Treefort Pick of the Fest: A Place To Bury Strangers

What would a music festival be without at least one group of musicians sneak-attacking the crowd with some unscripted danger? At this year’s installment of Boise’s Treefort Music Fest, which starts today, New York noise rockers A Place to Bury Strangers will handle those honors with a performance destined to turn skeptics into true believers.

Now entering their 22nd year, the band is always in good hands thanks to frontman Oliver Ackermann and, as he told New Noise less than a month ago, the precautionary measures he takes before waging war on the stage. If what you’re reading is tickling your fancy, below is a partial transcript of our interview with the death-defying Ackermann.

So, you’re not too burned out from all the touring you did late last year?

No, never. It’s always (nice to) tour. It always seems like vacation or something like that. It’s nice (to get) a break from New York.

Nice. Yeah, I was wondering, given the seven-inch series that you’re doing, are the new dates you’re coming up on going to be even more of a blend of old and new material?

The plan is to look back a little bit on songs (we’ve been) away (from for) a long time. And a lot of songs from these seven-inches that are coming up, The Sevens. We’re gearing up to do a bunch of different, crazy stuff. We’re doing something Kind of crazy for (our) next record … but it’s top secret for now.

Your gigs in Queens, New York, and at Treefort are effectively one-off shows, as your European trek doesn’t start for well over a month afterward. Are you planning any surprises for those particular events? Are the shows mostly going to revolve around your series The Sevens?

Probably just a little bit … a couple of those songs. I don’t know. It’s like I always want the shows to be like it’s the last show you ever play on earth. I’m gonna be super excited to play Boise.

What have you heard makes Treefort particularly unique or special?

It’s such an incredible a lineup; I’m sure my adrenaline is gonna be crazy. 

How many times have you played Boise?

I can’t even really even remember one! We must have, though. Maybe on one of our first U.S. tours—with that band Holy Fuck. I can’t really remember it. Must have been a long time ago.

How did you link up with Treefort?

They just asked us to come play! People (had previously) told me how cool Treefort is, what a good time it is just hanging out during the whole festival and all the cool stuff going on. This really does feel almost like a one-off show for us because we’re not gonna be playing Seattle or Portland or San Francisco (while we’re out there). We’re flying from New York to Boise just for Treefort. Then again, I drove 12 hours one time to see a girl or something. Some things are more powerful than music, you know?

The intense stage presence that you deliver is your calling card. Have any of your physical antics sent you to the hospital?

I gave myself whiplash one time. I jumped and hit my head on things a few times. Umm … I ripped my fingernails off tons of times. At one show, this string from my guitar broke off, and it stabbed through my fingernail. Oh, man. And then it was, like, hooked in there and I couldn’t get it out. There was actually even this time where I threw a guitar up in the air (and it) hit me in the foot. You feel this really crazy pain, and then you feel like your shoes start to fill up with like blood. And then you don’t know whether (it’s) dangerous (and what you should do). “Am I an idiot or should I keep on going?”

Surely you considered that, by introducing violence into your show, the crowd might seize upon the opportunity to wreak havoc.

We don’t have, like, a scary, rowdy crowd. Thank goodness. It’s mostly nice people.

What sort of inventiveness have you lent to, let’s say the “teardown” of the venue where A Place to Bury Strangers are playing?

You can grab, like, the floor tom mic and put it on one a guitar. Then like let’s say (the) guy who’s doing sound has no clue. He doesn’t know what’s happening. You can flip the monitors up to change the mix so that the people in the crowd get either more or less of your vocals. I move the microphone and notice changes in the acoustics from where I’m standing, or move the amps. Also, you gotta use your amplifier to your advantage at your show. So it’s like, I’m always going around and turning and turning the knobs on the amp. Sometimes we’ll sit while playing some songs. I like a set that goes to different places.

Do you feel more confident than ever to be able to change direction like that?

I mean … I’ve been trying to like mess with the other people in the band for so many years.

What about all the experience you’ve racked up over the years as a musician and frontman? Do you feel more control over A Place to Bury Strangers, in terms of vision and direction, than ever before?

I want to feel totally out of control if possible. That’s kind of like the dream state for me, at least while playing music. At one point, I was kind of hanging on for dear life. So I threw my guitar out to the people, fished it further and further out, then I pulled it back in.

I’m welcoming. I’m not gonna hurt anybody.

Catch A Place to Bury Strangers perform at Shrine Social Club (Ballroom) at 12:10 a.m. on Thursday night (or early Friday morning, if you’re a tight-ass).

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