Decomposition, Destruction, and Death | The Soundscape of A Place To Bury Strangers

by Tori Adams

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A Place To Bury Strangers is not the how-to be a serial killer podcast you might initially think it is. They’re actually a New York-based post-punk band, that has continued to put out killer tracks since 2003. Although their music and shows are often filled with rage, their lyricism has nothing to do with homicide either. Their songs, which span over the course of five albums, are melodic musings that capture fleeting feelings. They are vague enough to be open to interpretation, but poignant enough to make an impression in the present period.

That is most abundantly clear on their latest album, Pinned. The album finds lead singer Oliver Ackermann using stream of consciousness to authentically convey his frustration with the world around him. This time around, Ackermann and fellow bandmate since 2010, Dion Lunadon, are joined by a new drummer: Lia Simone Braswell. Braswell brings a noticeable new energy to the group. “Lia comes from this kind of art DIY scene in California; this new art rock revolution in music. It’s way crazier and way more experimental than the straight up punk rock that Dion and I came from.”

Like, “fire, water and wind,” the three balance each other out. Braswell brings experimentation, Dion brings practicality and Ackermann, the longest reigning member and driving force behind the group, brings destruction and fuckery: “I like to fuck with everybody in the band and hope that we can sort of destroy what we’re kind of doing to make something kind of crazy and creative come about.” This process of reinvention, revival and rebirth keeps audiences, and the band themselves, on their toes. You never know what to expect from them musically, or at their shows. They don’t prescribe to a set list, and their volume level goes beyond any level of comfort to say the least. One second they are bashing their guitars and drumsticks, the next they are breaking down a door to play in a hidden room within the venue.

This chaotic touring environment is pretty thrilling, but you have to wonder, how do they do it? Do they feel pressure to not make any mistakes? Ackermann assures me that they don’t. “I think when you start to feel the pressure is when you start to get scared and things don’t work out. We try not to think about it, and just be as practiced as we can be and in touch with what’s going on. You have to let go and be inspired.”

Not only are their shows refreshingly spontaneous, they are also a communal cathartic experience. The volume and violence allow people to feel this release of rage. They are both a reflection of and reaction to the violence of the world. Ackermann notes that as depressing as it was to have Trump elected, it gave him “purpose” while writing songs: “At a time of really divided political climate I think that there’s great opportunity for really killer music.”

Meanwhile, other bands from New York are writing songs about the “L Train” and their “cell phone.” Ackermann’s reaction is nothing short of disgust. But despite this overarching trend in modern music, Ackermann remains optimistic about the state of the music industry: “I think streaming is the way of the future. I think it’s changing what everybody thought music was and that’s a really cool and positive and creative thing.”

The band is embracing innovation (re: glow in the dark vinyl and Death by Audio guitar pedals) and improvisation, and are ready for the next “industrial revolution,” whenever it may come. But that doesn’t mean that those “tried and true” musical methods will be thrown out the window. They embrace tradition and admire the “timeless” songs of the 60s and 70s. They embody the reincarnated spirit of punk, rising from the ashes like a Phoenix, ready to take flight in any direction at any moment.

Check out photos from their recent show at The Regent:  

Written by Tori Adams

Photographed by Nicole Busch