It's been a while since Brooklyn three-piece A Place To Bury Strangers graced these shores. However, earlier this month, they brought their two month long European tour to an incendiary close at Dalston's Shacklewell Arms. As expected, sonic terrorism ensued from start to finish for what turned out to be two of the most intensely captivating shows of 2013.
Currently in the process of putting together their fourth long player - the follow-up to 2012's Worship - DiS caught up with founder member and guitarist Oliver Ackermann and bass player Dion Lunadon. Here's how the conversation went...
DiS: You've been on tour since the early part of September, and covered a large part of Europe yet are only scheduled to play two shows in the UK. Any particular reason?
Oliver Ackermann: No, not really. We'd have liked to stay here longer but there's only so much touring a band can do in one go. We wanted to play in Eastern Europe this time round.
Dion Lunadon: We'd never played there before so we chose this tour to finally go over.
Oliver Ackermann: We were given the opportunity to do one or the other so we chose Eastern Europe. And also we had to go to Portugal. They've been asking us to play there for years. We'd loved to have been able to tour the UK as well but fitting everything in wasn't possible.
Dion Lunadon: We come to the UK often so felt it was time to give other parts of Europe a go.
DiS: Were there any financial constraints that made it difficult to play everywhere you would have liked to?
Oliver Ackermann: No, there weren't any financial issues. It's just the physical aspect of being on tour for two whole months. It takes its toll.
DiS: It is a difficult time for bands to survive in the current climate though.
Oliver Ackermann: It is but you can make it work.
Dion Lunadon: We make it work. We don't spend money on stupid shit. We don't have buses. Oliver designs and makes all his own effects pedals. I live quite cheaply. I don't buy anything other than enough food to live on and maybe a guitar here and there.
Oliver Ackermann: It's not that we're a DIY band or anything but we do like to be in control of what we're doing. And also another part of that is if we handed the responsibility over to someone else they wouldn't do what we wanted them to do. It's easier to do everything ourselves. If you trust someone else to do something like produce the record it always ends up being a mistake.
DiS: Would you say you're control freaks?
Dion Lunadon: We probably are to a certain extent but at the same time I've worked with people that are a lot more controlling than we are. We just know what we want and know how to get it.
Oliver Ackermann: We want this band to be the best it can possibly be, and to see that it even touches people's lives all over the place makes it such an amazing honour to be able to do these things. You hear of bands that break up over meaningless issues or arguments and you wonder why.
DiS: Did you handpick the dates?
Oliver Ackermann: We kind of did actually. Normally we just tend to go along with whatever's booked.
Dion Lunadon: Whereas this time we did everything ourselves.
DiS: What's been the most memorable show of the tour so far?
Dion Lunadon: Some stand out for different reasons. They're all the right reasons but just different! Belgrade was really cool
DiS: You've been playing quite a lot of new songs on this tour, the likes of 'Don't Go', 'I Will Die', 'Six Finger Kill'and 'I'm So Clean' for instance. Has the reception been positive for the new material?
Oliver Ackermann: Yeah, they've gone down really well. People have said they've been loving them so that's cool.
Oliver Lunadon: People have been getting quite excited about hearing new material, which is nice. Before we started this tour we talked about what songs we should play. So in the end we decided we'd play a few Dead Moon songs off the EP we put out earlier in the year, throw in a few new ones as well as older ones we know are quite popular with our audience. So when we looked at the list we realised there were quite a few songs, which has meant we've rarely played the same set twice on this tour.
DiS: When did you start writing the new songs? Do any of them date back to the same time as Worship for instance?
Oliver Ackermann: They're all new. We've got about 15-20 works in progress with a lot more to come over the coming months.
DiS: Is the new album finished?
*8Oliver Ackermann:** No, not yet. I wouldn't release a record unless it was perfect. By perfect, I don't mean every little note has to be in the right place or whatever, it's more about the emotion than anything else. Getting a really good take is better than worrying about some dumb minor details. You could record a wicked band on a shitty handheld tape recorder and it would sound better than putting a crappy band in the fanciest studio.
DiS: Is there a projected release date for the next album?
Oliver Ackermann: We're not exactly sure but hopefully next year. Probably towards the end of summer, early fall.
DiS: Does it have a working title?
Dion Lunadon: Not yet. It's still a very early stage of the process. We're still writing.
Oliver Ackermann: We've got a bunch of songs that we're working on at the minute. The ones you mentioned earlier plus a few others that we haven't played live yet, but you never know how a record's going to pan out until the time comes when you start putting the whole package together. I'm actually quite excited about getting back home so I can continue writing. I think we all are.
Dion Lunadon: We've still got a lot more stuff to write so it's difficult to say at this moment in time whether all of the songs we have at present will even make it onto the album.
DiS: All of your previous albums have seen a progression from that of its predecessors, particularly sound wise. What can we expect from the next record?
Oliver Ackermann: I think the band has been sounding the best it ever has done live, so I really want to try and capture that in the studio. Almost to the point where it sounds like being at one of our shows. I want to capture us live yet also try and do something more which goes beyond that because no matter how it sounds, the listener won't get the same experience that they would from seeing us. So it may mean rebuilding our studio and experimenting with new ideas that way.
DiS: Are all of the band involved in the writing process with the new songs?
Oliver Ackermann: Yeah, both Dion and Robi have had a lot of input. We want to make a point of writing this together. I think by doing that, it will give us the strongest body of work to tour after the record comes out. Dion and Robi will want to play their own parts naturally to the best of their ability.
Dion Lunadon: When I first joined the band, me and Oliver started writing about a 50-50 share each. Sometimes he would write songs on his own, but most of Worship and Onwards To The Wall were written by the pair of us. Before I joined it was mainly Oliver who would write all of rhythm section's parts as well as his own.
DiS: Is this the first time A Place To Bury Strangers feels like a real band from a creative point of view?
Oliver Ackermann: I think it's always felt like that to me. Maybe there wasn't the writing input before but you're still playing music with some of your closest friends and everyone's pulling their weight to make it all come together. I feel the current line-up is the most professional band I've ever been in. The other two players are just so talented. Previously I felt I was the strongest link whereas now I'm back to being the weakest link in the chain. Just in the way of chops really. I'm not the kind of guy who's ever learned how to play guitar through reading books or lessons from music teachers.
Dion Lunadon: I think all three of us have very different strengths. For example, Oliver's are completely different to mine. I can't make the sounds coming out of a guitar that he makes. Maybe I can play stuff more conventionally, but I'm not as experimental as he is.
DiS: Bearing what you've just said in mind, do you prefer playing live with this line-up to working in the studio?
Oliver Ackermann: I love everything.
Dion Lunadon: I like both. You've got to have the right mix of each to make things work.
DiS: Will there be a tour to coincide with the album's release?
Oliver Ackermann: Definitely. We'll probably do more shows in the UK then.
DiS: Going back to the Record Store Day release, what inspired you to cover an obscure punk band like Dead Moon?
Oliver Ackermann: It was on a whim. Dion was playing their music a lot the last time we went on tour, and we're all really big fans so we just thought, "Why not?" It seemed like a really cool idea. They're such a great band. Straight up, real, honest...
Dion Lunadon: There's none of this fake rock star bullshit with them. It's all so honest, which is how we'd like to be perceived as a band. That we're coming from the same place as them in that respect.
DiS: You've also put out a limited edition seven-inch with Fractel Press magazine earlier this year. Will either of the tracks on that record ('Raiser'/'Easy Life') be on the album?
Oliver Ackermann: No. I was just a fan of that kinda stuff when I was a kid. You'd go searching for a record and then see some band has a limited release. It always bummed me out when I bought a rare single and the b-side was some album track or remix. There's no way we're ever gonna do anything like that. We want to be true to what excited us when we were kids. I don't wanna rip our fans off by putting out a remix of a song that's already available.
Dion Lunadon: We also write so many songs too. We have such a large output of material and not a lot of it actually gets released. We don't think that everything we do is fantastic. We're realistic that we don't shit gold all the time.
Oliver Ackermann: We have songs we've recorded which sound really great in their own right but just don't fit into what we're doing at that time. There'll be lots of our music that no one will ever hear but that's fine.
DiS: Do you feel A Place To Bury Strangers as an entity in its own right has superseded both the shoegaze and psych scenes you were initially attached to?
Oliver Ackermann: I think so. I've always thought so but we keep getting dragged into those scenes. We've played a few of those psych events and we're just so wildly different from all of those bands.
Dion Lunadon: We do have psychedelic elements to our music, but the psych thing just seems like a genre, and I don't feel we belong in that genre.
DiS: Josh Hayward from The Horrors recently said you were his favourite punk band. What do you make of that?
Dion Lunadon: It's probably much more accurate to be honest. Oliver Ackermann: I think so. That's the kind of stuff that really inspired me. That moment when you hear something that you've never heard before. The thrill of that is what's so exciting about music. I always saw those early shoegaze bands as being punk rock from that era, whereas now so many bands just try and play into the style.
DiS: You're selling a 'Live At Death By Audio' book that includes a compilation of seven inch flexidiscs by bands who've played there. How did that come about and did the bands themselves have any input into which songs were used?
Oliver Ackermann: We've just been recording bands that play our space as much as we possibly can, and just figured this would be the perfect thing to do. We asked all the bands whether they wanted to be on the records and the ones that said yes chose their own tracks which we then mastered.
DiS: On this tour you've taken another Brooklyn band Bambara as main support. Are there any new bands you'd recommend DiS and readers should be checking out?
Oliver Ackermann: Yeah, Grooms are great. Then there's Guardian Alien, Fuck Ton too. Lots come to think of it. On previous tours, there've been times where we've been paired up with all kinds of bands depending where we've played, so this time we thought it would be good to take a band on tour who we really like. They did the second half of the tour with us and it's been great for us and them.
DiS: What's been your favourite records of 2013?
Oliver Ackermann: I really like the Grooms record, 'Infinity Caller'. The No Bunny record is great too.
Dion Lunadon: I don't really buy that much new music to be honest. My favourite record that I've bought this year would probably be a re-issue of a punk band called The Kids.
DiS: Finally, what are your plans for the rest of the year?
Oliver Ackermann: To get back to work and finish writing and recording the next record.
For more information on A Place To Bury Strangers visit their official website.
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