APTBS Photo BW2

Transfix (verb): to render motionless as with terror, amazement, or awe; to pierce or impale with a pointed weapon or object.
Transfixiation (noun): A worthy title for the latest album from Brooklyn noise rock trio, A Place To Bury Strangers, out now on Dead Oceans.

The follow-up to 2012’s Worship, Transfixiation is a record of relentless urgency and distortion complete with jagged riffs, drone, and feedback in all the right places. Thanks in part to frontman Oliver Ackermann’s custom pedals, APTBS continues to push the boundaries of sonic feasibility on their fourth full-length. When I asked Ackermann to compare APTBS to a film, he did not hesitate and responded with Begotten, a 1990 experimental horror film, infamous for a scene where God kills himself “sitting in a chair while his intestines are falling out.” If that’s any indication of how sonically brutal APTBS can be, you can probably understand why the band was once dubbed “the loudest band in New York.”

APTBS continues to uphold this reputation on both this record and in concert. Having seen them live several times, I can attest that it’s not just the volume that will transfix anyone lucky/brave enough to see APTBS live, but the energy and physical intensity the band brings to each performance. There’s no standing around. There’s sweat, chaos, sensory and auditory overload, and sometimes blood. “One time I stabbed a guitar string through my fingernail. I had to keep on playing, and then try to figure out how to get the string out,” Ackerman laughed when we spoke on the phone about the current tour, the last show at Death By Audio, and recording Transfixiation. Check out the interview below.

How’s the US tour been so far?
It’s been great. All the shows have been really good. We’re playing with two different great bands. We just finished with Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, did a lot of shows with them, which was awesome. Now we’re playing with this really awesome band called Creepoid. A bunch of the shows have been super wild, and that’s been really fun, kids kind of going crazy. We’ve been changing around our show as it’s been going on and even written some songs on the spot in a couple places.

You’re known for your live shows. Are there any that stick out in your memory?
I guess I remember the ones where something messed up happens. One time I hit my head real bad and started bleeding out of my nose. Another time we had a drum set hidden in a closet that Robi was going to play drums with. When we went to go open up the door of the closet, it was locked, so we had to pick up this amplifier and smash it through the door to get to the drum set so we could play the song. It was kind of fun.

Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Quite literally. The video for “We’ve Come So Far” was actually your last show at the iconic and now-gone Death By Audio space in Brooklyn. What was it like playing that final farewell show?
It was really emotional, really intense. I mean that whole time period, and the whole month at the end was pretty crazy. We were really busy and working so hard to move and do all of these things, so it was even hard to totally let all of that sink in at the time, but it would go up and down. It’s a real shame that that’s all gone. It was really an amazing ending to the whole thing because there were just so many people coming together.

I’m sad I missed it. It’s definitely an end of an era. Let’s talk about recording your new album. How did you end up working with Emil Nikolaisen of Serena-Maneesh?
It was pretty crazy actually. Someone we knew set it up with this collective in Norway, Etna Collective. They paid for us to come over to Norway and do this Norwegian tour and record in this studio, ABC Studios. They got Emil to be able to do this, who’s a long time friend of ours. He played guitar on some of the tracks. It was awesome running around in that studio for one weekend and just recording, starting as soon as you wake up, recording all night. When it feels good and when you’re doing something cool, and being there with Emil who’s so inspiring and great to work with, then you really come up with something good. I think something that we really learned recording this record is we were trying so hard to record so many different times and re-recording songs, and what really made the best recordings was just always if we were excited about what we were doing or really feeling what was going on.

It didn’t even matter the techniques of how we recorded or anything like that. The last song on the record, “I Will Die,” that’s recorded of us playing in a practice and writing it right there. We got a couple of microphones up and we tried to re-record the song better in better circumstances, but you can never capture how cool that song sounded right at the moment.

You design Death By Audio pedals to use in your live shows and when recording. Do you ever write songs and want to change the sound, so you decide to design a new pedal?
When we were working on this record, I came up with this Death By Audio pedal called The Ghost Delay. That was an inspiration for a lot of the sounds and some of the songs on the record. “Supermaster” and “What We Don’t See” heavily feature that effect. The songs wrote themselves based on what this sound sounds like. You come up with these ideas for songs, and then we also built some equipment, which we wanted to create certain sounds with on the record. It just happens anyway. You have to take inspiration from whatever you can. It goes both ways. It’s the chicken and the egg at the same time I suppose.

Worship was recorded by yourself for the first time whereas with Transfixiation, you crossed an ocean to record with Emil and did the rest in New York. Is this something you want to continue to do or return to DIY?
We’ve recorded at some other studios and places throughout the US, but this is the first time outside the US. We’re going to try to do this more for future recordings, in different places. Maybe go to different cities with different people that we’re friends with or engineers that we admire and try recording a little bit here and there and get the best of all those worlds. I think that will make a really cool, dynamic record, so that’s what I want to do for the next record, but we’ll see if that happens.

What were your influences for the stateside sessions?
My influence on the stateside sessions for the record was live music. We wanted to capture the feeling and power of being engulphed in sound and we wanted it to be spontaneous. We had just been on tour and written a lot of interesting songs at live shows in moments of havoc and also toured with an amazing band called Bambara. At that same time there were amazing live shows going on at my house that totally blew me away. I had just heard of Yanaton Gat, New England Patriots and seen other extremely inspirational crazy shows. That feeling of being at a live show and your real life is slipping away into the moment is what we wanted to capture. The escape.

If you want to escape, go see A Place To Bury Strangers. They will be playing the Echoplex in Los Angeles on March 15, 2015. You can still buy tickets to the LA show here or check to see if there is an upcoming show near you on their website.

Subscribe