The Antlers’ Dark Pillow Talk
Published March 3, 2009
Photo by Darby Cicci. (also pictured on the left; they used self-timer). Peter Silberman (center), Michael Lerner (right).
There are a lot of sad, lonely, post-adolescent/early-twentysomethings who write music about heartache. Many of them record songs in their bedrooms. Often, these songs are of dubious quality. So when you hear a young musician talk about how he holed him up in his Brooklyn apartment for a year, played a lot of guitar, and made an album in his self-made studio, you don’t necessarily assume it’s going to be the next Girlysounds. But, as evidenced by Liz Phair’s iconic demo cassettes, every once in awhile there is a sad, lonely, post-adolescent/early-twentysomething who comes along and makes something in his or her bedroom that’s so raw, so personal, and so obviously borne out of not having left one’s room for a really, really long time, that you remember why these kinds of albums can be the best of them all. The Antlers’ sophomore effort, Hospice, is out today, and it’s a perfect example of this kind of record — although, given its ethereal, multi-dimensional sound, you probably wouldn’t have guessed that it was made in a rat-infested Brooklyn sublet. Peter Silberman, the band’s 22-year-old frontman and sole consistent member, experienced some dark moments in the writing and recording of Hospice (which, in case you didn’t guess, is about loss), and his pain is palpable throughout the 10 tracks of haunting, melancholy melodies. But it appears that the suffering was worth it: in the end, Hospice is a beautiful album that’s impressively complete. We talked to Silberman about how he made it.
LUCY MADISON: Let’s talk about Hospice. I know you had done another album with the Antlers, and also some solo stuff, but this one is very different. Tell me about it.
PETER SILBERMAN: Well, I started this one by myself, and worked on a lot of it by myself. I had just moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn, and I had been getting a band together, but we were still getting used to each other. We weren’t exactly at the point of writing together, or even playing together all that much. So I recorded a lot of the album on my own, and brought people in about three-fourths of the way through. Now the band has changed into something much collaborative, but it’s been kind of an evolution. It happened over the process of writing and recording that album.
LM: Where did the album come from? It’s quite sad. Even the title…
PS: Yeah it’s definitely kind of a downer. I had moved to New York to go to school, and I was living in Manhattan in what was, for lack of a better way of putting it, just a very difficult situation. After I moved to Brooklyn, I started writing Hospice, sort of a way to kind of bring myself out of that place, mentally, and to kind of figure out a way to be independent and re-establish relationships with people that I had sort of screwed up over the course of about two years. I think relationships, when you’re young and still figuring out who you are, can do a lot of good but can also do a lot of damage.
LM: Why did you choose not to record it in a studio?
PS: Well, the problem with recording in a studio is that you’re paying so much to be in there that you really have to know what you’re going to do before you get in, unless you want to spend a lot of money. I’ve had a little home studio set up for a few years now, which is usually how I record everything. It’s pretty low technology, but it allowed me to spend as much time on the album as I wanted. Which ended up being a very long time.
LM: How long?
PS: About a year and a half. And that was working at it pretty much every day. It’s strange, because I was kind of spending all of my time on it, and I was working around the clock, but I was also making an effort to stop being holed up, so caved in. Especially towards the end, it became less my own thing and more about bringing other people into it.
LM: You can hear on the album, too, I think. Does that mean you wrote it as you went along?
PS: I was kind of writing and recording at the same time—and writing through the recording: kind of putting down ideas and building upon them. Sometimes the songs would take on a life of their own based on different experiments. So I wasn’t sure exactly how it was going to sound until it was done, but that’s usually how I end up writing songs. I have a harder time just sitting down with a guitar and writing. I kind of don’t know where a song is going to go until it ends up somewhere.
LM: So when you finally finished the album—writing, recording, the whole process – it must have felt like a huge weight off.
PS: It definitely felt like a relief, because I’d been obsessively working on this album. But at the same time, I felt like I wasn’t ready to move on. So it felt like a nice break to go and really focus on all the other things that go into music—like actually playing shows and touring and releasing the record.
LM: What was your favorite small town to tour in?
PS: I think Bloomington, Indiana. It’s really awesome. We were playing at a place called The Cinemat which is like, a video store that has a performance space in the back. There’s no PA. You bring your own stuff and you set yourself up, and then they put chairs out and turn on a projector. So we had a movie playing behind us. It was a good turnout and just a really fun show to play. I think that was one of the highlights.
LM: Who have you been listening to a lot this year? Do you have any favorite new bands you can recommend?
PS: I’ve got to say, I think this year I’ve been listening to a lot of like droney post-rock kind of stuff. But as far as local bands right now, we’re playing a couple shows with this band Motel Motel, and I’ve been getting really into their stuff.
LM: What’s next for you? Any plans for your next album?
PS: I don’t know. I’ve been trying to figure that out lately. I’ve only just started thinking about it… [LAUGHS] I’ll have to get back to you.