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.