A Place to Bury Strangers: 'Our music is the sound of a breaking public address system'

The 'loudest band in New York' unleash their live show on Shanghai

Photos: Clemens Mitscher
Loud. This word, or variations of it, is never too far away when talking about A Place to Bury Strangers. The Brooklyn-based trio are regularly described as 'New York's loudest band' and are renowned for reducing many a sound system to a useless, blown-out wreck.

As founder Oliver Ackermann puts it, 'Our music is perceived to be that loud because of the method of making it and the sounds we produce: the sound of a breaking public address system.'

Such statements - especially when combined with the act's name and the 'loudest band' epithet - can lead the uninitiated to assume that A Place to Bury Strangers are a screeching metal outfit, or at the very least that their sound is focused on out-and-out noise. But while earplugs are recommended for the band's debut shows in China, there's more to APTBS than mere bowel-shaking volume.

Since founding in 2003, the band have honed a dark, throbbing post-punk sound infused with fuzzed-up guitar riffs and wailing feedback - it's music to be listened to loud, yes, but it's also imbued with an impressive dexterity and subtlety.

A Place to Bury Strangers

Ackermann has played with a number of different members over the years - the current line-up is completed by drummer Lia Simone Braswell and former D4 guitarist Dion Lunadon - and it's his work with his self-built pedals and gear that has come to define the band's back catalogue.

'I think a lot of the sound comes from the effect aesthetic I have and have developed over time. It's really a combination and growth of tools and developing a language with the style in which we play the instruments,' he says. 'A lot of it is based on the sounds that you would unintentionally create, artefacts, and the sound of pure raw energy like when something is smashed or destroyed.'

These original effects have made such an impact that Ackermann now provides equipment for the likes of My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields and U2's The Edge through his Death by Audio operation. 'It is totally surreal,' he admits when we ask how it feels to be helping shape the sound of bands he's idolised. 'I create effects and units for myself because I am the only critic I can really trust. Music and sound is so abstract and the options and opportunities are absolutely limitless so it really comes down to aesthetic for the entire design experience that the artist will use, so to have artists I respect so much interested in my personal aesthetic is completely surreal.'

The chance to witness Ackermann and co's aesthetic live in China may have Yuyintang's sound guy sweating with trepidation, but it should also have noise-rock fans giddy with excitement.

Lunadon describes the opportunity for APTBS to perform in Shanghai for the first time as 'amazing' and Simone Braswell adds that we can expect an intense show: 'The adrenaline rush lasts from the moment we get to the venue and usually winds down shortly after we pack everything up. We all like to work hard so we try to keep the momentum up as much as we can. [We hope the audience] then use the energy and apply it to what they’ve chosen - or not chosen - to do with their lives.'

Presumably once the ringing in their ears subsides, that is.

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