The rainclouds overhead are ominous to say the least, but for the minute it’s still dry and we’re not soaked, which is always a bonus in central manchester. Tonight, Moho Live will play host to a DJ set by a family-friendly comic actor, promoting the latest indie-pop clubnight. Before that comes the small matter of a gig by a band dubbed by critics as ‘the loudest in the world’. The doors were meant to open at 6, but the bouncers seem uncertain and don’t seem to want to let anybody inside. With a broad smile, A Place to Bury Strangers’ singer Oliver Ackermann meets us outside, and seems genuinely happy to see us. After a little negotiation with the doormen, he gets us inside and offers us a beer whilst asking us about our day. In the awkward, bleak room at the side of the stage, we chat about being DIY, festivals and Fall Out Boy.
Hello, how are you?
I’m doing alright, I’m psyched to be playing Manchester. The tour’s been fantastic – we’ve been travelling around with Japandroids for almost all the shows, that’s been really cool. It’s way more easy to get around the UK than it is the US, so it’s been sweet. It’s good to be back here – miserable weather though.
Where do you look forward to playing most?
I’m really looking forward to playing Greece this time. I’m excited about that – we’re playing Athens, maybe someplace else too. Our European tour is 6 weeks long, but our US tour was 4 weeks, we had 4 days off, so it’s almost like a 10 week tour. We’ve played a couple of festivals, we’re playing All Tomorrow’s Parties…
We were going to ask you about that. What’s it like to be playing there – did My Bloody Valentine ask you personally?
They did, yeah. We’ve played with My Bloody Valentine before and we played the Camber sands ATP last year, which was just fucking wicked, you know? The whole house is going crazy, partying the whole time, you’re with really good bands all day, every day. It’s great.
You’re playing with Japandroids, what’s that been like?
It’s been great, they’re really cool, super-nice kids, you know. It always makes it a lot more fun when it’s easy to see the shows every night. Sometimes you get paired up with bands that just suck and it almost makes your life miserable, you know? We’re on tour, we want to have fun, that’s the whole point.
How about Sad Day for Puppets? Have you seen them much before?
We played with them once maybe in Stockholm? Then we played with them at Truck festival. It’s a kinda cool, kinda whack festival. We played in a barn, and there’s kids going crazy in tents. Kinda of like a mini Leeds, I guess, but a lot more ghetto, so it’s better. When we played Leeds, it was the same environment, but the bands we played with there were horrible, Fall Out Boy and all this trash, playing to lots of young kids wearing baseballs caps, that kind of vibe.
How does it feel to have been dubbed ‘the loudest band in the world’? Are we going to need earplugs?
It’s ridiculous – I’m sure that we’re not. When we played with MBV in Los Angeles, one of the lights fell from the ceiling. I never wear earplugs, so you’ll be fine. Sometimes, other people complain to me that their ears are still ringing, though.
So what about your new album, ‘Exploding head’? Tell us a little bit about that.
We recorded it in about 2 months, pretty much all in Brooklyn and it’s all good. I like it. We worked with Andy Smith, who’s did some remixes for us from our first record. I just thought they were amazing, so I had a talk with him, and he was such a good, easy fit for this record and it’s aesthetic, so it was cool. He brought this whole different kind of pop accessibility or something to this record, and he made it harder hitting than maybe I could’ve done. I don’t think I’m going to necessarily do that again, but I think it was really cool for this album.
What were you hoping to achieve whilst making this record? Is there a theme behind it?
We were just trying to make a really cool record, at least that’s what I thought. There’s a bunch of different ideas with that. Some of it’s quite personal, some of it is not. But I think it came together quite well as a piece.
It’s been said that you come from a DIY background, so how does it feel to be in a band that’s signed and getting exposure by itself?
It’s mind blowing, really. I’d almost given up on the whole thing – I worked really really hard at booking tours and starting record labels. I’d almost given up, but I was like ‘We can at least record the music for fun, for ourselves’ and whatnot, so to have people go crazy over our first record was completely unexpected. It’s cool, because a band I was in before this , I lived in Verginia. I guess there’s a whole different thing about booking tours when you live in New York, maybe it’s a lot easier, or maybe there wasn’t as much hype through the internet or whatever, but we would play places where people would throw bottles at us and threaten to kick your ass. We were in a loud, crazy band playing to hillbillies who wanted to hear Aerosmith or whatever, so it’d be totally the wrong vibe. I was just trying to book shows, and I would book almost anything, even if it was playing the Holiday Inn at dinnertime, so it wasn’t the kind of thing that they wanted. There were a few people into it here and there, but the most people you’d see at a show would be 30, and that’d be a really good show. I figured that nobody would be into this stuff, but then I moved to New York and there were a lot more venues and it was easier to do stuff and there’s a lot more going on.
Any advice for people who were in the position you were in, being in a DIY band?
You should try to make music that you really like yourself, and then don’t let anyone get into your head. It’s ultimately about music, people lose track of that when they see money and popularity, that gets in the way. If you’re focusing in on trying to be popular, you’re only going to make something half as good.
So we can expect the next record to sound like Fall Out Boy then?
That’s what we’re aiming for! That’s the best stuff I’ve ever heard! I didn’t hear them until Leeds festival, now my mind is changed – I’ve got all the shirts, all the bandanas, I had no idea that bands like that existed! (Starts laughing).
A Place to Bury Strangers second album ‘Exploding Head’ is out now on Mute Records.
Photo by Valerio Berdini