Three years ago, The Antlers released Hospice, a bleak and delicate concept album about the relationship between a male nurse and a female patient suffering from bone cancer. Some musicians would crash and burn trying to tackle such weighty subject matter, but the 10-song collection exhibited an overt beauty that won praise from Pitchfork and NPR alike.
The Antlers followed it by embracing an electronic edge and a bigger sound with 2011's Burst Apart (check out "I Don't Want Love" and "Putting the Dog to Sleep"), which again won praise from music writers and fans. This summer brought Undersea, a dreamy and different four-song EP that feels as whole and cohesive as anything the band has done.
With The Antlers set to play the Grog Shop Sept. 27 (you can buy tickets here), we talked to vocalist and guitarist Peter Silberman (center of the picture above, with Michael Lerner and Darby Cicci) about the group's evolution, the new release and his take on the band's live show.
CM: Your previous two albums have dealt in various ways with the human condition — life, love and loss. Undersea has a more dreamlike quality. To what do you attribute that shift?
PS: When we made Undersea, we were wanting to create something calming and maybe that was for other people, maybe that was just for ourselves ... But, on a whole, we approached recording it and writing it — we do both at the same time — with the idea of something really mellow in mind ... It felt like it was a bonus recording for us in a lot of ways. We were going to go in there and do it totally for fun and see what we come up with. So, that is where we ended up. Being that it was such a period of doing whatever we wanted and feeling no pressure, there didn't seem to be a need for heightened drama and fatalistic lyrics and things like that.
CM: How did you arrive at the decision to keep Undersea just four songs?
PS: We really had a defined period of time to record. We wanted to release it by summer, so in order to do that, we needed to be done by a certain day. And we had a little bit more material we were working on, but we really felt, as the recording was going on — as we were getting deeper into it — that we needed to focus and not try to produce as much as we could in a short time but really try and give a lot to those four tracks, especially because those are the four that we felt really belonged together the most.
CM: How would you describe The Antlers' live show to someone who has never seen the band?
PS: More than anything, it's got its own mood to it, and you feel it in the room you're in. Because sonically it's, for lack of a better word, atmospheric, and there's a looseness to it despite us being a band that I think is pretty locked in. ... It kind of takes over the room, especially with an audience that's into it. There becomes this kind of haziness about the room and we tend to play off of that and just get really into it, and I think we're in a bit of a trance when we're playing. That's what makes it fun and exciting for us — that we start a show and it feels a bit like starting up some kind of machine. ... beginning this thing that is going to move throughout the next hour and a half, that's going to travel at a certain pace and build its own momentum.
CM: Are there any groups you've played or toured with that have had a distinct effect on you as a performer or the band as a whole?
PS: When we toured with The National a couple years ago, that had a pretty strong musical influence on us. ... We watched pretty much their entire set every night, and we just started being able to see musically what they're doing and how precise the whole thing is. And I think there was something really inspiring about the craftmanship of it. ... I remember just watching them and thinking that we could be putting a lot of care into what we're doing in that regard, too.
CM: What's the first album you ever bought?
PS: I think it was The Blue Album — Weezer, their first album. That was definitely the first CD I bought. The first album I bought might have been The Offspring or Jimi Hendrix The Ultimate Experience.