Silversun Pickups frontman Brian Aubert talks “Neck of the Woods” before Red Rocks showBy Ricardo Baca | September 14th, 2012 | 1 Comment »
The Silversun Pickups are one of the best new bands of the past decade.
We’ve said it before, and here we are saying it again. It helps that the band backs up that admittedly bold assertion each time it releases a record, and its latest, “Neck of the Woods,” is the Los Angeles band’s biggest step forward to date.
Bridging that rock schism between alternative and indie, the Silversuns have a quiet-loud-quiet sound that connects with fans and radio alike. And even though bassist Nikki Monninger was on the brink of having twin girls at press time, the band will play on at Red Rocks on Sunday. We caught up with frontman Brian Aubert last week to talk progression, humility and picking favorites.
Q: The big tour is starting, and you might be losing your bass player any day now?
A: Nikki’s still here, but it’s looking like any minute now. Every time we start the show and then finish it, she’s a bit more pregnant. The bass keeps moving a little further away from her body. Any minute now the switcheroo is going to happen.
Q: And you’ll have a friend filling in for Nikki?
A: Yeah, Sarah from the Happy Hollows. We’ve been friends with her for seven or eight years. They’ve opened for us a bunch, and she’s been apart of our family in Los Angeles for a while. We’re thrilled.
Q: Did Sarah pick up everything O.K.? That’s a lot of music.
A: We love switching out songs in the set, and so it’s critical for her to take all that music and learn it. She learned all of “Neck of the Woods,” some of “Pikul,” half of “Carnavas,” half of “Swoon.” It’s harder because she learned all of the new record first, and then she went back and learned the older stuff. And when you look backwards, it’s a lot easier.
Q: Ah, progression.
A: That’s the first time we realized it actually happened. It took Nikki getting pregnant for us to realize there has been progression, ha.
Q: Are you enjoying playing the new record?
A: Now that we’ve just started our tour, and we’re working out new songs — last night we played “Here We Are” for the first time, and the night before it was “Gun-Shy Sunshine” — it shows us how much we wanted to go into a different direction. It feels so different. It feels like something we’ve never experienced before.
Q: I’ve seen you guys live quite a few times, and I have to ask this: When you all finish a show, you seem so humbled and awed by the crowd’s reaction and presence that you all stand there at the apron of the stage with these aw-shucks grins on your faces. Is that real or legit?
A: It’s smoke and mirrors, all (expletive). It’s funny because when you tour, there’s so much hurry up and wait — so much travel and talking and all that jazz, and the thing you do the least is perform. Every time we go out and perform, it happens all over again. We’re still excited and moved by that. It’s a time when we don’t want to walk off, because we’re just so happy up there. We’re just so amazed. We feel very lucky, and it’s a fundamental thing with all of us: We understand how lucky we are, and sure, we’ve worked hard, but so have a lot of bands. Especially now. We were in Seattle last night, and it was so epic, and we kept thinking, “This is the third go-round with this, and it’s great that it’s still happening.” I don’t know what kind of trick we pulled. We really do enjoy it. It’s not lost on us.
Q: I was hoping that you would pick one song off each of your releases, including the EPs — but not the hits — and talk about why it’s special to you.
A: This sounds fun. Let’s start with “Pikul.” Hm, I was going to pick “Kissing Families,” but maybe I shouldn’t. The thing about it is, we get so proud of the “Pikul” EP. We get numbers and charts from management, but we don’t understand most of them, but we’re always so proud when we see “Pikul” inching along — it’s like, “Look at it!” “Kissing Families” just got played on independent radio stations. But last night in Seattle, we started our encore with “Kissing Families” and the crowd went crazy. That song makes us feel like we’re in the old days. But I might also pick “Creation Lake,” a cover — it’s a Nikki thing. When we first signed to Dangerbird Records, we knew we wanted to put out an EP and then an album, so we separated all the old songs, saying what was going to go with what. We knew “Carnavas” was going to be shinier and bigger, and we wanted “Pikul” to be the recordings we had, a catch-up of the three years of the band before we put out the album. We recorded a couple more songs, and then we thought we’d cover our friends’ band in L.A., but they’re not around anymore, the Movies. We used to do this thing where they’d come out with us … and we recorded the song as an homage to them, and now it’s a weird homage to them because they’re not around. I guess I like it a lot because we didn’t write it.
Q: And “Carnavas.”
A: Yeah. “Checkered Floor.” We were never great at performing it, but we loved it. We just played that at sound check. Something wasn’t working when we were recording it, but we came up with this Nikki line — a call back line — and it made the song better. But then there’s “Common Reactor,” and I think I like that one because I remember feeling good about my vocals. It was one of the newer songs, so it still had that new car smell. Usually when I put my vocals on a song, I’m like, “Sorry I ruined it.” It’s impossible to hear it without thinking it’s just you, it doesn’t seem real. But “Common Reactor” was one I listened to where it was the only time where I could hear the song for what it was. I could separate myself from it. I didn’t hear myself.
Q: Moving on to “Swoon.”
A: “Growing Old is Getting Old” is my favorite. I think that one has a — well, each record has toilet paper effect. You travel into a bathroom, and you get a little toilet paper on your shoe, and you travel into the next room, and you still have that toiler paper on your shoe. Each song has a little hint of where the next song will be. You can hear a lot of “Carnavas” in “Swoon,” but then there are these other songs you can hear where we’re going to “Neck of the Woods.” I remember back then thinking that we were going in a different direction.
Q: And the “Seasick” 10-inch?
A: That was funny. The radio stations got mad at us over that one. It was leftover “Swoon” songs. We loved them, and we wanted to do something for Record Store Day, because we love it. But then stations started playing “Broken Bottles,” and other stations heard that and thought it was our new album, and we said, “Whoa!” But “Ribbons and Detours.” I like that one because we knew Nikki had the words and melody, but we didn’t know how the music was going to happen.
Q: And “Neck of the Woods.”
A: I hate them all, ha. They’re all so connected to me, and it’s hard to separate them — I’m trying to think of one that was a real pain in the (butt). Some songs like “Mean Spirits,” they come out and bam. Those aren’t difficult. And other songs are so far from where they should be. Last night we played “Here We Are” for the first time, and I’m really excited about that one — we would have been way too afraid to make a song like that back in the day. Back in the old days, we had drum machines and weird stuff, and somewhere along the path we lost that playfulness. But during “Neck of the Woods,” we learned to put some of that back in. Last night, playing that song for the first time, I thought, “Wow I’ve never been on stage like this.”