Interview The Antlers: ‘It’s Much More Fun To Do Something Unexpected’

Darby Cicci tells us about ‘Burst Apart’.

The Antlers started off as the solo brainchild of Peter Silberman after his move to Brooklyn, but later enlisted Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci into the band. Their last album ‘Hospice’ was a stunningly beautiful and honest record dealing with issues such as abusive relationships and terminal illness. It reached critical acclaim for its innovation and heartbreaking narrative. DIY caught up with Darby to see how they went about making its follow up, ‘Burst Apart’.

‘Hospice’ was incredibly well received – did you feel like you had a lot to live up to when you were writing ‘Burst Apart’?
Well, we were certainly aware that there would be a lot of expectation from fans of ‘Hospice’, but ultimately, we knew what kind of record we wanted and needed to make, so a lot of our process was trying to allow this record to live and breathe on its own, and not be hung up by what we thought people wanted to what we thought we were expected to make. It’s much more fun to do something unexpected.

Was writing this record a very different experience from the last one?
It was entirely different. The three of us wrote the record from the ground up, and all three of us were at the studio all day almost every day for a long time. ‘Hospice’ was pieced together over time and the songs were written and structured before Michael and I worked on them.

‘Every Night My Teeth are Falling Out’ is quite a stand out track on the album – where did the inspiration for that come from?
Probably from trying to calm your paranoia and anxiety with pretty much self-destructive habits. I think it’s been affecting Peter’s dreams. Our lives are starting to get really strange so there’s a bit of uncertainty and volatility associated with that.

Do you have any personal favourite tracks from the new record?
I think ‘No Widows’ has changed the most since we started working on it, and really been fine-tuned the most. It wasn’t working for a long time, and kind of all came together right around the end of the recording process. Definitely took on a life of its own. I’m quite fond of it.

‘Hospice’ was somewhat of a concept album, the new record seems to move away from that, but is there a story being told through ‘Burst Apart’?
Not necessarily a literal one as much as Hospice. This story is told a little more with music than with narrative lyricism. It’s kind of a record about pulling yourself out of darkness; pulling yourself together. I would say the first half of the record is about how your life can so easily and quickly come undone. And then second is how you learn from that and find your way back home.

Some people say that the internet is going to cause the death of the album – with people only being interested in individual tracks, what are your views on that?
Well, commercial music began with singles, and the album format really didn’t become popular until the 60s. And big mainstream pop music has really never embraced the album format. I think with single sales on the rise, it really makes the album even more special. I think people will always listen to records as a whole – to really listen to and understand an artist, you need at least 30 minutes. I don’t think attention spans will ever get so short that people can’t handle 30 minutes. In a way it’d also be really nice if artists didn’t automatically make CD length albums. A lot of albums are just two good songs and a bunch of filler anyway so maybe singles are the way to go. I’ll always make full length records though, personally.

You decided to produce the record yourself, why did you choose to go down that road with it and were there any unforeseen challenges in the process?
Producing, recording and engineering records has always been one of my favourite parts of being a musician. In many ways I’m more of a producer anyway. So bringing someone in specifically to produce sort of takes the fun out of making records. It is definitely more work, especially when I’m running back and forth from the control room to keyboards all day, but when the record ends up sounding better then you imagined, it’s genuinely rewarding.

It seems like you put a lot of work into producing the album in the studio – how easy is it to translate the tracks to a live setting?
It wasn’t that difficult. The record is mostly live recorded tracks – there’s not a lot of sampling or looping. We try to keep the overall feel and mood of the songs, but definitely have more room to explore elements like dynamics. We also have some different equipment live so things tend to change quite a bit, which is usually a good thing. Some things get tricky like the banjo and trumpet on the record – I don’t want to play either on tour so they had to turn into keyboard or guitar parts somehow.

Your music is deeply personal; what’s the experience of sharing it with a large audience like?
It’s comforting I guess to play very emotional music every night and have so many people respond so passionately to it and our fans are really attentive at shows these days. It was a lot more humbling when we played Hospice songs every night at noisy bars. Our shows can be sounds a lot moodier, atmospheric and so much bigger these days.

The Antlers’ first carnation was a solo project; do you feel like you all have equal ownership of the band now? How have the working dynamics of the band changed over time?
Yeah it’s really becoming a totally collaborative thing these days. We’ve been playing music and touring together for years now, and we all know each others’ strengths. On the business side of things too, we all have different jobs behind the scenes that we handle, which is balanced pretty equally.

The Antlers’ new album ‘Burst Apart’ is out now via Transgressive Records.

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