by theseseans (NYC)
Monday night I went down to check out Akimbo at Fontana's, playing with Trash Talk and The Bronx. Akimbo's set consisted entirely of their new album Jersey Shores, which is a step in a new direction for the band. There is more texture and space, beautifully framed by a hypnotic bass line. But fear not, they are still the same band that brought out all the rock, metal, and sludge on last years Navigating The Bronze, so while Akimbo choose to work in more build ups, the ass kicking element is still there.
After soaking up their set, I caught up with Jon Weisnewski (Bass, Vocals) and Nat Damm (Drums) to talk new records, old records, guitarists, sisters, bums, and flasks.
theseseans: Let's start with Navigating the Bronze, did you do anything different in the recording process? It sounds bigger and fuller, but doesn't lose any balls.
Nat: Well, we recorded that album as well as Jersey Shores in the same three week session in Louisville, KT with Chris Owens. We have had never spent that much time on one record, let alone two, I don't know what was different about it, but it came out pretty ballsy. The drum room was awesome and I think that that contributed a lot to it, yeah that's a pretty shitty answer to a good question.
theseseans: But do you agree that Navigating the Bronze really does sound the best?
Nat: We like to think there is a natural progression and that we get better over time. Well, hopefully, that's our opinion anyway. We're really proud of both of those records and we think that they came out really well. It's actually really gnarly because we did three weeks but the first six or seven days we did only drums, for both albums so I recorded almost two hours of music and then the hard drive we recorded to went tits up and died and so I had to do, we lost all the data we had to do it, or I had to play drums all over again.
theseseans: That sucks.
Nat: I was pissed off yeah.
theseseans: So, Jersey Shores is only six songs, but based on tonight's performance, I'd say it's a full length?
Nat: Technically, yes.
theseseans: Do you want to talk a little about the song lengths? They are much longer than on your previous records.
Nat: That's more of a Jon question actually.
Jon: Uh, that's not really a Jon question.
Nat: Alright, well then. We wrote the album to be really cohesive and to flow naturally. Jon had the concept to write about the shark attacks in 1916 off the coast of New Jersey, which is what Jaws is based off of. Where these sharks were swimming up freshwater streams and just killing people left and right it was pretty awesome. [Laughs] People didn't know about sharks, or shark attacks it was pretty awesome . They freaked out, they were shooting shot guns in the river and throwing dynamite in and stuff. Anyway, we wrote the songs and they just ended up being the length that they were. It wasn't conscious decision to write "really long," "boring horrible songs" or anything, [laughs] it just came out that way.
theseseans: Speaking of themes, you guys have used them before, with City of The Stars, and now with Jersey Shores. What is the motivation behind using themes in your music?
Nat: We just like bad-ass shit, and then we write albums about it.
theseseans: Best answer ever.
Kathryn (Jon's sister): Do the individual songs on the album all connect with the theme or is it just the theme for the artwork and inspiration?
Jon: I'm glad you asked that question. With the Jersey Shores everything correlates to the story. But the other ones, like, on City of the Stars it kinda seemed like it was a concept record, but it was just the one song "Uranaburg" that correlated to the artwork. We're just really good at hiding it, I guess. We're tricking people.
Nat: Well we did three songs together on Elephantine, that are all "sharky," so we had some shark themed songs on that record too.
theseseans: Arron Walters, I was hoping that he would be here but as he's not, feel free to talk as much shit as you want.
Nat: He is a lying, dirty, sack of shit
theseseans: You guys have gone through more than just a few guitarists, what does Aaron bring to the table creatively?
Jon: He is the eleventh member of the band, and he is really good at sleeping.
Nat: He has a huge vocabulary.
theseseans: Was he, or any of the past guitar players, big parts of the writing process or is it mainly the two of you?
Jon: We are pretty democratic. We tend to just trust each other as musicians, you know? You bring a part a song and you let the other people work out their own stuff to it. We try not to be dictators about it, that way everyone is happy and I think it sounds better if everyone feels like...everyone will play the part better if they are playing what they want to play and how they want to play.
theseseans: Awesome. So this album is on Neurot Records, is this a permanent switch (at least at the moment?), or is it just for this new record?
Jon: We don't know.
Nat: Yeah, it's a one off, but we don't have a contract with anybody. So...
Jon: Basically Neurosis said, "Hey, do you want to do a record?" and we said yes. Anyone would be stupid not to do that so. We don't know, it's a one time deal and don't know where we are going to go after this.
theseseans: Okay, so are you guys then done with Alternative Tentacles, or are you saying "No, we could definitely go back there?"
Nat: We still have a great relationship with them, and they are awesome people. Hi Mike Hobe, and George, Jesse, and Jello. We might do another record for that label, we might stay with Neurot, we might go somewhere else. We don't have any new material right now so...
theseseans: I've noticed in my personal experience, first hearing about you on the internet, that you are much more 'well known' or 'popular' on the west coast....
[At this point some dude who looks like he just walked out of a rave somewhere in eastern Europe walks up to us and accuses my tape tape recorder of being a flask "Fucking Sony bullshit! That is a flask! A Flask!" Nat tells him to take a hike and we ignore him until he leaves about 15 seconds later]
theseseans: ....so, yeah do you guys notice anything between the coasts, and if so, do you have any plans to try and get out here more often?
Nat: We are huge on the west coast man, huge. Unbelievable. [Laughter] No, we love coming out here, it's been a few years since we have been out here, but that just has to do with scheduling and touring and what not.
Kathryn: You don't get asked for autographs out here like you do out there.
Nat: I know! Signing all those boobs! Butts! Man, it's great!
Jon: It's hard when you are doing all those west coast tours with Slipknot and NIN and what not. Every night having them open for you night, there is just no time for the east coast.
Nat: Nice flask by the way! That was awesome! [Laughter]
theseseans: I wish there was fucking booze in this thing! I totally would have given him some. So Akimbo as a band is known for live performance....
Jon: Really? Cause no one is really at the shows... [Laughter]
theseseans: Well, from the research I did, I'd say that you're live performance is very popular with your fans at least. So, also, Nat it seems every time I see a picture of you, you are bleeding behind the drum set. My question is do you have any other musical aspirations or outlets that are less grueling? Or is this it, and you love it?
Nat: I like love walks on the beach, reading, hanging out being mellow.
theseseans: Will this be the subject matter for your folk album?
Nat: Yes, without a doubt the next record will be a folk record. No, but, the bleeding was completely accidental and I really don't like doing it, busting my knuckle on the snare drum essentially. But it worked out, because there was a photographer right there, a good friend of ours, Ryan Russell from Birmingham, Alabama. I hurt my hand really bad, my finger got really swollen, the end.
theseseans: So you guys have been a band for ten years, what is the secret to your longevity/success?
Nat: Stubbornness. I guess? Mild alcoholism.
theseseans: With the new record, what can fans, or listeners in general expect from Jersey Shores?
Nat: Well, it's got big riffs, big hair, and big balls, but it's also got a lot of texture and ambient sections in it. But it's still the same old band, just a little bit of a new direction, and it's not necessarily a permanent direction, it's just the direction that we went with when we wrote.
[I ended the interview there, but directly afterward, guitarist Aaron showed up and I asked him one question]
theseseans: How do you feel being the newest guitarist in a long line of guitarists, and how comfortable are you with your creative input to the band?
Aaron: Um, I'm just peachy. [Laughter] Um, it was weird, big shoes to fill, it was kind of a mind fuck at first, but you know..
Jon: We talked up your vocabulary. Use big words, impress them. [Laughter]
Aaron: Well you know, it was a little extemporaneously......incoherent mumbles [Laughter] Man, I'm drunk dude! [More laughter] It was difficult, but in actuality it was easy. Wow, that's a stupid fucking answer.