The Antlers: TAS In Session
The Antlers will be in Camber Sands, England this weekend to play The National-curated All Tomorrow's Parties, but the Brooklyn band will also be much closer to home this month, as part of "4 Artists, 1 Cause," a sold-out Hurricane Sandy benefit on December 14. The Terminal 5 event also features Sleigh Bells, Grizzly Bear and Cults.
Earlier this year, the Antlers — Peter Silberman, Darby Cicci and Michael Lerner — released the exquisite Undersea EP. The trio, joined by touring bassist/guitist Tim Mislock, visited The Alternate Side to discuss the EP and you can hear their four-song set of new and older songs this Friday, December 7, on TAS on 91.5 WNYE at 11 a.m. EST (also streaming on the TAS site).
UPDATE: Listen to the Antlers' session now in WFUV/The Alternate Side's archives.
Below, watch videos of The Antlers' live performance and read interview highlights. The Undersea EP is available now on ANTI- and Transgressive.
Alisa Ali: Last time I saw you was a year ago for your fourth full-length album, Burst Apart, which was one of my favorite albums of 2011. You’ve got a new EP called Undersea, only four songs, but it feels much grander than that. Why did you go EP rather than full-length.
Peter Silberman: We pretty much had two and a half months to make it in between tours, if we wanted, timetable-wise, release it this year. So we set aside this amount of time where we were going to see what we came up with by the end of it. It ended up being EP length. If we had more time, maybe it would have turned into something bigger or longer.
Alisa: What was the time restriction about?
Michael Lerner: It was a break from tours and basically we had a block of time to work. If we wanted to, we could have worked for two and a half months straight and then taken a month and a half off and then go back to it. It never really works; it’s better to work quickly and finish something. And then start something else.
Alisa: So you had to go on tour?
Michael: We chose to go on tour.
Alisa: Did you really only record four songs or was it more than that?
Peter: There was a fifth that we didn’t finish yet. It doesn’t quite fit the theme of this. These four really felt like they belonged together and had a cohesiveness. So we left it at that.
Alisa: I understand when you went into the studio, you had nothing.
Darby Cicci: We always have little bits and pieces of songs. But I don’t think we actually used any of it. We ended up just starting from scratch and it just shaped itself.
Alisa: Is that not daunting, to walk into a studio and not know what’s going to happen? Or is it extremely exciting because anything can happen?
Peter: It’s our studio, so there’s not really a ticking clock. We always have it so it’s just a matter of when we set aside the time to work, we do it.
Alisa: Go in and lay down some tracks.
Peter: Go down and lay on the couch.
Alisa: You guys are often there?
Michael: Yeah, we are. We practice there, record there, and we hang out there. It’s like our little clubhouse. An adult clubhouse.
Darby: No girls allowed.
Peter: No! All girls allowed!
Alisa: That song “Crest” is from your new Undersea EP. Really appropriately titled too. Did any of you have much undersea experience? Any divers in the room?
Michael: I’m certified.
Peter: I used to be a crab.
Alisa: Big fan of Spongebob?
Peter: Medium fan.
Darby: I cook a lot of shrimp.
Alisa: Michael, do you not try to convince everyone to go diving?
Michael: Everyone will get there in their own time.
Peter: I’ve been snorkeling. I was in a kelp forest. In Santa Cruz, California. You couldn’t see that much because the water’s not super clear, but it was a really long time ago.
Alisa: Was it really scary with the kelp grabbing your arms and legs?
Peter: I kind of liked it. It’s kind of creepy, but the ocean is kind of creepy if you can’t see anything anyway. There’s a lot of sharks. More sharks. Big sharks. Crustaceans.
Alisa: So Peter, talk to me about the lyric-writing process. You were saying that writing for this was closing the door on a lot of dark stuff from the past.
Peter: Yeah, I think the last two records have been coming out of pretty dark territory and pretty intense emotional stuff. Things from my early 20s that I needed to write and sing about, but to keep doing that when it’s not reflective of now for me, it’s less genuine. So I just try to write what I think is honest and darkness isn’t a huge part of that right now. It’s more about exploration and mind expansion. Existential dilemmas and things like that.
Alisa: The song “Endless Ladder” touches on parallel universes and stuff like that.
Peter: Maybe us touring so much got us thinking about a lot of things — going back and forth between living here and having a totally different life in a lot of different places. There isn’t a lot of consistency between the two. It’s very dream-like going back and forth between those two lives. Part of this Undersea thing was exploring that and trying to make sense of it. Understanding if that could be two lives within one life; if that could make sense. It doesn’t. I think it makes sense if you think of it in terms of the idea that it’s really weird for people to be in one place all of the time and to be surrounded by one environment. Maybe it makes more sense to be in a lot of different environments.
Alisa: This fascinates me too. Did you know that [Mark Everett] from the Eels, his father [Hugh Everett] created the Many Worlds Theory which is what the parallel universes theory is based on?
Michael: Multiverses. I think we’ve talked about it a lot; we’ve enjoyed getting into that in conversation.
Alisa: Sadly, his dad died before he got any credit for it.
Michael: Well, luckily you’re here to tout his greatness.
Alisa: ["Rolled Together"] is obviously a very different sound than what you have on the EP.
Peter: Yes, I think we’re trying to do different things every time we go in to create a new project and I think we look at the things we’ve done before and we say, “Well, we’ve done that already and we don’t need to do it again.” Sometimes there are things worth improving upon and revising, but sometimes you just start over.
Alisa: Are there things from the past where you go, “I’m never going to reproduce that sound again. I’m so sick of making that sound.”
Darby: Yes, the way I feel about records is when you choose to record something into permanence. I don’t really understand the point in making record after record of the same sounds and ideas. It just feels redundant. Maybe if you were only a live band or a jazz musician or something, you should retread a lot of things to a new audience every time, but when you record a record, it’s so important to keep pushing forward and keep trying new things and challenge youself. It’s the most important thing in any art.
Alisa: Conversely then, is there a particular sound or pedal that [you’ll always love].
Darby: As you can see, I have a lot of equipment in front me, so there’s pretty much an endless palette with what I have here and at the studio. I just keep amassing more and more equipment and keep looking for new sounds and things I’ve never heard.
Alisa: So there’s not a sound you’ll always love?
Darby: There are instruments that I’ll always love and always use.
Alisa: Like the keyboard and synthesizers ….
Darby: And the trumpet. Those things, I feel like there’s more to learn, more ideas that I’ve not found yet.
Alisa: While you’re touring, after a show, do you fiddle with new songs and arrangements? During soundchecks?
Peter: Usually not. There isn’t really a lot of time to do it. You can definitely work on little side projects and remixes on the road, but we haven’t really worked on a record while we’re touring. I think it’s rare that you’re in that kind of mindset long enough to jump into something and be thinking [creatively]. It’s also nice to not be on tour and to comfortably and casually work on something; not feel like you’re trying to beat the clock.
Alisa: Your lives are so different on tour and off tour. What is off tour time like?
Peter: Last year I think we were on the road [for Burst Apart] about six months of the year. Breaks from tour usually aren’t in large blocks; they’re a week or two at a time, especially in the summer [because] we do a lot of festivals in Europe and they’re basically on a weekend. You go over for a few days and then you come back for five days … and then go back over. It’s been like that this summer. I like going to Europe but some of the packing and unpacking doesn’t happen.
Michael: We have dirty clothes and dirty houses.
Darby: I just buy new clothes.
Peter: Who does laundry?
Alisa: Do you love doing boring things like that?
Peter: I don’t love doing boring things, but I have enjoyed, over the past year, having a life here and maintaining it. You end up with time when you’re home and it’s your own. Some of it is filled with the boring, non-rock-and-roll stuff and then other parts of it are filling your time with creativity by any means necessary.
Alisa: Maintaining relationships must be challenging.
Peter: You have to put in more effort than if you’re in one place all of the time. You have to be considerate because it’s a very weird structure to a life that doesn’t really jive with most people’s days. It’s tough, but it’s worth it. It also helps you stengthen your friendships and relationships.