Categories: Arts Music Pop

Oliver Ackermann of APTBS quiets down — for now

Oliver Ackermann didn’t plan to refine the industrial-strength onslaught of A Place To Bury Strangers, his group that’s been called the loudest band in New York. But a couple of force majeure incidents changed the singer’s mind.

The first was in 2014, when Death By Audio — the effects-pedal design firm and live-work space he created seven years earlier, which included studios and an all-ages music and art venue — fell victim to Vice Media, which bought the warehouse and evicted everyone.

Although one incensed co-worker filmed a tell-all documentary “Goodnight Brooklyn: The Story of Death By Audio,” Ackermann stayed stoic, sensing bigger changes in the wind.

APTBS – which hits The City on Sunday — was forced to move to the more upscale Clinton Hill area, where it could no longer create a din.

Respectful of business-hour neighbors, Ackermann implemented a drum machine and began recording quieter, less bombastic (yet still Joy Division-dark) songs such as “Execution,” “Too Tough to Kill” and “Never Coming Back,” focusing on nuts and bolts of composition like he never had before.

And ethereal backing vocals of new drummer Lia Simone Braswell help transform the band’s latest fifth effort “Pinned” into an almost 4AD-ornate affair.

In its heyday, the Death By Audio hangout was truly something to behold.

“People would be constantly building sculptures or painting, and pretty much every night of the week there would be a different band playing in our show space,” says the Rhode Island School of Design-educated Ackerman, who has been maintaining his still-profitable pedal company at a string of different locations.

“We started out with five people and eventually there were 12 or 13, but it was just a really fun time with a great little community and an open-door policy.” He admits it sounds ridiculous on paper. “Finding a place in an expensive city that’s way too big, then finding eight others to move in there with you. But financially, it’s perfect.”

Accustomed to liberally cranking the white-noise feedback at DBA, Ackermann had to recalibrate for thin apartment walls. He switched to hushed improvisation, keeping the arrangements minimal and loose so he could actually hear and feel the lyrics he was crooning: “I honed more into the craft of what I was actually singing about,” he says. “And then right after we started to get quiet, Lia happened. She threw her style into our music and created this whole new sound.”

But you can’t keep the man muzzled forever. He’s ready to howl again in the group’s suitably dilapidated new headquarters in Queens. “It’s got termites, rats running around, leaks, broken windows — all the great things that you would want in a place,” he says.

IF YOU GO

A Place To Bury Strangers
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. June 10
Tickets: $17 to $21
Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.eventbrite.com

Tom Lanham

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