Akron/Family | Review

Toronto Eye Weekly | Jason Anderson

an Akron/Family show is an uncommonly joyful thing

8/25/05 MEET... Akron/Family WHO ARE THEY? Four very genial, mostly bearded young men from Pennsylvania, California and upstate New York who converged on a Brooklyn apartment three years ago to revisit the whole of American music in one fell swoop. Released in March on Young God Records, Akron/Family's self-titled debut is one of the most magical recordings to emerge from the new psych-folk underground, the band's rustic yet experimental sound somehow encompassing a Band-like earthy charm, Beefheartian lurching and Beatles-esque sweetness. A split album with Angels of Light is out in October. AREN'T THEY LABELMATES WITH THAT DEVENDRA BANHART DUDE? Yup. Like Banhart, Akron/Family were discovered and produced by Young God's Michael Gira. Akron/Family also served as the backing band in Gira's Angels of Light project during a spring tour that included an ecstatic set at the Music Gallery. Gira thinks they're the best band he's ever worked with (and that includes Swans). Speaking over the phone from his parents' place in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, guitarist/singer Seth Olinsky says every group should have a patron like Gira. "To a certain extent, he is a businessman and I don't think he would've put us out there if he didn't think people were gonna respond," says Olinsky. "But at the same time, he really believes in us. I don't think we would've been able to get as far as we have without that-not just business-wise but creatively. It's amazing to have someone that makes such intense music saying, 'I love what you guys do.'" IS IT REALLY SO EASY TO LOVE? You bet -- an Akron/Family show is an uncommonly joyful thing. As they proceed through ever-shifting musical terrain, the foursome whoop and holler with abandon, mustering up several revival meetings' worth of cheer. Says Olinsky, "We were playing in Seattle and this young guy ran back after our set and he's like, 'Dude, there was a hippie kid and a goth kid standing next to each other and they were both smiling -- I've never seen anything like it!' ... We take a stance as if it's our job to bring joy to people." ARE YOU SURE WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY? There may be a whiff of patchouli about the endeavour but Akron/Family have locked onto something unique. For one thing, they approach acoustic music with a rock band's robustness. For another, their undisguised pleasure at playing helps take the stuffiness out of more obtuse strategies. "I listen to all kinds of music, from Dylan and Beatles to Iannis Xenakis and Peter Brotzmann," Olinsky says. "If we do this wall of noise for 10 minutes then suddenly suck it down into all of us singing, it creates this contrast. Presenting something as simple as four people singing gives a context for that other stuff -- it makes it more human in a way."