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Q&A with Peter Silberman of the Antlers
An Open Book
by David Johnson-Igra on Jan 27, 2010
The loss of a loved one to death, divorce, and breakup are experiences singer Peter Silberman of the Antlers shares on the groupís new album, Hospice. After moving to Brooklyn, Silberman became lost in an unhealthy relationship. He found inspiration through Sylvia, the fictionalized story of the life and suicide of author Leonard Michaelís ex-wife. As one of 2009ís most personal and positively received albums, Hospice has deeply resonated with indie fans much in the same light as Bon Iverís secluded winter debut in 2008. The Antlers perform on February 8th pat the Warfield. SF Station spoke with Silberman in a phone interview.
SF Station (SFS): What was it like when you first performed this album to a crowd? What were you feeling?
Peter Silberman (PS): Well, it was very different. We first started playing the songs from the record awhile before it came out, but it was a very different point in our career. We didnít really have very many people coming out to the shows, so it was kind of a strange feeling playing these songs, caring about them, having them be so fresh, and also, sort of fall on deaf ears for a while.
SFS: Is it strange now that youíre more disconnected from the events as time has passed, but now the audiences are larger and more connected?
PS: I would have expected it to mean less, but it always feels like itís a part of me. Because of the response we got from the record, the people coming out to the shows, and the sort of the connection we feel with the audience, it has taken on a new meaning because itís become everyone elseís story.
I didnít want to hold on to this forever. Itís not about having some demons in your past; itís more about having a shared experience with people.
SFS: In terms of the future, where do you go next?
PS: Weíre building our next record right now. Hospice was really an outpouring of pages of lyrics. In order to challenge myself, Iím trying to go in the opposite direction to see what can be said with the fewest words. Weíll see.
SFS: I read about how you created the cacophonous bell noise on ďAtrophy,Ē by stringing several bells on a standing lap and layering the sample. What is your creative musical process like? Can anything become a new instrument?
PS: I think anything can, the trick is to make sure itís not gimmicky. You donít want to have a song where it sounds you are playing a garbage can or hitting a shoe on the floor. I think that can be the problem sometimes; itís a little too cutesy when it is a household object like a tea kettle. For me, itís about the sound youíre trying to get from it, and the means doesnít really matter.
SFS: Are there any other examples?
PS: There is, actually. You can hear this creaking sound that is very faint ó I think itís at the end of ďWakeĒ ó and it sort of works with the mood of everything, but it was kind of an accident. It was the sound from the chair that I was sitting in that Iíve had for ten years. To me it always sounds like something hanging somewhere, swinging back and forth. For whatever reason that felt appropriate.
SFS: What part of Leonard Michaelís book Sylvia resonated with you?
PS: The weird thing is I was given that book right when I was coming out of the relationship that Hospice is about. There are a lot of similarities to an experience Iíd just been through, Iíd say two weeks prior.
SFS: How so?
PS: Itís one of those situations that I donít think is a rare thing necessarily. People often come across a book or movie and feel like itís speaking to them. The end of that book is the part that hit really hard. The last page of it is what inspired ďEpilogue.Ē
SFS: It seems to make sense that ďEpilogueĒ was the first song written on the album. Life usually works out starting from the end and working backwards.
PS: Yeah, I remember writing it and knowing that it was going to be the last song on the album. It was sort of like I had to write the ending to work backwards to get to that point.
SFS: Given that your goal was to create the songs on Hospice during a period of isolation, how did you find a balanced perspective between the protagonist and antagonist?
PS: Well, the record wasnít made during a period of isolation. That quote about isolation is referring to the events within Hospice. Thatís really about a closed up relationship ó a relationship when you cut out the people in your life because you donít understand yourself anymore, and you donít know you anymore. As far as finding the balance it was a lot of just digging up memories and having something be so fresh in my mind that could transform into a different story.
SFS: With all this unexpected success, was it ever discomforting sharing these personal feelings on such a public scale?
PS: It was sort of a situation that I felt when I was done with it, I could either throw it out or get it out to as many people as possible. The success of the record wasnít going to be how many people bought it, but it was going to be how many people heard it and actually felt a connection with it. I think it ended up with the best possible outcome because it gave this record a strength, and without it, it was just sort of narcissism.
The Antlers perform at the Warfield on February 8th. Tickets are $23-$25. Doors open at 7pm, and the show begins at 7:30pm.
by David Johnson-Igra on Jan 27, 2010