Spengin’ The Underground: Akron/Family

Akron/Family, a rock-psych band based out of New York, is known for its freak-out jam sessions, thumping rhythms and epic live shows, which sometimes brings people from the crowd on stage. Since 2002, Akron/Family has declared itself an eccentric freak-folk group whose lyrics focus on the cosmos, space and existentialism. In 2007, former member Ryan Vanderhoof left the band to live in a Buddha Dharma center in the Midwest. The group’s website background is a bunch of neon colored glowing rocks. Translation for all of this: they’re hippies. But in my opinion, they’re the coolest kind of hippies — ones that make good music inspired by the world around us. The hub of their sound, both lyrically and musically, comes from the natural world.

Their newest offering is Akron/Family II: The Cosmic Birth and Journey of Shinju TNT, their second release since Vanderhoof left the band, following 2009’s Set Em’ Wild, Set Em’ Free. When Vanderhoof initially left the band, many fans were in limbo because Vanderhoof was the main songwriter in their previous efforts, such as 2007’s widely-acclaimed Love is Simple. It suffices to say, the band hasn’t lost its spark. In fact, their music has continued to evolve while still maintaining their stylistic sound (a great quality in any band), and Akron/Family II has a great mix of ambient-psych and rock-punch. The dynamics of this album are incredible; their songs travel from tribal chants, to soft-sounding folk, to classic rock guitar hooks, to vocal harmonies and beyond. There are just so many influences dripping from the speakers. Take their newest single “So It Goes” from their new album as an example:

Aside from the stylistic influences, Akron/Family took a unique approach when writing and recording their latest record. The band spent time in an isolated cabin at the foot of a volcano in Japan to write it. They gained inspiration from the surrounding landscape, such as this beautiful picture which they posted on their site. It reminds me of some “The Lord of the Rings” epic-ness. After writing, Akron/Family came back to the states to record the album in an abandoned train station in Detroit, Mich. Both creative approaches compliment each other, as the album has some sort of empty quality throughout it, as well as a subtle east-Asian feel. The record was released on Feb. 8, 2011, and you can buy or download a copy from their website, or catch them on their upcoming tour.

Peter Spengeman

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