Q&A: The Antlers Lighten Up

The Antlers went from frontman Peter Silberman’s Brooklyn-bedroom project to breakout band with the release of 2009’s Hospice. Written by Silberman and fleshed out by fellow bandmembers keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci and drummer Michael Lerner, Hospice was beautifully constructed but a conceptually hard pill to swallow, as it told the grave tale of a terminally ill patient and hospice worker.

Silberman admits that recording was an exercise in working through personal issues, and the band decided to break away from the heavy-concept concept album for their latest offering, Burst Apart. The album was recorded by the band in their own Bushwick, Brooklyn, studio, and incorporates more lively and electronic elements. Silberman recently spoke with Hive about the new set, how things have changed for the band and the somewhat creepy attachment fans have formed to the the Antlers’ music.

You had a pretty great reception to Hospice. How much did you anticipate that, if at all?

It was definitely really unexpected. We spent a long time recording Hospice. I devoted my whole life to making that record, and it was really me sorting out some difficult things from the past. I had no expectation to what was going to happen, we just went with it. It grew and grew and grew, and we adjusted accordingly. It became our whole lives.

Did you feel it set the bar high for a follow-up?

I think it definitely did. There were definitely expectations with following up that record because people developed an attachment to the album. They adapted it to their own lives, turned it into something they related to. That was the only concern -- we didn’t want to make a record that made people feel cold or detached. Over the past couple years we developed a kinship with the fans. We wanted to make sure we made a record we were excited about that was different musically, but kept that connection.

How was the songwriting process different this time around?

With Hospice, I was writing everything beforehand, making this architecture. It was very dense, and this time was completely different because the three of us went in with a blank slate, and that led to very different kinds of songs. Musically, it’s definitely beat-heavy -- it’s more rhythmic. The whole thing is lighter, too. Hospice was meant to sound epic; this was really meant to sound relaxed -- kind of breezy.

One song that particularly stands out is “Every Night My Teeth are Falling Out.” What is story behind that song?

Musically, for me, that was very much a guitar song. I really loved the Beatles, but it’s more about Let It Be -- George Harrison’s songs. I wanted to bring that into one of our songs. Guitar has never been something that’s stood out for us; guitar has been atmospheric. We went into it with that mentality. It’s older sounding, from the ‘60s. Lyrically it’s a song about regrets and drinking -- basically when you’re drunk and stupid. You’re waking up being like, “Man, that was stupid.”

Does living in Brooklyn influence your songwriting?

For this record, we hadn't really lived there for a couple years, we were traveling so much. While we recorded, it was the first time we were there for a while. So I think in a lot of ways it’s about that idea of home and where home is -- home as people or a place.  Brooklyn acts as a home character, something that is referenced or thought about.

You say fans have such a strong connection to the band. Any bizarre fan stories?

There are a lot of them. Like I said, there’s been some really intense reactions to our music. It’s really been just a lot of people telling me about difficult experiences in their lives, usually abusive relationships or someone they’ve lost to cancer. This one fan sent me an email about him and his girlfriend. They were going to abort their child, and decided not to because one of our songs was “a pro-life song,” which it wasn’t. They named it Peter. First of all, I don’t want to give anyone advice on the subject.

Was it someone based in New York? Are you going to risk running into Peter Jr.?

I don’t think they were here. I think they were somewhere in Middle America.

Did you respond?

I don’t even remember if I responded, actually. I might have been a little too dumbfounded. I think sometimes people just want to reach out and say something; sometimes they just want someone to listen.  I'd rather just speak through songs than offer a reply, anyway.

Burst Apart is out now on Frenchkiss Records. Watch the Antlers perform "Rolled Together" with Neon Indian below.

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