Death By Audio is dead; long live Death By Audio! The Brooklyn institution closed its doors late last year, but the name lives on.
Reached at home in New York, A Place to Bury Strangers frontman Oliver Ackermann tells the Straight that, after running the rehearsal space, recording studio, effects-pedal manufacturing shop, performance venue, and record-label HQ known as Death By Audio for about a decade, he and the rest of the DBA collective were evicted from the industrial building at South 2nd Street and Kent Avenue in Williamsburg. The reason? Vice Media made his erstwhile landlords a better offer.
“They were people who came along and offered a lot of money to take over this whole block, which had a lot of different spaces—like Glasslands [Gallery] and our place and a movie-production company, and these kinds of things,” the singer-guitarist notes. “I think that some people could argue that they didn’t know that they were taking over this space with all these artists and all of this stuff going on, and then some people would say Vice is one company that’s supposed to have its finger on the pulse of what’s going on in New York so obviously they did know that they were kicking all of these artists out of their spaces.
“But, you know, in that neighbourhood in New York, that’s exactly what’s going on all over the place,” Ackermann says. “It’s not really that big of a surprise, it’s just maybe shitty or ironic in some ways that it’s some people who are supposed to be trying to support the arts sort of gutting this arts space and turning it into their own.”
Death By Audio soldiers on, however, in the form of the stomp-box company, which is still very much a going concern. The names of its various pedals—from Echo Dream and Interstellar Overdriver to Fuzz War and Apocalypse—double as good descriptions of the A Place to Bury Strangers sound.
The long-running band didn’t exactly reinvent itself for its fourth full-length release, Transfixiation, with reverb-saturated melodies and guitars set to “total sonic annihilation” still its stock-in-trade. On the other hand, the live-wire rhythms of tracks like “Straight” and “We’ve Come So Far” are more viscerally propulsive than anything in the APTBS back catalogue, a development that Ackermann credits to Robi Gonzalez, who knows his way around a kit better than any of the group’s previous drummers.
“It was freeing, writing songs where we could really kind of go all over the place and try out things, and we would never really hit, like, a wall, or something that we couldn’t do,” Ackermann says. “So that was really cool, and then also Robi comes from a completely different background. He’s more classically trained in the drums, so he brought different rhythms and different ideas of things that we wouldn’t ever have really thought of.”
Given that Gonzalez has allowed A Place to Bury Strangers to expand its sonic horizons, it’s appropriate that the trio (which also includes bassist Dion Lunadon) is heading our way to play Levitation Vancouver, brought to us by the Reverberation Appreciation Society, the folks behind what used to be called Austin Psych Fest. The notoriously loud APTBS is usually classified as shoegaze or noise rock, but Ackermann has another way of looking at things.
“I think that we are a psychedelic band,” he insists. “A lot of our music is based on moments of having some sort of psychedelic, out-of-body experience, or taking your mind to somewhere beyond where it normally is.”
A Place to Bury Strangers plays the Rickshaw Theatre on Friday (June 5) as part of Levitation Vancouver.