D.I.Y., REWARDED The Antlers

The dears of the indie world
further
burst
apart from the pack with latest release.

 

BY SELENA
FRAGASSI

 

In a
short two-year span, the Antlers have gone from sealing envelopes to sealing
their fate as one of the fastest rising stars in the indie music catalog… and
if you ask drummer Michael Lerner how it happened – as we did during a recent
phone interview – he’d tell you, “I have no idea.”

 

Before
the release of 2009’s Hospice, the
Brooklyn-based trio, which is rounded out by creator and frontman Pete
Silberman and keyboardist Darby Cicci, was like any hard-at-work unsigned band
who found themselves spending as much time at the post office as they did in
the recording studio.

 

“We had
these T-shirts and handmade CD packages that I had to individually take to the
post office and mail out to people,” Lerner recalls of the early incarnation of
Hospice, which was self-released in
March of 2009 before the band eventually signed to Frenchkiss Records and
released a re-mastered version later that August that brought literal and
unexpected overnight success. “The do-it-yourself lifestyle does reach a
stopping point if you’re lucky enough to have people responding to your music
like we found. I couldn’t play in the band and be the office manager.”

 

Mystery
as it may be, during that time word somehow got out of the band’s intimately
emotional and deeply persuasive brand of instrumental dream rock, and the
ripple effect took shape before the three members could even test the waters.
Initial pressings of the album were sold out in record shops across the country
and Silberman, Lerner, and Cicci found themselves the fodder of numerous blogs
as well as headlining acts at international festivals.

 

So, after
touring for two straight years and finding an ever-growing community of fans,
did the band feel the pressure of the mythical sophomore album? You betcha.

 

“We’re in
front of more people’s ears now than we were before, and they have more
expectations,” cautions Lerner. “People wonder if it will be worth their money
to buy the new record. I didn’t personally know how good the music was going to
be and was a little worried it was not going to meet the high standards that
were set for us. But at the end of the day, we chose not to dwell on those things.
We’re psyched with the way the album came out and are so grateful people have
tuned in.”

 

Those
tuning in to the band’s Frenchkiss follow-up, Burst Apart (released this week; read the BLURT review here), will
likely find themselves quite happy with the results. Literally. Whereas Hospice was often dubbed mournful – allegedly
the story of an abusive relationship adapted as the connection between a
hospice worker and terminally ill patient – Burst
Apart
could best be described as harmonious confetti. While the Antlers
play around and celebrate expanded sound structures, adding in more electronic
elements on “Parentheses” and Cicci’s jazzy horn compositions on “Tiptoe” and
“Hounds”(arguably the album’s standout track), the album as a whole comes off
more uplifting and aesthetically well-rounded.

 

“There’s
not one adjective I would say encompasses the whole record,” says Lerner, who
cringes at the notion of being categorized as a sad band. “People often tell us
they cry to certain songs, which is really cool, but we want to explore other
emotions, too. I think Peter’s vocal quality has this very evocative, emotional
characteristic that people respond to. There are some songs on Burst Apart that have that mournful
quality, but overall I think the more joyous songs represent this album. At
first listen, we may seem a bit all over the map but the album as a whole is
really about the many emotions going on from day to day.”

 

In fact,
Silberman has said Burst Apart is
really about the journey of moving forward. “I take that quite literally,”
agrees Lerner. “You could relate that to our position from the last record and
about us moving forward as a band, but I think the idea is that for so long we
were constantly in motion being on tour. It’s odd for me to not be moving
around and on the road to a new place.”

 

The
Antlers have found themselves playing shows pretty much nightly for the
majority of the past two years, Lerner noting that the most memorable show was
opening for the National at Radio
City Music
Hall last June. And it was on the road that the
three band members found common ground as people and as a band, especially
since it was only shortly before Hospice that Silberman met Lerner at – where else – a show and decided to expand his
solo project by adding more players to the band.

 

“Being on
the road you’re automatically drawn together since you don’t get that much
alone time,” rationalizes Lerner who also notes that when the band is not on
tour, the three bond over such activities as basketball games, movies, and
bowling. “Sure, there’s little bumps along the road but in general we’ve come
out of it at this point stronger as a unit and a band. We’re not just offering
individual sounds now but rather we’ve coalesced into something.”

 

The
closeness became a gift to the band as they found a new collaborative method of
tackling Burst Apart, as Lerner
explains: “For Hospice, Peter had
mapped out specifically how he wanted the album to be, and we collaborated by
adding instrumentals to it. Burst Apart was strictly from scratch with everyone bringing in ideas.”

 

Once the
band got home from their extended tour, they signed a five-year lease on a
recording studio in their Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick and got to work,
keeping to their creed of producing and engineering the record themselves – except
this time it was in a more formal environment rather than Silberman’s bedroom.

 

“A
producer is great if you can find someone you get along with and agree with the
way they want to take the direction of the album; but if not, it can be a real
awkward and strange thing to have someone outside the band in the studio with
you. We trusted ourselves for the style on this one,” says Lerner. For anyone
listening to Burst Apart, the game
plan clearly worked in their favor – and with a five-year lease, fans can look
forward to more. “We’re all really happy with the way the process worked in
recording Burst Apart, so we have
similar plans for the future. It’s nice to have a studio where everything you
need and want is at your fingertips, and you’re not renting a space by the
hour. Plus, five years goes by really fast.”

 

The
Antlers also plan to open up their studio to engineer and produce the work of
other like-minded bands. Some sharp listeners may have already caught on to the
tweets the band recently broadcast suggesting a collaboration with Neon
Indian’s Alan Palomo. For his part, Lerner remained cautiously mum on the
topic, only saying, “It should be out soon.”

 

Being
based in Bushwick, Lerner notes the opportunities are ripe for such
collaborations, so only time will tell which bands the Antlers find themselves
aligning with: “There’s a high concentration of people playing in Brooklyn or
the city every night so we’re pretty spoiled with who we get to see play,” he
says. “This is a place you can always be inspired by lots of great music. And
you know, there’s always going to be a lot of great bands coming out of New York simply because
it’s a shared member scene. It’s weird looking at this scene from the outside
and analyzing why all this great music has been coming from here, but to me
it’s always been happening.”

 

The Antlers are currently on tour
in the UK.
Their North American tour starts May 17 in D.C. Dates can be found here.

 

 

[Photo
Credit: Shervin Lainez]

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