Two-thirds of Akron/Family have found a home in the Pacific Northwest. Seth Olinsky and Dana Janssen, the band's guitarist and drummer, respectively, moved to Portland at the end of 2009, while bassist Miles Seaton remained in New York. But the band's nomadic sound has never been tied to a specific place; their new album was conceived on the side of a volcano in Japan, long before the recent tragedies there.
"When we went there in June 2009, we were just inspired by the place," says Janssen. The band retreated to a cabin on Mount Meakan, an active volcano in Akan National Park on the island of Hokkaido. "I noticed the vibration of that whole island is pretty unique. We wanted to immerse ourselves in that. It's going to be a lot different when you write a song in your room versus writing a song on the side of a volcano in Japan," Janssen says.
The resulting album, S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT, sometimes sparkles like candy, with a dizzy momentum that hints at the technological focus of Japanese culture. But it also has a deeply meditative quality, indicative of the band's peaceful volcanic retreat.
By contrast, Akron/Family's ecstatic, intensely physical live shows are tribal experiences—the band has been described as a jam band for people who don't like jam bands. But this belittles Akron/Family's search for transcendence through music.
S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT is the most well-integrated collection of A/F's globe-spanning influences to date, paced so that the wide range of dynamics and tempo flows effortlessly. It's also their most futuristic work, using more synthesizers and making full use of the BreakOut pedal (designed by Olinsky for his New Signal Process company), which allows easy recording onto an iPhone or iPad.
S/T II was recorded, guerrilla-style, in an abandoned train station in Detroit. "Everything you see there is like it was at one point, this magnificent epicenter for everything—when the automotive industry was there, when Motown was there. It was amazing," Janssen says. "But now it's almost forgotten, which is kind of great, because it's like a huge blank canvas that you can just create what you want and not have to worry about anything. When we went over to the train station and broke in and set up some shit and just started making noise, it didn't matter. Nobody cares. You can go burn down a house if you want; nobody is going to tell you not to. It's amazing.
"Not that I did that."