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An Interview with Akron/Family

They may have invented chillwave, but they never pissed themselves at summer camp.
Κείμενο Hillary Kaylor

A couple of weeks ago we put on long-johns and headed to the boondocks of Quebec to check out the excellently weird and little-publicized Festival de Musique Emergente, better known as FME. While we were there, we caught up with Seth Olinsky, frontman of noise-folk outfit Akron/Family.

VICE: Hi Seth! So, your band’s seen quite a few member changes. How old is the current iteration?
Seth Olinsky: Everyone in the band now is an original member. We’ve been this way since 2007. I’m stoked to be back to the core, but after having so many members, going back to a three piece was hard, sonically. Three can feel like an unstable molecule. Right. Those best-friends-forever heart necklaces come in two pieces, not three.
Exactly. Musically, three makes for a fucked up energy. Our unstable molecule is way more explosive and has the potential to create more drastic failures. So does mine! We're like twins. Has that energy changed your sound, or just brought it back to what it once was?
It’s more like it used to be, because we brought electronics back in, but it sounds way better. Our early recordings took place in our rooms, when we were broke and living in Brooklyn. Hilariously lo-fi, with DIY filters and loops. So you're saying you invented chillwave?
Definitely not. Don’t print that. Too late. So, now you guys are incorporating more straight mechanical noise into psych?
Yeah, well, live we are about acoustic, electric, and amorphous freak out jam stuff, but when it comes to recording things get a bit more textural. It just makes more sense now and we get to produce it in the way we want. Once a guy turns 30, he begins to pay attention to his amps, you know? Not in the slightest.
When we were younger, we were just happy to use amps. Now, we are more careful and there is a depth of sound because our instruments are more dialled in. We don’t want to sound broken down anymore.

If you knew you sounded best now, why did you prank everyone with your projectwhere before you released the record, you leaked a series of strange redux versions instead?
That was inspired by VICE, actually. An old VICE article. Care to explain?
Music today is intangible and wants to be free. You make a record and by the time it comes out properly, it’s already been leaked, which is no fun for bands. But there wouldn’t be any fun in trying to block that, either. So, I was reading this old issue of VICE – I think the guy from Born Against guest-edited—which featured an article on Napster bombing. Napster was new then, and some dudes called "culture jammers" would zip up weird noises and then label them Bruce Springsteen, or Coldplay, or whatever was popular at the time, so that when people downloaded it, it would be totally wrong and awful. After I read the article, I was like, we have to do that! How did that work out for you?
We made seven different noise records, which we leaked on Christmas Eve. After downloading, people would call us either idiots or geniuses, thinking it was the new record. We also posted the real record online but gave it a different name. People thought they were getting Death Cab for Cutie, or Beastie Boys, and ended up with us. Now, we want to do performances. I want to book an in-store, Iron & Wine-style, and then just show up and do a noise performance. Pretty wild. So we're just up the street from FME right now. I heard all the bands have to stay at this disabled kids’ summer camp down the road. Are you excited about that?
We do? I didn’t know that. I went to Christian summer camp when I was a kid. No way. Me too.
Yeah, I don't know why I was sent there. My parents were pretty meditative and non-religious. It was a weird time. I remember once I put on "Sympathy for the Devil" and my friend, who had gotten all non-secular, got mad and was like, "The devil deserves no sympathy, Seth! None!" But we did get to shoot rifles while we were there. Christians love to shoot. Do you have any good camp stories?
I cut my head when I fell of a boat at camp and needed 99 stitches. Ugh. I really wish I had better camping stories. Do you? Yeah, but it’s really embarrassing and long.
Come on. Tell the short version. When I was seven years old, I peed in a boat on the second day of Christian camp and spent the rest of the day crying, thinking I was going to be known as the pee kid. But then this girl, Dawn, crapped herself and everyone began calling her "Dumpy Dawn." She went home that night and never came back.
So everyone forgot about you? That’s amazing. I was like, "There is a God after all!"
God is just. Not for Dawn. For her, God was vengeful.
That is so Christian. God strikes down, girl shits pants. S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT is out on Family Tree Records now. Photo by Christian Leduc.