Interview: Michael Lerner (of The Antlers)

on May 10, 2011, 11:00am

From self-released bedroom demos to international acclaim, even saying that the past two years for Brooklyn-based trio The Antlers have been incredible would be a drastic understatement. In the wake of festival performances and sold-out tours, the trio of Peter Silberman, Darby Cicci and Michael Lerner were faced with a difficult question: how do you follow Hospice? Another concept album? Complete departure? With the impending release of CoS Top Star nabbing Burst Apart, Consequence of Sound got to chat with drummer Michael Lerner and get some answers; more specifically, behind-the-scenes insight into the new album, its creation, and the band’s plans for the rest of the year.

Let’s talk about the new album: It’s getting all sorts of buzz and rightly so. It’s absolutely phenomenal. There’s definitely a different dynamic on the new record. How did the creation process for Burst Apart differ from Hospice?

It was pretty drastic just because it was really, you know, straight-up democratic. We started from scratch bringing in ideas this time, whereas Hospice was pretty much Peter [Silberman]’s brainchild, and we came in, played parts, and wrote some stuff from that. But this was really, fully, a collaborative effort.

Instead of allowing somebody else to record and produce Burst Apart, you guys took the DIY approach; why did you decide to do that, and how did it go?

It was great. It wasn’t different than anything, and, in fact, it would have been more strange to go and find a producer, working with somebody else. It was kind of the same thing with Hospice, being a literal bedroom recording. We have our own studio now, and we basically didn’t know exactly when we set out what sound we wanted to achieve. When we found it, it worked, and there was no point in bringing in an outside producer. We’re just comfortable working that way, and we’re happy with the results. Also, it reflects us more as a live band. We’ve never been shy about changing song structures and doing things differently when we perform, versus the recorded stuff, but I think that this record is still representative of us.

Darby [Cicci] and Peter [Silberman] have been quoted as saying that the new album was strongly influenced by the band’s interest in electronic music, and that’s a pretty big leap from Hospice. Sound-wise, which artists in particular prompted that inspiration?

I’ve just been into things that had a hypnotic kind of trance-y side, that part of dance or house music. It’s not like we sat around and had a listening party, but we are definitely just all getting back into that kind of music. I still think, to me at least, that Hospice had a lot of those elements… the atmospheric, static stuff that I associate with electronic music, anyway. So that wasn’t that big of a leap for me as far as our sound is concerned. We just did more… the kind of dubby things like heavy reverb, making things even a little psychedelic, things that take you to a different place, even if that sounds a little corny.

There are a lot of varying thematics here. How do you feel about this kind of album format, varied, instead of Hospice‘s strict focus and theme? Do you have a preference?

No, I mean, I wouldn’t say I prefer one over the other. Hospice was my first foray into that field, and it was done well. I got really into it, and it was something I was proud to be a part of. Now, for this record, when we all were discussing new subject matter, Peter just said that it sounded forced to do it again, or some extension of that idea, so we didn’t. I think that was the best way to go. You don’t really want to force it. You want to do the next thing that’s natural, concept or not. We really just want to make something that we’re psyched about.

What was the biggest challenge with Burst Apart?

I mean, just from my perspective, the fact that we were writing everything from scratch. We had some kind of exploratory writing sessions last winter for a couple weeks, and I think one song came out of that. I was just nervous about, well, it wasn’t so much expectations as it was just wanting to put my best foot forward in whatever I’m doing. I did want it to be better than my expectations, which I set pretty high, though.

Kind of going off of expectations, how do you think that the Antlers’ fan base will react to the album?

Oh, they’re going to hate it! No, I’m just kidding. I mean, I don’t know. So far, it’s been interesting with the fact that NPR asked us to perform it, because now we’ve gotten a preview of what people think, reviews are trickling in. I think people are into it. I can see the people who are really into the emotive kind of thing, or what they got out of Hospice, if that’s what they’re requiring of us, then they potentially may not like this record. It just doesn’t have the similar mood; this album’s got both sides of the emotional spectrum. I hope everyone will listen with open ears; you don’t have to restrict a certain band to a certain sound. You don’t have to like it, you know, and that’s a huge compliment if you do, but you should let people try to be free to go in whatever direction their music is progressing. There’s potential to fail, definitely, but you can’t just sit and be afraid of people not liking your record.

 Interview: Michael Lerner (of The Antlers)How did the album premiere at the NPR Party at SXSW last month come about? It’s becoming more and more frequent for bands to stream new albums there, but performing them really upped the ante.

They invited us, which we were really excited about. Our first contact with them was a few years ago when they shot a little video of one of our shows. They’ve always been really supportive and showed an interest in the band. I think that they’re a huge reason why other people have gotten exposed to our music, a wider audience, at least.

It looks like instead of hitting up the festival circuit this summer like a lot of bands are, you guys are touring for about a month, sadly without a Nashville date. What are your plans for the rest of 2011?

A whole lot of driving around and flying around. We’re going to be on the road. That’s pretty much the plan: Don’t make any other plans except to play shows.

What new music and artists have you been feeling lately?

James Blake’s doing some cool things. I like stuff that has a lot of space. I also like tUnE-yArDs’ new record; she’s doing some really interesting stuff, too–really innovative, so creative. She’s not the only one looping herself, but it’s working really well, so I’m psyched for her. I won’t give you my whole list, though.

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