Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Interview: Peter Silberman of The Antlers

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Few albums in recent years have elicited such visceral responses from both fans and critics as Hospice, the stunning full-length debut from The Antlers. Currently on tour in support of the album, guitarist/vocalist/lyricist Peter Silberman was kind enough to spend some time with us discussing the album's origins, what the "self isolation" back story that surrounds the album actually means and whether he's comfortable with the various interpretations Hospice has received.

SC: Thanks for taking some time to talk today. By now it's been well documented that the narrative in Hospice centers on the relationship between a hospital worker and a girl/woman dying of cancer. Do you consider this a concept album, or are you hesitant to define the album in those terms?

PS: I'm hesitant to call it that but I'm not sure why. The album's a story, and the story's about a concept. Sure, it's a concept record. I think the songs can exist on their own, independent of the record, but they don't necessarily make sense that way.

SC: Was this storyline already defined before you began the record or did it only start to take shape as the songs were being written?

PS: It was a little of both. The real sequence of events had just wrapped up before the album was started. Turning it into a different kind of story happened alongside the writing.

SC: Most reviews have mentioned that you wrote these songs after a couple years of social isolation. Is that just the type of interesting footnote critics love or did it influence the songs?

PS: I don't even know anymore. I wonder what people think "isolation" actually means. I wasn't in a sensory deprivation tank or in a cabin in the woods. It's gotten out of hand. What happened: I stopped talking to my friends. Why that happened: that's explained in the record.

SC: Perspectives and timelines shift from song to song, and certain events are mentioned but it's sometimes difficult to piece the story together.

PS: Well, Hospice is sort of told like a dream, where things are constantly transforming and confusing, time is arbitrary and illogical, locations become different locations. The record's about life becoming indistinguishable from a dream, or in this case, recurring nightmares.

SC: Various reviews have offered different interpretations of exactly what's happening in Hospice. Are you concerned about these songs being misinterpreted?

PS: People are totally free to call it however they like. I don't want to dictate what this album means to someone else. I only worry when people get carried away with the truth behind the record's events and decide something as concrete as "Hospice is about Peter Silberman's dead girlfriend." Not necessarily true.

SC: While there's a heavy sense of loss throughout the album, it never becomes oppressive and hope isn't necessarily lost.

PS: I never wanted to create something hopeless. I was trying to work through something by making this album, and nothing would have been fixed had it ended at the bottom.

SC: The album is pretty layered and the arrangements and vocals never settle on any one style for very long. What was the recording process like?

PS: The vocals were the last to be recorded, and were recorded frustratingly over the course of one weekend upstate. The rest of the time, the record was being recorded in my apartment with two microphones and very little space for a little over a year. It was actually a lot of fun, though it felt like a failure throughout a good deal of it.

SC: Are you surprised by the attention the album has received despite having very little publicity behind it?

PS: I'm surprised every day that things have reached the point they have. I never expected this record to get to this many people. I'm really happy about that.

SC: What considerations come into play when you try to translate these songs to a live setting?

PS: We're pretty much constantly on tour right now, and we've adapted most of the songs to sound different than they do on record. That keeps us going and engaged, to be changing these songs and sounds, making the live show bigger and washier.

SC: If there's a single takeaway theme to Hospice - something to cut through all the various interpretations - what is it?

PS: The end of guilt.

1 comment:

Christina said...

Great Interview!!! I just have to say, i was really glad you asked the last question. My friend's boyfriend died of a brain tumor and this album helped her a lot. It was a great way intermediary to talk about how she was feeling, I made sure she read your article and pointed out the "end of guilt" quote. She really connected with that.