Jersey Shores, the band's newest release, never wants for riffs. It is explosive, rollicking and dominating -- everything Akimbo fans have come to expect. But from the first few measures, it is perfectly clear that this album is a departure. There are slow, melodic sections, there is singing dispersed within the growls, and the tracks are long. This isn't just a collection of rock songs; this is a flowing, cohesive tale.
"I read a book called 12 Days of Terror by Richard Fernicola that explored a series of five shark attacks along the New Jersey coast in 1916," explains singer/bassist Jon Weisnewski. "It's one of those 'truth is stranger than fiction' type of stories where a shark was actively seeking out humans as prey, and it all comes to a haunting climax when the shark swims five miles upstream and attacks three people in one day outside the town of Matawan.
"Jersey Shores is our first attempt at the dictionary definition of a 'concept album,'" says Weisnewski, "but we've had a lot of themes in the past. Previous themes include but are not limited to: Zeus getting pissed and throwing lightning at whiney idiots, traveling back in time to hang out with Tycho Brahe and drink mercury, digging a hole to hell to personally slap around assholes who died before they got their comeuppance, and self-empowerment through Dungeons and Dragons."
In attempting to put the story of the Jersey shark attacks to music, it became evident to the band that their trademark riff barrage was not going to be the most effective framework. On Jersey Shores, we find Akimbo exploring the uneasy calm before the attacks, building the tension leading up to carnage. These atmospheric sections were not influenced by particular bands, say Weisnewski, but rather "moods."
"The story itself is dark, angry, sad, frantic, bizarre and fascinating," says Weisnewski. "Playing the standard Akimbo 'all-party-all-the-time' rock didn't do the project justice and, in my opinion, would have failed at producing the end experience that we have with the record. I think naturally people will point to bands that have similar-sounding parts, but my hope is that people drop all the expectations and critical baggage when they listen to this one and just immerse themselves in the experience of sitting in a dark room with the volume cranked up. (Weed optional.) I fully expect that no one will do this, and we'll get belted for ripping on Isis or some bullshit."
Though not written specifically for the label, Jersey Shores was released on Neurosis-operated Neurot Records as opposed to their previous imprint, Alternative Tentacles, a choice that's fitting. "We played with Neurosis in Seattle, and after the show, they came up to us and asked if we wanted to do a record," says Weisnewski. "Anyone who could look those dudes in the eye and say no to an offer like that is a little off, if you ask me. Switching from Alternative Tentacles was not a move we made out of disappointment with them or anything -- we just got a great offer from a label we respect and couldn't say no. I think, conversely, if we were on Neurot previously and Jello [Biafra, owner of AT] asked if we wanted to do a record with him, we probably would've taken him up on it. Both are labels we hold in high regard, and we're honored to be a part of them both. At no point do we take any of that for granted. We're just stoked to be a part of a scene that was and still is important to us."
So is Jersey Shores a distinct departure that will stand alone in Akimbo's canon? Or is it an indicator of where their sound is headed in the future?
"Both," says Weisnewski. "We did a lot of fun stuff on this record that is new to us, and I have every intention of writing more material like it. However, balls-out beer-rock is also how we like to do things, and that will definitely continue. So I think when all is said and done, Jersey Shores will definitely be a black sheep in our catalogue."
The band will perform Jersey Shores in its entirety every night of their current tour. "This is a special record for us, and I want to make sure we give people plenty of opportunities to hear it," says Weisnewski. As far as future aspirations for the band go, Weisnewski considers setting goals for the band "pointless" and "limiting."
"I will continue to approach music the way I have since I learned to play," he says. "Make kick-ass music, play f---ing loud, and never stop having fun."
Akimbo with Belt of Vapor, Behold, Jehovasplosion and Merrick Diaries at Empyrean on Monday, Nov. 3, at 6 pm. $8. Call 838-9819.