesome, and that's what makes living in Brooklyn great - so many great bands right now, a great scene.

What is in the water there, sparking this creative renaissance?

ACKERMAN: It's so tough to live there that it weeds out people who don't have a lot of ambition. There's tons of folks who move there for a few months, party it up, and then leave. It's like boot camp.

SPACE: And since Rudy [Giuliani] & Mike [Bloomberg] fucked up NYC, now you have to live in Brooklyn!

Any other local favorite bands?

ACKERMAN: Tons of bands - Coin Under Tongue, Sisters, Dirty on Purpose, Oneida…


How was Noise Pop in San Francisco, and where'd you play?

ALL: It was awesome!

MOFO: We played Bottom of the Hill. As for the festival, it didn't really feel like it was anything more than a show. We didn't get a chance to check out much else.

ACKERMAN: But we did play with a bunch of cool bands - White Denim, Veil Veil Vanish.

Are you looking forward to South by Southwest?

ACKERMAN: Yes and no - we're playing nine shows in four days! There's all the showcases, and then so many other cool shows we didn't want to pass up. Like my friend just put out a 7" on her own label, [and] we're playing with her at [art venue] Enchanted Forest.

MOFO: Are people supposed to know what the Enchanted Forest is?

They will when my editor puts in a link. So, is nine shows in four days a record for you guys?

MOFO: Yes, but I think White Denim is playing eleven!

SPACE: Even last year we played five shows, and we thought that was a lot.


Who has the better name, you guys or touring mates Holy Fuck?

MOFO: The good thing about ours is it always gets put on top because it starts with "a." And you can say ours on the radio. Though Holy Fuck is an awesome name.

When did you guys each start playing music?

ACKERMAN: I started playing guitar in about 1994.

MOFO: I started playing around the time I came of age.

ACKERMAN: You mean the 70's?

[raucous laughter]


Let's talk about Death by Audio [Ackerman's pedal effects company]; is it your side or main gig these days?

ACKERMAN: Well, it's always been what I do for income, but really it's about the goal of making the craziest music I can think of.

How'd you get into it? Did you have a knowledge of electronics or engineering?

ACKERMAN: Just a lot of messing around and breaking things for a while, figuring out how things work, reading books and going for it.

What's the deal with your record label, Killer Pimp?

ACKERMAN: It's a guy in Boston, John Whitney, and a very small label. He approached us at a show in Boston, and wrote down on a napkin that he'd love to release our demos or album. Wasn't really interested in profit, just releasing 500 copies or so.

Have you since been approached by other, larger labels?

ACKERMAN: Oh yeah, since then definitely.

How do you feel about labels in general?

MOFO: Some are awesome, some are not

ACKERMAN: We're not even that much focused on it right now. We'll decide more when we're ready to release another album. We don't want to jump the gun.

SPACE: We want a little time to ride this one out.

I see that you have some kickass t-shirts, who designs those?

ACKERMAN: Me!

Got any with you?

MOFO: Just smalls and double-XLs!

Damn! Those won't fit! I read that you're the loudest band in New York - myth or fact?

SPACE: It's kinda hard because now we get judged on this loud thing, and we do all these shows where folks are like "turn it up!" I think we're pretty loud, but I saw Early Man a few weeks ago and they were really fuckin' loud.

Is it even a badge of honor?

MOFO: I have a beef with being called "the self-proclaimed loudest band in New York," because it wasn't our idea. We didn't make it up, and it's pretty childish to be like. "we're the loudest band in New York."


Who's responsible for the songwriting?

ACKERMAN: Mostly me, but we've been writing more stuff together.

I hear a lot of great melodies coming though your music, buried under the effects and noise...

ACKERMAN: The biggest thing is good melody. With effects and recording techniques, you just have more and interesting ways to show it.

Any good luck touring talismans?

ALL: The beards!

Can you please bum rush the American Idol stage?

ACKERMAN: Sure. Tell us when and where, and we'll be there!

MOFO: I don't know, Randy Jackson's a pretty big dude.

So, where is the best place to bury a stranger?

SPACE: East River.

ACKERMAN: Depends if you want them to be found or not - could be in their own yard.

MOFO: Cleveland, or upstate New York.


I got some bonus questions from my editor.

MOFO: Do we win anything if we answer them right?

Probably not. So, everyone mentions My Bloody Valentine and the various shoegaze icons, but what would you consider the most unlikely or obscure influence that has had a direct impact on your music?

MOFO: Girl groups.

ACKERMAN: More recent bands like Lightning Bolt.

SPACE: People just throw around My Bloody Valentine because they can't think of anything more creative. If I open SPIN right now I bet [at least] two bands will be mentioned as influenced by My Bloody Valentine!

MOFO: I don't understand the term shoegaze; when I think of it, I think of Lush, who I love, but it's not us.

To what degree is there a back-and-forth between your development of Death by Audio pedals informing your playing and your playing informing your development of pedals?

ACKERMAN: It all goes in both directions. Accidents while playing can inspire you to create other sounds, and sometimes I'll be creating a pedal which will bring about a song.

Is there anything that you always expected people to ask you about your music that no one ever has?

ACKERMAN: How come you're so damn good looking?

MOFO: People don't really ask how we get some of the sounds we get, other than just "you use Death by Audio pedals." They don't get specific.

ACKERMAN: But answering that could take away some of the fun and mystery.

MOFO: Right, I'm not saying I want them to ask. Just surprised they don't!


What's the number one band you would unconditionally sign up for a lengthy tour with?

SPACE: Spritualized, for me.

MOFO: I really like touring with these guys. They're great people, a great band, so I'd go with Holy Fuck again.

ACKERMAN: Damn. The Vandelles.

What's the number one band you would refuse to play with under any circumstances?

ALL: The Vandelles!

If you could provide a live score to any film ever made, which would it be?

MOFO: A Scorsese film - Mean Streets or Taxi Driver.

SPACE: I always thought that movie Nadja had a cool, dark score.

ACKERMAN: Probably something by David Lynch.

MOFO: I knew someone would fucking say him!

Anything I left out, that you want to ask and answer yourselves?

ACKERMAN: [to self] Why are you so damn handsome? I was born that way!

---
After our conversation, the band proceeded to tear it up for an enthusiastic Tucson crowd. Their current tour, which camps out at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, for four days, will swing through New Orleans before striking up the Eastern seaboard and culminating with a show back home in Brooklyn on Saturday, March 22nd.

SEE ALSO: www.aplacetoburystrangers.com
SEE ALSO: www.killerpimp.com

--
Ari Shapiro
A staff writer for LAS, Ari Shapiro mixes up pretty unique smoothies at XOOM in hot Tucson.

See other articles by Ari Shapiro.

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