Thursday, July 2, 2009

Talking While on Tour - Peter Silberman of the Antlers (and a Special Guest)

Peter Silberman, Darby Cicci and Michael Lerner have had quite a few months as of late; a signing with Frenchkiss, a national tour with Au Revoir Simone, a second leg up the east coast, and their schedule is only getting tighter. They have an upcoming 5-show stint with Frightened Rabbit that takes them to play at Pitchfork Festival, then continuing the tour through the country and on to the Monolith Festival at Red Rocks. So if you take nothing else away from this, know that Peter Silberman is one of the kindest, most genuine people you'll meet. And his taking the time to do this little interview with everything else he had going on, well, that should demonstrate how giving of his time he is.

If you know me at all, you know what a fan of The Antlers I am. “Hospice” came into my life at the exact right time and I struggle to think of an
album I can relate to as much as Peter Silberman's latest release. Anytime I write about what he has created, I become a little more fired up, a little more impassioned, a little more introspective. Which actually made this interview a little more difficult to construct.

I'm a lucky person to have the relationships I do with the people I do, and tucking away all the passion I have for what they create isn't always the easiest thing for me when I write about them in a journalistic manner. So let’s get that out of the way before we get to the man who created it. If any of you read you read my review of 'Hospice,' then you know how I feel about it. It’s a fluid symphony of sound and words, one song delicately bounding into the next, bravely leading the listener through a tumultuous time in one man’s life. If you haven't, now's your chance before we get to the questions.

Time's up.

OAN: Peter thanks for taking time out of your obscenely busy schedule. And it’s certainly been an interesting and exciting few months for you. The response to “Hospice” has been, to put it plainly, overwhelmingly fantastic. That said, you didn’t create the album for ratings or reviews, you created it for yourself, friends and family. You’re a humble guy, so how are you doing with all praise and attention? I suppose the better, more suitable question would be, talk about the release and everything that has happened since.

Peter: It's been sort of insane, but in a really amazing way. There's been a much bigger response than I ever could have hoped for, and a very personal response. People have been reaching out and writing letters about the way the record's affected them. That's sort of an unbelievable feeling, that kind of connection. But to be honest, it's been completely fucking terrifying having this many people listen to this record. I haven't quite adjusted yet to private becoming public.

OAN: Can we discuss that time when you were crafting "Hospice?" The album certainly explains everything that led up to its creation, but what about the time during. Would you like to talk about the experience of making the album?

Peter: It was strange. It was both isolated and social. I was bouncing back and forth between those two modes of living, and those two modes of recording. Sometimes I would stay up all night working on bits of detail exhaustively, other times Darby or Michael would come over and we'd set up instruments and see what happened. There were huge roadblocks, and months here and there where absolutely nothing got done. I didn't think the record was going to make sense, lyrically or sonically, until the day it was done. Vocals were recorded last, within a weekend upstate in an empty house, and while recording them, I remember feeling like everything was sounding terrible.

OAN: You crafted every sound and word from a very personal time in your life , then took it into studio with talent like
Michael Lerner, Darby Cicci and Justin Stivers (who has since gone on to pick back up on Pet Ghost Project.) Talk about your relationship with these guys and what it’s been like to play surrounded people just as passionate about the work as you are.

Peter: The band was a very different animal while the record was being recording than it is now. We were still getting used to one another, trying to figure out our roles and what we wanted out of this. The record was started while The Antlers was just me, and expanded as the recording went on. Immediately after the record was finished, it became Darby, Michael & me. Since then, it's felt like a more stable entity, like a real band and not some strange collective-type thing. At this point, Darby, Michael & I have a weird, intuitive way of playing with one another. We don't really have to say much as far as guiding one another, we just sort of know how we want things to sound. It's kind of an unspoken thing.

OAN: How about the tour? You’ve had an unbelievable response from New York and you’ve played SxSW and a nice lounge session with the good people at WOXY, but this is your first big national tour, correct? The Antlers hype has been building for some time now, so talk about getting out there and playing before your ever-expanding fan base. And how did you end up with Au Revoir Simone?

Annie: Hi there! This is Annie from Au Revoir Simone. We dragged Peter in the van with us for a little bit of our tour driving from El Paso to Tucson and we were both doing interview questions so we decided to trade interviews for a little bit so I thought I could take over this part of his. We found out about the Antlers because their booking agent emailed us and asked us to consider bringing then on tour as support. We fell in love with their music and then they made an appearance at our Brooklyn Vegan showcase at South By Southwest and were so sweet and nice that we wanted to have them around. And their live concerts have been amazing! Every night they have a lush, beautiful set that always sounds spectacular, despite the fact we always take so long for sound check that they barely get enough time to do any sound checking at all. But it always sounds good. So if any of you reading this have a chance to see them live, you definitely should!

OAN: With “Hospice,” you toyed around with signing with someone, then ultimately decided to self-produce and release. What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages to having total creative control that you’ve experienced?

Peter: Well, I think we're all feeling that we like being control-freaks and want to continue producing and recording our own records. I won't say we'll NEVER go in a studio or use a producer, but it's not what we want right now. Recording is as much a creative thing as writing, and either way, we refuse to be on a clock or subject to someone else's will. As far as releasing records, it was an amazing learning experience to release the record ourselves. I'm glad we did it that way and have done it that way for a couple years. But the time came to hand that job over to someone more experienced, and Frenchkiss has been wonderful to work with.

OAN: This is an awful question, because I know you are just getting settled into everything, kicking off the tour, and trying to enjoy the moment, but what are the next steps for the Antlers? Do you think you may do another concept album? Have you started writing anything new?

Peter: It's all hush-hush right now... but we're writing something new.

OAN: Something I like to ask, because I always find the answers fascinating, what are your favorite extracurricular activities, because, surely, there is more to Peter Silberman than just music. Other creative outlets, perhaps?

Peter: Since I came home from the Au Revoir Simone tour, I've started writing, but not songs (I'm writing songs too, but that's not what I'm talking about). Short stories, sort of. Non-fiction. I haven't done that in a long time, if ever, but I'm really into it right now. I've been reading more as well, and getting back into photography. I always love really long walks. That sounds sort of lame, but I do. I walk a lot.

OAN: Say something you never thought you’d say in an interview.

Peter: I recently discovered that my favorite movie might be The Endless Summer.

OAN: Peter, thank you so much for your time. I know you’re swimming in the busy right now. It was great to see you out west with ARS, and I'm sure I'll see you soon. Annie, don't be surprised if I come knocking on your door for one of these.

The Antlers will be having a "Hospice" re-release party at Mercury Lounge on 8/21.

Music courtesy of "The Antlers"

Listen: "Kettering," from Hospice
Listen: "Sylvia," from Hospice
Listen: Tears are in Your Eyes (Yo La Tengo Cover), from New York Hospitals

What's playing on Peter’s iPod:

Listen: Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Storm
Listen: Massive Attack - Risingson
Listen: Yo La Tengo - Damage
Listen: Talk Talk - New Grass
Listen: Smog - Teenage Spaceship
Listen: Okkervil River - So Come Back, I Am Waiting

Purchase Music from 'The Antlers'

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