Ed Ackerson interview with Minneapolis City Pages about “Resist! Resist!” and the band’s return to the stage

City Pages writer Erik Thompson interviewed Ed about the new single and BNLX’s reactivation. Original article link is here. Photo of BNLX at the Uptown VFW April 8, 2017 by Tasha Dahl.

BNLX join the resistance with their first new song in two years

Nothing but bad news has come out of Washington lately, but at least this current administration has stirred BNLX out of a two-year dormancy.

Following a flurry of releases and BNLXFest organizing in the early 2010s, the indie-rock veterans took some time off as Ashley and Ed Ackerson welcomed their adorable baby girl, Annika, into the family.

That break stretched on longer than the group expected, but the time — and the political climate — is certainly right for their raucous return. City Pages is premiering BNLX’s first new release in two years, “Resist! Resist!” The track’s a politically charged anthem of unity and dissent, and its release coincides with the band’s first live performance in two years, this Saturday at the Uptown VFW, along with Mark Mallman and the Toxenes.

We were able to chat with frontman/guitarist Ed Ackerson about the inspiration behind the new track, the band’s current plans, and his production work at his Minneapolis recording studio, Flowers.

City Pages: BNLX has never shied away from being a political band. Did you intend on “Resist! Resist!” to be an overtly political number when you started writing it, or did those sentiments naturally come out due to the election and the current social state in this country?

Ed Ackerson: From the beginning, BNLX has been focused on presenting an anti-consumerist, anti-corporatist, pro-community message. We started the band specifically to make bold statements, both musically and conceptually. The current political environment is particularly dire, and we decided it was time to make a completely unambiguous statement of support and encouragement for people standing up to the myriad forces currently arrayed against them.

 

CP: Was it cathartic to be able to channel your frustrations with our current administration into a rock song?

EA: I associate catharsis with the expression of anger, fear, or sorrow, and this song isn’t really about that at all. We wanted to create a song that was uplifting, that encouraged people to feel strong in themselves and together as a community. There’s a long road ahead toward progress. This song is something to hum, sing, or shout along with while we all move forward together. The time for catharsis will be when we’ve finally addressed the current government and the regressive populist attitudes that led to it being installed. And it’s important to remember that the problems with the current government don’t start and end at the White House. There are people with terrible agendas holding posts at every level. Opportunities for resistance and change exist from the smallest to the grandest scales.

CP: There don’t seem to be as many political anthems coming from modern music in recent years –especially compared to past generations. Do you think contemporary artists don’t want to take that risk with their careers, or is it just difficult to capture political statements within a song?

EA: That’s a question I have thought about a lot. Part of it is likely artistic: It’s very difficult to write political music without sounding either like some sort of hippie or a Marxist philosophy professor. But one thing that is very disappointing to me is the way that indie rock overall has become increasingly backward-looking, insular, and escapist over the last ten years or so. Postmodernism and irony have become foundation assumptions in much of rock today, so there’s been a distinct trend away from “hard” topics. From a sociological point of view, this could be a function of the way the Internet and social media tend to decouple individuals from their immediate physical environments, leading to a decreasing sense of common cause across regional and social boundaries. This is not to say that nobody is making statements, just that there are far fewer now compared to similar periods of political crisis in the past.

CP: You’ve been doing quite a bit of traveling outside of the U.S. since the election–how have your interactions been with foreigners, and has their view of Americans changed as a result of the election?

EA: Overall our friends overseas are totally sympathetic and concerned about the situation in America. What’s bad for America is bad for the world in general, and there’s a lot of apprehension. And of course, our friends in the UK are experiencing the whole Brexit horror show, and Sweden, France, Germany and the Netherlands are all experiencing their own scares with populist right-wing politicians making disconcerting inroads. So basically, most of our friends feel very much like we do, threatened by an emboldened minority of people with bad ideas trying to turn back the progress of the last 100 years. These are strange and dangerous times all over the world.

CP: Is “Resist! Resist!” a standalone single at this point, or is this song going to be a part of a larger collection like an EP or LP?

EA: We have a new EP very nearly finished right now, but we wanted to get the single out immediately. The BNLX EP #10 release should happen later this spring if all goes according to plan.

CP: You’ve got quite an impressive cast of musicians who contributed to the chorus of “Resist! Resist!” How did that sprawling collaboration come about, and who did you recruit to take part in your unified statement of dissent and resistance?

EA: We asked friends of ours from both the local and international scenes to lend their voices to the refrain on the song. The resistance we are part of is truly international. So far the local mob includes Mark Mallman (and his dad John), Ciaran Daly (The Stress of Her Regard), Chris Pavlich, Kris Johnson, Jeremy Bergo, and Shawn Grider of Two Harbors, PD Larson, Tommy Rehbein (Naive Sense/Farewell Continental), Jesse, Pauly, and Mike from The Rope. We also have Jonatan Westh (from Stockholm shoegaze heroes Blackstrap), plus another dozen or so artists from Sweden, the UK, Argentina, and various US cities who are in the process of recording tracks. I’ve probably forgotten a couple people in this list, so I apologize for my largely-absent short term memory! The current mix isn’t even complete! We’ll continue to update the mix on Bandcamp as more contributions come in over the next weeks.

CP: This is the band’s first release in two years, as well as your first live shows. Does this represent a new creative phase for the group, or is it just a matter of needing to clear the cobwebs a bit and play some loud music together again?

EA: I’d say it’s a bit of both. Ashley and I of course had a baby just about two years ago, and although we thought we would only be taking a brief break from the band, it turned out to be much more extensive. There’s been a slight reset of both artistic and practical priorities, but we have a lot of cool plans and will be unveiling some crazy stuff later in the year. And in the short term, it’s amazing to blast out these tunes at high volume; we are incredibly psyched to be back up on stage and in the fray again.

CP: What can you tell us about the exciting production work you’ve been up to at Flowers Studio?

EA: Flowers Studio has been off-the-chain busy despite the supposed demise of the music industry, so I feel very optimistic about things right now. I’ve been working on a ton of interesting stuff from all over the place. Locally, I’m very psyched about new projects I’ve done with The Stress of Her Regard, The Shackletons, The Rope, The Rapture Twins (Justin Pierre from Motion City Soundtrack’s new project), and others. I’ve been doing a lot more mixing and mastering for local groups who record stuff on their own. There’s sometime some sort of aura that I’m unapproachable for new artists, but I absolutely love working on new stuff and some of the coolest surprises I’ve had lately have been working with totally new clients.

 

Gimme Noise streams the new BNLX EP, interviews Ed

Ed Ackerson of BNLX by Erik Hess.

City Pages Gimme Noise editor Reed Fischer did an extensive interview with Ed about the new BNLX EP (which is now streaming on Bandcamp-check it out!!!)…

Inside BNLX’s Ninth (!) EP, and Their Drone-Filled Future

Between a heavy workload manning the boards at Flowers Studio, Ed Ackerson steers the punk and alt-rock group BNLX. The band has just put up its ninth EP, Flextime, and is geared for a live collaboration with Transmission DJ Jake Rudh later this month.

Streaming below, Flextime features a 20-minute drone song, a PJ Harvey cover, and two BNLX originals. Gimme Noise caught up with Ackerson to check on the status of BNLX Fest III, and learn about his run-in with Harvey many years ago. Stay tuned for a cute dog pic too.

Gimme Noise: Nine EPs has to be some sort of record. Not that we’re complaining. Anyone you’re aware of who has done as many as you have?

Ed Ackerson: And of course BNLX has also put out two albums and some other stand-alone tracks. Lots of stuff for just four years. I don’t know if anyone else has put out as many EPs specifically, but I have definitely noticed that there are now a number of other local bands who have put out numerically sequential EP releases. So perhaps we have helped set a trend of uncreative record naming! We’re trying to rectify this with our latest EP, which has an actual title.

I’ve always loved the idea of EPs/shortform releases because they give you a snapshot of a band’s development in a particular time. The nature of a full-length record is to plan and execute things more deliberately, where an EP is often something that’s a bit more tossed off or less premeditated. With BNLX I’ve tried very hard to adopt a more informal, “anything goes” attitude than I did with my previous bands, and I think that’s why this stuff is so much fun.

Name the best EP by an artist other than BNLX.

I immediately think of the Glider and Tremolo EPs by My Bloody Valentine, Watery, Domestic by Pavement, Tally All the Things That You Broke by Parquet Courts, Everything Falls Apart by Hüsker Dü, and Onwards to the Wall by A Place to Bury Strangers as great examples of how a small number of songs can create an entire universe of sound and vibe.

The drone track on your EP is incredible. Why stop at 20 minutes? Take us inside the process.

Well, if you want more, we’ve definitely got more! The drone piece was cut live here at Flowers Studio. Everyone just set up at a station with a bunch of different noisemaking devices, and we let it evolve from there. The piece on the new EP is actually the first section from a larger 70-minute piece. We found that editing it down made it more impactful, and we wanted to make sure the piece was still interesting to our fans who might not generally gravitate towards that sort of music.

Is a drone-centric side project on the way? You could call it DNLX.

DNLX!!! You know, it’s possible. We’ve really been enjoying doing this sort of open-ended, improv, explicitly psychedelic music lately. We’ve found that as a group we’re actually really good at spontaneously generating sounds that are both musical and freaky. Our participation in Drone Not Drones last winter really kicked this process off for us. Our plan is to continue to record these improv pieces over the winter, with the ultimate goal of a potential standalone release. In the meanwhile, BNLX will continue to pursue its normal concise/punk rock direction. I see the two types of expression as complementary and oddly connected to each other creatively.

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Photo by Erik Hess
Jim McGuinn and Ashley Ackerson

What’s it been like letting the Current’s Jim McGuinn into the BNLX family? What sensibilities does he bring to the band?

I’ve known Jim since our earliest bands played together in college, so we go way back. Jim is another guy who has knowledge and understanding of a huge amount of music. We have a lots common ground to build on. I loved playing in both the two- and three-piece lineups of BNLX, but having Jim there on guitar now really helps us translate the mass of the recorded arrangements to the stage. Plus, he’s a really fun guy to hang out with and we’re all having a total blast playing together. His sensibilities and energy really add to what we’re trying to do.

The EP features a cover of PJ Harvey’s “This Is Love.” What’s your best PJ story?

I was bowled over by the first PJ Harvey album when it came out. I was listening to it continuously in the van while my band the 27 Various was out on tour. One afternoon we were bumming around in Cambridge, Massachusetts, before playing a show. I was walking near Harvard Square, turned a street corner, and standing in front of me were PJ Harvey and her band! Turns out they were in town playing their third-ever U.S. show. They were happy but somewhat unnerved that some American indie rocker recognized them on the street, and I was unnerved because it seemed like they’d materialized out of a dream!

They were playing at TT’s, and we were playing at the Middle East, so sadly I didn’t get to see them that time. I did see them a couple months later and then many times since. Polly Harvey is one of the greats, endlessly inspiring to us, and her drummer Rob Ellis is also a real force of nature.

Judging by the state of Cause I’m guessing no BNLX Fest this year? What’s the latest?

We actually had BNLXFest scheduled for Nov. 21-22, but there were problems with the venue. So we decided to do this Live Transmission event at the Varsity with Jake Rudh instead. We were disappointed to have to reschedule, and we had a fantastic lineup in the works, but it was unavoidable. Our plan now is to do BNLXFest III when our next full-length LP comes out, likely in early March. Live Transmission is gonna be a blast in November, and we’ll have an excuse to throw another fest in just a few months!

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Transmission Live seems like a smart idea. How did you get involved and which of his song selections will make you dance?

Jake and I have been friends for ages. I think he’s always wanted to do an event like this, and he and I have talked about doing it together since we have a lot of overlapping friends and interests. The combination of the holiday weekend, BNLX’s new release, and Jake’s schedule made this a perfect time to make it happen. You know me, I don’t dance unless I’m either wearing a guitar, very drunk, or both! But Jake is into an enormous range of music and really knows his stuff, so if anyone can get me out on the floor, it’s him!

Wiggy Ackerson has been a dark horse (dog?) in BNLX. Has your new dog Beep taken to the musical lifestyle as well? Do you have photographic evidence?

Wait until you see the new video for our single “Flextime”…that’s all I can say!

Transmission Live. With BNLX, Frankie Teardrop, the Ocean Blue, Two Harbors, the Rope, and Gloss. DJ Jake Rudh between bands. 18+, $8/$10, 7 p.m., Saturday, November 29 at Varsity Theater. Tickets.