Every time I try to tell him about the awesomeness of Akron/Family ... he answers with a tired "What? Sorry, the line's pretty bad."

Feature by Sean Michaels | 16 Apr 2006
I'm in a hotel outside Milwaukee, Miles Seaton tells me. We're talking on the intercontinental telephone and I can't help but feel that my enthusiasm for his band is getting lost somewhere in a pipeline under the Atlantic. Every time I try to tell him about the awesomeness of Akron/Family, the way their proggy psych-folk casts stars across the backs of my eyes, he answers with a tired "What? Sorry, the line's pretty bad."

For now we'll stick to the basics. Akron/Family are not from Akron, Ohio, birthplace of Jim Jarmusch and Mark Mothersbaugh. And they're not related. They were just friends who lived in Boston and Florida and upstate New York; friends who moved to Brooklyn.

"In New York City," Seaton says, "it's like there's a tax to leave your house. It costs at least $20 to pay for that night's food and drink. All of us were living in relative poverty, and so the only thing that was going on was making music."

So Akron/Family made music. They lived together for a time, Seth Olinksi recording vocals in the bathroom, the others making music in the hall. They made a weird and sprawling folk-rock - loops of strum, murmur and crash; melodies diving into lakes then leaping out and into the sky. While at times it's glimmering attic stuff – recalling Sparklehorse, The Microphones or Grandaddy, - often their jams fold right out into the realm of T. Rex, the Incredible String Band, and even the Grateful Dead.

"I like having a spread-out quality to the music," Seaton says. Unlike the confessional mode of most folksong, Akron/Family's songs come from "a mysterious place - not a single source".

If reports are to be believed, this is an aesthetic that works even better live than on record. The band members improvise, drone, hum and group-sing, the sound lapping across their audiences. And then they step down into the crowd, taking that wash of music with them.

It was after seeing them live that Michael Gira signed the band to Young God Records, alongside Devendra Banhart and Gira's own seminal 80s band Swans. He called Akron/Family "the best rock band in the world" and even enlisted them as backup musicians for his own projects. Last year saw both the release of Akron/Family's self-titled debut and a split LP as Gira's Angels of Light. Gira - a veteran of recording, - raved about how much he learned from the experience. "I think we brought an optimism [to the sessions]," Seaton says. "Gira was cynical and fatalist. We just tried to get him to admit that there was a possibility, that he should relax and trust that things would work out."

Since then, Akron/Family has been on the road. Crisscrossing the US and Canada, over to Europe last autumn ("we drove across the Alps"), and then back touring the US through the winter. While they squeezed in two days of recording with jazz drummer Hamid Drake, by the time I speak to Seaton he's clearly ready for a holiday. "I'm in a hotel in Milwaukee," he says again. "It's a little desolate. A lot of fast food. There's a cold, midwestern factory feel."

"How do you imagine Scotland?" I ask.

"Postcard rolling hills. Incredibly warm, fun and life-loving people."

"And you'll help us love life even more?"

"What?" he says. "Sorry, the line is pretty bad."
Akron/Family play as part of Triptych: 26/4 with Adem (Bongo Club, Edinburgh), 27/4 with Adem and the Balanescu Quartet (Tramway, Glasgow), 28/4 with Adem, King Creosote, Kitchen Cynics (Lemon Tree, Aberdeen). http://akronfamily.com/