Courtesy of akronfamily.com
Akron/Family wrote its newest album in Japan while staying in a cabin built into the side of an active volcano, but now the band is back for a U.S. tour, including a stop at the Wexner Center for the Arts at 9 p.m. today.
“S/T II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT,” which was released Feb. 8, is Akron/Family’s fifth LP.
The group formed in 2002 and parted with one of its four members in 2007. For the new album, band members Dana Janssen, Seth Olinsky and Miles Seaton raided their old hard drive for sound samples they collected for their first record. The experimental group wanted to “reconnect with that initial spark of creativity that happened when we first started making music together,” Seaton said.
Akron/Family considered the new album a rebirth, literally. Seaton tried to explain the meaning behind the album’s lengthy title.
“We were like … we’re gonna give a total rebirth to this giant cosmic baby, and then somebody shouted out ‘Shinju TNT,’ and we’re like, what the hell is that?” Seaton said.
Shinju TNT became Akron/Family’s “musical child,” and the inspiration behind the album. The group even celebrated Shinju TNT’s birthday by spray painting a birthday sign for the stage at one of its concerts and playing a “total weird birthday song for like 45 minutes,” Seaton said.
The band’s previous album, “Set ‘Em Wild, Set ‘Em Free,” was a literal and emotional album, Seaton said. He described “The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT” as more joyful and magical, what he called “psychedelic pop music.”
The songs feature sounds that the band members have collected over the years, including a rainstorm recorded in Portland, Ore., lava from an exploding volcano and frogs in upstate New York that Seaton recorded at his girlfriend’s parents’ house. Akron/Family layers the sounds it records, which are stored in a “bank” to use during the recording process, Seaton said.
“Their songs are really different,” said Olivia Crandall, a second-year in marketing and international business who has listened to Akron/Family since she was in high school. “Whether they (students) like basic indie things or if they’re more into folk or experimental or psychedelic, there’s probably going to be at least one song that you probably like.”
Seaton said Akron/Family doesn’t play standard concerts, but the shows it played in Japan were more spontaneous than anything the members had experienced before.
During one show, the audience took over the stage and knocked everything over. Seaton said he and his bandmates then threw balloon dolphins on the crowd and lit sparklers.
“Everybody freaked out. … People were taking these green plastic trash can buckets and putting them on their heads and banging them with sticks,” he said. “We were just so excited, and it was really beautiful.”
Despite the wild time in Japan, Akron/Family is excited to come back to Ohio, Seaton said.
“It’s always a great time playing in Ohio,” he said. “We played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 2009). People were just really warm and it was a great community event. I felt like it was really a point where I was like, ‘wow, Ohio — that’s great.'”
Akron/Family’s previous stops in Columbus include performances at the Wexner Center and Little Brother’s in 2007.
Erik Pepple, community outreach manager at the Wexner, said Akron/Family’s first show at the Wexner was sold-out.
“People were really eager to get them back here,” said Pepple. “They’re experimental but accessible, and just sort of the kind of thing you’re not gonna see anywhere else or hear anywhere else.”
Seaton said he was anticipating the Wexner concert because he liked the venue, but his strongest Columbus memory is not a musical one. When the band played at Little Brother’s, Seaton crossed the street for coffee at a Turkish hookah bar.
“I think he (the employee) dumped like three Turkish coffees in, and it was one of the most psychedelic caffeine experiences I’ve ever had,” Seaton said. “Columbus equals psychedelic caffeine experiences.”