With casual magnetism and a wide-eyed sense of wonder, the bearded brotherhood known as Akron/Family are the antithesis of the typical New York stereotype. More unpredictable and genuine than Devendra Banhart, and with five times the instrumental muscle of Animal Collective, these four cosmic Americans seem to make a habit of breaking through the barriers of scenes, genres and, as they would have you think, even the realms of our physical world.
Onstage, Akron coalesce into a kind of group entity, with so much charisma spilling out in every direction that no one member could hold the spotlight for long, even if he wished to. In fact, this gestalt energy can swell up to such a crescendo that the distinction between "onstage" and "offstage" is often abandoned as the Akronites burst into the crowd to draw the audience into their frenzied hootenanny.
Moving to the Big Apple in 2002, Akron/Family charmed their way onto Michael Gira's Young God label, where they achieved dual success with their eponymous debut and the subsequent collaboration with Gira's Angels of Light.
This fall has marked the release of their newest and most fully realized piece of work, Meek Warrior. Akron bassist and former left-coaster Miles Seaton graciously shares his favorite aspect of the album's recording sessions.
"That would purely be a chance to record with a total hero to us all: the magical Hamid Drake, drummist and vibe bringer supreme."
Even without the exemplary gifts of the respected jazz percussionist though, Meek Warrior would have no shortage of vibes to spread around. The breakneck throttle of opener "Blessing Force" quickly sets off a chain reaction that finds the song spinning through divergent styles like Afro beat, free jazz, and acid rock. Soon, though, we realize that this initial salvo may be a scare tactic to shoo off the unadventurous when the curtains part to reveal Akron's private dimension of blissed-out acoustic stargazing. Threaded throughout are the universal mantras "space is love" and "love is space," and while choice tracks like "Gone Beyond" and "The Rider (Dolphin Song)" tap into the Jimmy Page vein of Eastern guitar shuffling, the mood here is decidedly otherworldly. With Meek Warrior, it seems like Akron have discovered a portal into an alternate reality of Americana, where Zen Buddhists colonized this expansive continent instead of Protestants, and mountaineers hug trees before logging them.
Though Meek Warrior may be fresh material to us, the band have continued moving forward—they've recently recorded a new full-length, which Seaton seems especially enthusiastic about. "I would say it's a document of us enjoying ourselves and each other," he says. "All I remember about the process of recording is that we hung out in a garage for a week, and then a couple months later we were all laying on one another's stomachs singing about 'the colors.'" Also of note was the great gift of having Andrew Weiss in the producer's chair, a man best known for producing almost every Ween record.
Akron/Family have cultivated an aura both mysterious and contradictory, including an oft-spun tale of how the Family doubly functions as a cult called "Ak." On the level though, if there are any rituals or liturgies in motion here, it's a near-religious devotion to music and the road—Akron have established themselves as some of the most diehard touraholics around, having played hundreds upon hundreds of shows around the globe since their debut was released a mere two years ago.
"We actually have it quite good," asserts Seaton. "I was lucky enough to be raised by some kick-ass, hard working parents who were a good example, and it just makes sense [to me] that if you want something, you will either work for it or you won't get it. I guess I am probably a little meatheaded, too; I used to move furniture and work in warehouses and whatnot. It feels good to work hard and do a good job!"
So, as a psychic blue-collar band always on the cusp of new horizons, what does the future hold for Akron/Family? "Time travel, nanotechnology, New Age synth records, being really, really rich, and going to the beach a lot."