Peter Silberman and the rest of Antlers are ready to lighten up a bit after the heaviness of their Frenchkiss debut, Hospice. Given the tremendous critical response, I doubt anyone outside of the band was complaining. Yet Silberman, the band’s principal songwriter on Hospice, insists they’ve been painted with a bleak brush, so hopes are that Burst Apart brings a bit brighter outlook and feeling to the band’s assocations.
This time around, the concept is thrown out in favor of following the songs. The mood is a bit lighter, the band’s a bit more thankful and Frenchkiss is settling in as a possible long-term home. What hasn’t changed, however, is the Antlers ability to craft a great album.
SSv: I want to go back to the signing with Frenchkiss, because I know Hospice was released independently and then again via the label. What did that signing mean to the band? Was that a huge sigh of relief?
Peter Silberman: When we met Frenchkiss, we were making our own CDs of Hospice. We had stickers printed up and blank digi-paks and burning CD-Rs and stapling together lyric booklets. We had an assembly line doing this while taking orders through PayPal, and then we’d send the CDs out ourselves. So when we met Frenchkiss and we were looking for somebody like them to be aligned to our career, most immediately for us was just to have some help
We were touring during all of this so it just made things impossible. I specifically remember some show on one of our first tours where we’d made a bunch of CDs and we’d brought them with us for the trip. We’d spent a decent amount of time making them, and we opened up the back of our van that we were touring in on a rainy day, and all of them hit the ground and were ruined. We couldn’t sell them. It’s not as bleak as it sounds, but we were definitely excited to come and take a lot of work out of our hands.
Then over time, it was just a gradual transition of them handling things that they know how to do, such as releasing a record and then getting it into stores and just all of that. It’s also about acting as a home for us where we can release future records and things like that. It’s having a system of support while we go and tour.
SSv: Did Frenchkiss tell you why they were bringing you on board or what they saw in you?
Peter: It was a long time ago, and I don’t remember exactly what they were saying. I think the general feeling with everyone that we began to work with was that everyone just wanted to get this record out to as many people as possible. That was the goal.
SSv: Were there other suitors?
Peter: There were some other people we were talking to, but Frenchkiss was what we wanted to go with.
SSv: What were you looking for in a label if there were a few options?
Peter: We were looking for a label that was putting out music that we liked that seemed like they had a grasp on how to release records in indie rock in the face of a very much changing industry. Frenchkiss was that label. It also felt personable and human, and that was important to us also.
SSv: When you were in those independent days, did you believe the songs in Hospice deserved a wider audience? Was that tension a part of it?
Peter: More than other records I’d ever worked on, there was a sense of camaraderie in the beginning. I think the message of Hospice was, in a weird way, life affirming more than anything. I think we wanted to share that and we wanted people to hear it. It wasn’t for the sake of us becoming successful. Obviously, we wanted that to happen as well, but it was really about the message of the record with Hospice. The more people we could get it out to, the more we could bond over it. That’s what ended up happening.
SSv: You mention that message and I wanted to ask about that. You have this concept record that’s very focused with Hospice, so do you aim for that again? Do you try the opposite?
Peter: Going into writing the record, I was expecting to make another concept record, even though I didn’t really know if I wanted to. By the time it came to recording and writing it as opposed to planning it for a couple of years, the more we let it write itself. It was a record that decided what it was going to be on its own, and the more that happened, the happier I was with it. I was still writing lyrics up until the point we finished recording. I was still changing my mind about the lyrics and vocals without a storyline in mind. It was just a collection of songs that loosely do have a story running throughout them, but it’s less about that story and more of a feeling.
SSv: Do you find the theme once you step back?
Peter: Yes, I understand it better now than I did when I was making it. I understand it as something that you shouldn’t overthink. I think it’s more about the feeling of the record than anything else. There’s plenty of analyzing of lyrics that you can do, and that happened a lot with Hospice. But I think it’s best to just relax a bit on this one.
SSv: Is that what you hope your audience will do on this one?
Peter: I think by nature of the record that they might just be forced to, but there’s no way to control how people react to the music that you make — as much as you may want to guide them for the sake of your own sanity. [Laughs] But I do wonder what the reaction will be like. I think it’s a very different sounding record, but I think it sounds like… well, I don’t want to say it sounds like the grown-up version of Hospice. I think it’s just different than Hospice. It’s evolved into something different.
SSv: Does your relationship with Michael and Darby change on this side of Frenchkiss?
Peter: Well, this is actually the first album we wrote together. I wrote all of the material myself to this point, and they played on Hospice. But these are the first songs we ever wrote together. But I think it’s also the band that I’ve always wanted us to be and not just the band that we started as.
SSv: Was it difficult to release that process?
Peter: It was definitely an adjustment. It wasn’t something I was used to. I haven’t done that in many years since I was a kid playing in bands and writing with friends. Since then, I’ve been doing things myself, so this was definitely a change. But I really liked it. In a weird way, it helped me relax a little about the whole process. I decided what I was going to focus on within the band instead of being the orchestrator or the overlord of it.
I could decide to focus on singing and lyrics and guitar and that’s it. I could just concentrate on those things and just be the singer or the guitar player and finally just be a member of this band. It was a lot more fun. I thought I could do those two things better because I wasn’t trying to control things at the same time. There was more energy to focus, and I think that made me happier as a musician.
SSv: Is that the hardest part of this for you — to relax and enjoy this journey?
Peter: It’s not so much of a struggle as it is a goal of something to do more and more. Hospice was just so dark and heavy, that even at our most joyous times, I think there was always a bit of a dark cloud over it because of the nature of the record. We were also painted as very serious and depressed people, and that’s not the case. I think we’re the opposite. We’re not very serious in our day to day lives. [Laughs]
I think we’re happy about where we are and that we get to make music for a living. I get to travel and see the world, and we’re very happy for that. I almost felt it was a forced gloominess for us, and really we should have been celebrating what was happening for us. So I think I’ll still write songs that are heavy sometimes, but this album is a little bit lighter and it’s not an ordeal to listen to it. I think Hospice is, not in a bad way, but it gets so heavy and intense. I don’t want to personally listen to that music all of the time, although I still 100 percent stand behind Hospice as it is. But I want to move in a direction of something that doesn’t have to be gut-wrenching.
SSv: So how does that manifest on Burst Apart?
Peter: I think Burst Apart is a bit more free. It’s very beat heavy and it’s rhythmic and it has a flow and a groove to it. These are words I hate using, but I haven’t figured out yet better words to use. [Laughs] But it’s less of a wall of sound and extreme dramatic moments, and it’s more about mood and texture. That’s what keeps me really enjoying listening to it.
*Photos by Shervin Lainez