Smile Politely

Heartfelt songs to right wrongs

The Antlers, from Brooklyn, have come a long way in 2009. What started the year as a self-released album, Hospice, has since been picked up by Frenchkiss Records, and the Antlers have been treating audiences at major festivals throughout this great land with their songs.

They’ll add another festival notch to their belts tonight at Canopy Club, as they play Pygmalion for the first time. They’re scheduled at ninth on the 11-band bill, and scheduled to take the stage at 11:10 p.m., following Pomegranates and right before Autolux.

I reached the lead Antler, Peter Silberman, by email earlier this week.

Smile Politely: I read somewhere that your collection of solo material has been self-described as an “elegy for your planned disappearance.” Is there any truth to that, and if so can you expound on that?

Peter Silberman: I’m not sure how it came to be described as a “planned disappearance”. Maybe that was someone else’s idea, maybe it was me misspeaking awhile ago. Regardless, there was no plan. It was a regrettable accident, the result of the goings-on of what’s described in Hospice.

SP: The band’s first collaborative album, Hospice, tells the story of a man who loses someone close to him to cancer, and the grief associated with it. Where did the inspiration for Hospice come from?

PS: Hospice came from a block of time in my life I try not to return to. It’s not exactly autobiography, but it’s sort of close. The most dangerous thing to do with this record is attempting to figure out what’s true and what’s metaphor.

SP: Some of the most successful writers (songwriters and otherwise) seem to produce their best work in seclusion. You went into isolation for two years to write the songs that appear on the album. Did you do so out of writers block or simply to get away from outside influence/for focus? Can you explain the difficulty (or ease) of this decision and/or the emotional difficulties associated with isolation?

PS: The writing of this record didn’t happen during that seclusion time. That time is related, but not creatively. The record was made after the fact, after a whole mess of stupidity and dysfunction. Hospice was made while coming out of that, bringing people into what had been a private, destructive life. I’ve come to hate the word “isolation”.

SP: Was your isolation a direct cause of the, what some would consider, depressing tone (both musically and lyrically) of Hospice?

PS: Hospice is about Sylvia. I’m there, I’m taking notes, I’m the one remaining after all’s said and done, but the record’s about her. I don’t remember much of that time in my life, and frankly I don’t know that I want to. It all lives in the album now, and part of me wants to leave it all there.

SP: How did Michael [Lerner] and Darby [Cicci] come to join you to form the band?

PS: Actually we all met at a family reunion.

SP: Are you currently working on new material? And is it a group effort or are you the only one involved in the music and songwriting?

PS: We’re talking about next things. It’s definitely going to be a group effort, all of us writing. I’m looking forward to us taking the time to actually sit down and work on it for awhile. It’s going to take some time, for sure. It’ll be different.

SP: Once Hospice was released, it seemed to take off very quickly, creating an overwhelming demand for the album. How have you dealt with this success over the past year or so?

PS: It hasn’t quite felt real yet. Things have been changing in a pretty major and exciting way. We feel pretty ecstatic about getting the chance to tour so much and improve as a band. I don’t think music is the kind of career you ever expect to work out, and I obviously can’t say for sure that it’ll work forever, but it feels like it’s moving in a very positive direction. I’m really thrilled people have latched on to Hospice the way they have. It’s really encouraging.

SP: A lot of your music is very layered and filled with durations of “ambient noise” and melancholic folk melodies. Are there any adjustments that have to be made when playing live shows?

PS: The live show is definitely different. It’s sort of a more expansive thing, a bit looser, bigger maybe. We enjoy it, and enjoy changing it. I think it’d be impossible to try and recreate the record, kind of pointless, and kind of tiresome. This way, we keep ourselves alert and thinking. We don’t really have the option of phoning it in.

SP: What kind of vibe do you think you guys give off at your shows? Do people leave feeling depressed and somber (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) or is there a good energy amongst the crowd after your set?

PS: I think the shows are energetic, actually. They’re not upbeat throughout, but it’s dynamic and it changing in tempo and size. I’d hate for people to end their night feeling depressed. Nobody needs that.

SP: Do you (and/or the band) have any time to write while on tour, or is there a specific designated place and time where you like to do your writing?

PS: Writing is a hard thing to plan. You sort of just need to be prepared to take advantage of an idea when it comes to you. I think we’ve written bits and pieces of things while traveling, but haven’t had a ton of time to finish anything.

SP: You’ve played some shows and toured with bands like Passion Pit, The Mars Volta, and of Montreal. Is there any band in particular that you’ve really enjoyed touring with or simply watching their set at a show?

PS: We just met Passion Pit recently and they’ve been awesome to play with and spend time with. We’ve really loved our time with Frightened Rabbit and Au Revoir Simone too.

SP: What bands or artists have influenced your work?

PS: Back when Hospice was being made, it was a lot of post-rock and ambient things. Music like Dirty Three and Eluvium. Lately it’s been old soul music like The Marvelettes and electronic music. A lot of Four Tet.

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