Amid preparations for a three-month tour of the US and Europe, A Place to Bury Strangers‘ front man Oliver Ackermann chats to Joe Madsen about the release of their fourth album, Transfixiation, and their years as a changing act in a niche genre. APTBS to come to Dublin on March 31 and Belfast the following night.
APTBS has gone through quite a few changes over the past decade, shifting band members, management, and labels through its stages. How do you feel the band has changed or grown through all these developments?
I think it’s allowed us to become more focused on exactly what we want to do. You know, when you’re younger, you can get distracted by things that don’t matter, but as you get older and gain more experience, you learn to focus on your craft and the things you want to push through.
So now that you’re further along in your career, you guys are more capable of dealing with petty drama and other kinds of distractions that get in the way?
Yeah, you learn to stick up for yourself and the ideas you have without letting people fill your head with ideas and dreams which are really just what they want you to be. You see through it after time and learn to figure out what it is you care about. It’s not about becoming a superstar, it’s really just about doing the music you enjoy. You get more in touch with reality.
You’ve worked with a few different record labels, both in the states and in the UK, but this latest LP, Transfixiation, is your second with Dead Oceans. How has it been working with them? Do you feel the band is thriving with Dead Oceans?
Oh, they’re great. It’s like working with your friends, a lot of really smart, cool people working together, excited about the music, and they do a great job. You know they’re gonna be there with whatever you need to do, whenever you call them.
And you guys worked with a guy called Jon Whitney who first got you signed back in ’07, when you were getting started. Do you guys still work with him at all? Or is he less part of things now that you’ve moved further along with your image as a band?
I mean, he’s still a fryoutubeiend of mine, you know, and we’ll still hang out and I’ll tell him what’s going on. I think he’s focused on other things right now, as far as his life goes. I don’t know if he’s working as much with bands anymore, but he’s a really cool dude.
I understand that you guys draw a lot of influence from 80’s group The Jesus and Mary Chain who are doing a 30th-year anniversary tour this year. Are you guys going to check that out or play with them at all in the future like you’ve done before?
Well, we’ll be playing Austin Psych Fest this May, and they’re playing that, too, so we’ll probably check them out. I’d say that kind of influence was a lot more important to me when I was first getting started, learning electric guitar and trying out styles from all those kinds of bands, but I don’t think it’s as influential as it was at the time. I mean, they’re great, but you branch out, start learning new things, listening to new groups because otherwise, you’d just drive yourself mad, listening to the same kind of thing over and over and over again. I don’t listen to them as much as I used to, I guess.
I mean, it might’ve been cooler, more thrilling if I was younger and this were 1985, but who knows how wild it’s gonna get. I mean, maybe their sound is still awesome, but you don’t really get that old kind of vibe with those bands playing off teen angst and anger and doing shitty, fucked up things to each other.
So how important is it to you that people identify APTBS with that generation of 80’s punk music and influence? What does it mean to you to be grouped in with that legacy?
It is what it is, there’s no denying it. It’s cool to be identified with that kind of music at all, and it was sort of the starting point for me to create and play the kind of music I want to play, a jumping point, really, for a lot of these things. But I’m listening to a bunch of different music now, many different kinds of things. There’s a ton of new bands and records coming out nowadays, just want to keep up, keep things fresh.
Critics have you labeled you guys as ‘noise rock’ and ‘shoegaze’. What do these labels mean to you guys and how you identify your own work?
To me, that whole ‘shoegaze’ style belongs to a certain era of music, say around 1992, and to me, it seemed like a label that magazines were using to put on bigger collections of bands like Lush and My Bloody Valentine. It’s crazy how those kinds of things can take off and become a whole genre, and then you find yourself grouped in with it. But hey, it’s cool.
Now with this upcoming tour, you’re gonna be all over the US, UK, Ireland, and the rest of Europe for the next few months, playing for fans everywhere. How excited are you guys for that?
Super excited. We’ve got a lot of new things planned for this tour, things we’ve never tried before in concert that we’re super pumped to do. I mean, we reached a point recording this album when we wondered what the hell we were doing and questioned whether we even wanted to go on, and you get to a point when you realize you gotta shake things up, ready yourself for something new. We realized that we had an opportunity to do something really awesome, really special, so we’re excited to try out some new stuff this time around and see how it works out.
A Place To Bury Strangers play Dublin’s Workmans Club on March 31 and Belfast’s Voodoo on April 1.