Interview: The Antlers

(The Antlers: Peter Silberman, Darby Cicci en Michael Lerner)

Geïnspireerd door Neutral Milk Hotel, Elliot Smith en The Microphones zette Peter Silberman, New Yorker pur sang, een muzikaal project op: The Antlers. Het begon kleinschalig. Peter schreef muziek, nam het op in zijn slaapkamer en verspreidde een beperkte oplage. Als hij niet aan The Antlers werkte, dan investeerde hij in zijn langdurige relatie met zijn vriendin. Alhoewel Peter altijd weigerde details te geven over die relatie, was hij wel open over de gevolgen ervan. Hij werd namelijk jarenlang meegesleurd in een destructieve liefdesverhouding: één vol schuld, depressie en eenzaamheid. In 2008 liep de relatie op de klippen.

Sindsdien gebruikt Peter The Antlers als een kanaal om deze traumatische periode een plaats te geven. Hij deed dit in 2009 met zijn doorbraakplaat Hospice, waar hij de relatie vergeleek met het aftakelen en uiteindelijke sterven van zijn vriendin. Kanker was de perfecte metafoor voor de complexiteit en giftigheid van het hele gebeuren. Het was het eerste album waarbij Peter werd ondersteund door drummer Michael Lerner en multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci. Daarnaast was het zijn eerste financiële succes.

In 2014 worstelt Peter nog steeds met het verleden, maar dit op een meer filosofisch niveau. Op zijn jongste album Familiars - één van mijn favoriete albums van 2014 - tracht Peter negatieve gedachten en gevoelens uit het verleden los te laten. Die specifieke destructieve relatie staat niet langer centraal. In plaats daarvan zingt Peter over algemenere thema's zoals de complexiteit van trauma's en de last van het verleden. 

Ik sprak met Peter Silberman over het succes van Hospice, over inhoudelijke aspecten van Familiars en over de nakende Europese tour. The Antlers starten een reeks live shows op 1 oktober in Ancienne Belgique te Brussel om vervolgens op 3 oktober een stop te maken in Paradiso te Amsterdam

De - volgens mij - essentiële nummers van The Antlers ontdek je in dit artikel.

Ive seen the band play Rolled Together live and it was one of the highlights of the show. In this tour you arent playing it. How do you decide which songs make the setlist?

Peter Silberman: Our setlist choices are pretty intuitive. We rehearsed for a few weeks leading up to the release and touring on Familiars, and in that time, learned the entirety of the new record and chose a handful of older songs we felt would fit well with the new. If we play a song in rehearsal and feel bored by it, we exclude it. We tend to operate on the belief that if we dont enjoy performing it, the song suffers.

Do you consider live performance as a crucial part of your music?

PS: I never thought about live performances during recording until this record. I do consider the live component to be crucial, but weve always allowed the record and live show to be different from one another. But during Familiars, I was premeditating how Id perform these songs, and wanted to avoid having to rewrite my parts to fit our live show, so it became a creative parameter for me to write vocal and guitar parts that would directly translate to a live show.

Its such a common 
cause of suffering - 
to feel imprisoned 
by your past.

I feel like an important theme in Familiars is trying to move forward as a person - while the past or your previous self - keeps defining many aspects of your life. How important was that theme for you?

PS: That was incredibly important to me and remains important. I think many of us struggle with that throughout our lives, its such a common cause of suffering - to feel imprisoned by your past, wanting to feel new but being held back by this idea of who you think you are, or how others have defined you. But I wanted to offer a kind of hope for people struggling with that, to emphasize that its possible to free yourself, to offer a sort of roadmap for doing that.

After a lot of searching and contemplating, you end Familiars with the song Refuge where you sing: Youre already home and you dont even know it. Youre already home when you dont know where to find it.Is this a conclusion to your journey?

PS: I think of Refuge as the dawn of an awakening - so its an ending but its also a beginning. Its the realization that everything you seek is already within you, it just requires unearthing sometimes. It took me a long time to realize that, and its something I need to constantly remind myself.

In Revisited you sing about strangers who pay you to dig up the grave of a person you loved. Is that a reference to Hospice and how it felt that many people gave you money to hear you sing about an important facet of your personal life?

PS: Yes, Revisited is largely about Hospice. Its an attempt to explain the crossover between art and reality. Hospice was a work of fiction, but just as it was inspired by my reality, it drastically affected my reality once it became public. Its difficult to commercialize something personal to you without feeling like youre exploiting it. 

But Familiars is largely about how to make peace with the past, and through writing Revisited, I began to understand the importance of letting go of attachments. Attachment is not just a dependence on someone you love, it can be a fixation on an idea, on a regret, on a rivalry, on anything, really. Its such a source of pain, and it can seem callous to cut yourself off from it, but in a sense, in some scenarios, severing attachment is your most humane option.

Whats next for The Antlers? 

PS: Im always thinking about next records, but Im working on my immediate present these days- trying to think less about the next few years and more about my next few days. Were leaving for tour in a week and I have to do my laundry!

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