A Place to Bury Strangers is a place in the shadows. It's away from light, in the phlegm of an alley Dumpster, or out in a plain of unknown shrub flats away from the patrolled arterial workings of the city. There are discarded, corroding engines there. A microwave sits prostrate, bent with holes, shot full of buckshot. Nothing grows in the soil; no birds chirp. The breeze reeks of thrown-away moments and oxidation. Worship, the third full-length from Brooklyn-based A Place to Bury Strangers (on Dead Oceans), is strewn with these discarded moments in a dark, heavy, atmospheric wall-of-sound-tainted merging of psychedelic rock, shoegaze, and goth noise. Oliver Ackermann (guitar/vocals), Dion Lunadon (bass), and Jay Weilminster (drums) solder a desolate combustion of dirty programmed beats, live drums, slurred liquid bass à la the Cure's "Fascination Street," and looming, bloodlusty, monotone vocals. High-end synths, guitars, and Mothra-screamed industrial effects (hand-wired by Ackermann himself) careen and scatter. In Worship, dissonance collides, beautifully. Ackermann spoke, fresh off a European tour. There was no buckshot or phlegm.
The name of your album is Worship. Why that title? Worship what? What do you think of worship?
Worshipping someone who you're intimately involved with—on a personal level. Worship can be many different things. It's sort of the downfall of civilization. People getting too involved in things, and believing whatever is dished out to them, and worshipping that. And that's evil.
Yeah. Like being under a spell. I guess if you're going to worship something that much, maybe it is mindless. There's a song on the album called "Worship" that's about having sex and worshipping that person completely.
In the video for "You Are the One," the main character beats the shit out of total strangers on the street. And there's a bloody make-out session at the end. It's effective and arousing.
We got the idea from these Japanese '70s thriller flicks. They're really strange and psychological and scary. We wanted that, and we wanted the video to be ambiguous and not give the entire story, so people can come to their own conclusions and not really know if it's right or wrong. It leaves you guessing and wondering, and I think that's sometimes more powerful than being blatantly open about exactly what something means.
When you're walking down the street, do you ever want to sock a stranger in the face?
I don't know if I've ever wanted that. It could be pretty fun now that you bring it up [laughs]. I always had those feelings of wanting to hurt someone on purpose, but never did. Where anger is carried around, and if someone did something bad to you, you'd just kick the shit out of them. It can build up, and you almost have to step back. I used to get picked on sometimes in high school, and I would carry around a pencil and imagine stabbing the person in the eye with it. Not a good thing.
There's something sexy about the darkness you all encompass. Something sexy about darkness in general. What's sexy about darkness?
I think it's the unknown. I think that's why people cheat on their significant others. People desire things they're not supposed to touch or that they don't know about. Or maybe you think there's something else that's possibly better, something that you don't know about, that's greater than what you're involved in. It can be dangerous, and that's sexy. It may be why lots of people have sex with the lights out. It transforms things into something that's not really going on at that moment. It transcends what you can actually see and put your hand on and becomes what your subconscious wants.
Coming to a city near you.
Are you in a committed relationship?
Yes, happily. For me, it's more enjoyable to be actually involved with a person and be with them on multiple levels. Temptation still happens. It doesn't even have to be sexual. Like, I can be tempted by things people have, or someone else's apartment and want to live there.
You guys mixed and mastered and recorded Worship completely by yourselves. Why did you choose not to work with a producer, and how did that shape the album?
It makes it pure. When you work with other people, it can turn into an environment where you're struggling to get your ideas across and have them come out the way you want them to. We didn't go to school for mixing and mastering; it's all self-learned. When you can record and mix yourself, I feel like it becomes a really pure and true vision. When you work with other people, sometimes it becomes someone else's idea. For this album, we wanted it to be more singular. Dion Lunadon and I had great camaraderie with it.
Where did you stumble in the process?
It took us a really long time to do the drums. We had originally recorded the drums with someone else, then decided to scrap it. So, basically, we recorded the songs twice. We planned to do it a lot simpler, but it seemed to drag on. It was mind numbing and fun, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
Where did you play in Europe on this past tour? Any Scandinavian high jinks in the snow?
We played Blå in Oslo, King Tut's in Glasgow. We played in the place where Captain Beefheart started and another place where Nirvana had their first show in Europe. There were, in fact, high jinks. One show where one of our bandmates ran away into the snow. We couldn't find him, and I had to run after him, in the snow. I was searching forever and couldn't find him. Eventually he was lying down in the middle of the road on this highway. I picked him up and dragged him back, as he continued to try and run away. And when we got back to the hotel, he took this kiosk thing that was for phones or something and threw it against a glass window.
What's your latest effects-pedal invention from your Death by Audio company?
We did an Echo Dream, which is a modulated, fuzz delay. I also created a bunch of things for this tour we're about to do, where we're coming to Seattle. Different kinds of filters, a delay/reverb unit. Hopefully it works, in a good way.