Akron/Family | Interview with Dana Janssen
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Akron/Family goes organic
Publish Date: 2-Mar-2006
No one can accuse New York City’s Akron/Family of pandering to the masses.The Williamsburg quartet’s latest release, a split LP with Angels of Light, finds the best new band you’ve likely never heard of giving a clinic in genre-mashing.
Akron/Family & Angels of Light kicks off on a melancholy note with “Awake”, a harmony-drenched wash of acid- casualty folk. From there, all hell breaks loose with breathtaking results. “Moment” starts out like Pavement in a white-noise turf war with the Bad Seeds and ends up landing somewhere between the Meat Puppets and Lynyrd Skynyrd. “Raising the Sparks” imagines the Velvet Underground doing gospel at the Church of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, and “Future Myth” is the Polyphonic Spree wickedly stoned on Black Mountain. The only problem with such comparisons is that Akron/Family’s Dana Janssen doesn’t think they capture what his band is aiming for.
“We don’t try to write along those lines,” says the drummer and singer, reached long-distance at home. “It’s not like we go, ‘Let’s try to make a song part sound like this band or like that band.’ We’re more oriented towards colours rather than going, ‘Let’s have more Beach Boys or Velvet Underground.’ We’ll go, ‘It needs more yellow,’ which is another way of saying that we need to warm a song up a bit.”
If you’re going to slap a colour on Akron/Family it might as well be molten-metal orange, because the band is one of the hottest units in the American underground. Formed a little over three years ago, the group started out as a loft-based project between Janssen and his fellow singers/multi-instrumentalists Seth Olinsky, Miles Seaton, and Ryan Vanderhoof. Based on an eponymous, downbeat-folk-flavoured debut issued just months before the split disc, one might have assumed a lot of Beck-brand mellow gold was smoked during the writing and recording process. The eight songs on Akron/Family & Angels of Light find the group rocking harder.
“It was funny because when we got booked live for that album [Akron/Family], people heard us and were, like, ‘Wow—I had no idea,’?” Janssen says. “We did the split to capture that rock ’n’ roll side.”
At this point, Akron/Family is following the same career path as Williamsburg’s class of 2001 in that fans are being converted to the cause via the band’s by-all accounts-devastating club shows, rather than by gushing praise in Blender or NME.
“People discovering you organically through your live show is so much better than a record label hyping you as the best thing since sliced bread,” Janssen argues. “I’m always much more excited about bands that I discover by accident. I think it’s cool when you have to do some digging around to find out more about them.”
Vancouverites will get the chance to educate themselves when Akron/Family plays the Media Club on Saturday (March 4). For those who don’t think in colours, Janssen gives a hint what to expect.
“I always hate those album bios that use a forced and lofty two-paragraph description for a band’s sound,” he says. “If you’re going to put us in any section of the record store, it should be psychedelic rock.”
Of course that only begins to describe it. A better way of putting things is that Akron/Family is on to something so epic, it’s only a matter of time before the masses catch on.