Stark, dramatic and very dense sound, The Antlers have made a name for themselves in the indie world with their dark style of playing and heavy subject matter. A band that was the brainchild of Peter Silberman, was only supposed to be a one man band that tackled the idea of creating a concept record about losing someone to cancer. While Peter was creating this, he linked up with musicians Micheal Lerner and Darby Cicci, thus resulting in the formation of The Antlers. Their debut Hospice, arrived last year to nothing but flawless reviews and praise, the band found themselves in the center of attention in the indie world. As this celebrated band just got off the road with Editors and are about to embark on a national tour with The National this spring, I had the opportunity to speak to member Michael Lerner. Take a look at my interview with Michael as we discussed the band's beginnings, praise and being on the road with one of the world's most celebrated acts.
Initially intended to be a solo project, how did the full band come together?
ML: I had heard some of Peter's music while he was still working on his own. I was looking to play with some new people at the same time that he wanted to expand The Antlers into a full band. Darby was introduced to us by a former band member and joined full time soon after that.
The band was formed in Brooklyn, with the plethora of indie bands coming out of that borough these days, is it more like a musical community or stiff competition between acts?
ML: I think it's probably a combination of the two. We feel so fortunate to count some of these amazing bands as good friends. Because there is such a high concentration of talent here it forces us to be on top of our game and keep improving - which is a really good thing, actually.
You self-released Hospice before you signed to French Kiss records. However, initial pressings of the record were sold out and gone before the signing. Then once you got on the label the critical appeal started flooding in. How do you respond to your self-made success?
ML: We were all very excited about this record. Self-releasing Hospice made sense at the time for us. We were able to decide on the release date ourselves and were really eager to get it out there for people to hear. The music blogs that picked up on it back then really helped in a huge way. You never have any idea how people are going to react to an album you release. The positive response we are getting from this record is extremely humbling and the fact that this record is resonating with people is really rewarding.
Since you had the best of both worlds, self-releasing music and now joining a label. Do you like being on a label or would you much rather be doing things on your own terms? Or can you still dictate on your own terms with French Kiss?
ML: Signing with Frenchkiss has really been great for us. Creatively, we are given a tremendous amount of freedom. Self releasing is a lot like having your own little label which has a whole set of responsibilities beyond the actual music. Signing with them has given us the chance to focus more on playing and writing. They are extremely supportive of us and we are thrilled to be part of the Frenchkiss family.
Hospice is a very heavy record, musically and emotionally. Was it ever an emotional struggle to write and record the record?
ML: I wouldn't say that it was a struggle, per se. Much of the music was conceived in a more abstract way and allowed us a bit of distance from the subject matter. We didn't always take it so literally. No doubt Hospice could be considered somewhat heavy at times, but we like to go to the dark places.
Was it a plan to make Hospice a concept record? Or did it just fall into itself.
ML: There were songs written around a common theme, and making a concept record helped tie them together along that thread. As analogy or allegory, the concept of the characters' personal relationship became a vehicle for the more universal idea of how we all treat each other in our personal relationships.
Rumor has it you are already recording a follow-up, is this true?
ML: We are taking advantage of our time at home in the studio right now. Lots of ideas have been floating around in our heads while we've been on the road and we are really enjoying having the opportunity to write some new material.
You are about to hit the road with Editors, are you excited? Are you fans of the band?
ML: We are very excited to be touring with Editors. We often begin tours with bands as fans of theirs and then as we get to know them as people, they become our new favorite band!
Do you feel any pressure opening up for international heavyweights?
ML: There is some pressure opening for big international acts, for sure. But as support for bands like that, there tends to be less focus on us and more on the headliner, so in a way the pressure is really off us. We love touring and playing shows and are just so happy to be getting these opportunities.
Video for "Two" (Above) / Video for "Bear" (Below)
Special thanks to Michael and Grace Jones for the Interview.