“We can’t afford nice enough whiskies that we’d consider ourselves connoisseurs,” says the Antlers’ keyboardist Darby Cicci as he proffers a bottle of Jameson’s from the band’s rider backstage at Koko in Camden, London. “Would you care for a spot?” Together with the band’s lead singer Peter Silberman and drummer Michael Lerner, Darby has had the kind of year worth toasting. The Brooklyn-based trio must have felt under pressure to follow 2009’s critically feted Hospice but their mesmerising follow-up Burst Apart enjoyed the sort of slow-burning acclaim that landed it at the top of both The Fly and Drowned in Sound’s end-of-year lists. They’ve spent most of 2011 on an unrelenting tour that has taken them from the Reading and Leeds Festivals to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, but here they found the time to tell GQ.com about pop hooks, good books and fans wielding saxophones…
GQ.com: You must have been pleased by the reaction to Burst Apart…
Darby: I was just hoping it wasn’t going to be a huge flop! There was an experimental side to making this record because the only success this band had seen up to this point was from Hospice, which had a very specific mood. It’s hard to tell how people are going to react to you changing it all.
Michael: The most important thing was to make a record that we were satisfied with and would actually want to listen to, but it’s satisfying to know that other people are reacting the same way. We’ve all discussed the importance of staying power in a record. It’s rare, so it’s flattering to hear that people keep coming back to it.
Which lyric are you proudest of writing?
Peter: That’s a tough question! I don’t know if I could pick out a particular line, but lyrically my favourite song is “Hounds”. The idea with this record, and moving forward, is going to be fewer lyrics. Trying to say more with less, and I think that song kind of nailed it.
What have been your strangest experiences this year?
Michael: We had a guy who got past security and jumped onstage with a saxophone and jammed with us for half a song before he got pulled offstage. That was odd.
Darby: Somebody came onstage in New York and looked like they were about to be sick. They were leaning on my keyboard and hovering over my $3,000 synth about to throw up on it. That was a show where there were tequila popsicles at the bar, so I’m lucky my synth survived at all.
Michael: Offstage we’re big fans of reckless driving on our tour bus.
Darby: We were on two wheels in Barcelona.
Peter: But we do all of our own stunts.
Can you recommend a good book?
Peter: The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut. I read it over the summer and it’s awesome.
Darby: Electronic Music by Allen Strange. It’s not a novel, it’s mostly a technical manual, but it’s really good.
Michael: My all-time favourite book is The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. It’s got a bit of everything.
What was the first song you fell in love with?
Michael: I remember when I was a little kid it was that Kiss song, “Rock And Roll All Nite”. I don’t know what it was, just that rock energy and that chorus, I guess. I’m a sucker for pop hooks and that chorus just made it a party song.
Darby: My mom has a baby book where she wrote down all my firsts. Apparently the only song I would stop crying to hear was John Denver’s “Annie’s Song”. It’s pretty sappy, but I really liked it when I was two!
Peter: Mine was “Oh, What A Night” by the Four Seasons. I bought a cassette of it and used to listen to it on the school bus when I was really young. I just loved it, but when I listen to it now, I’m like: “That song is ridiculous!”
Michael: It’s about losing your virginity.
Peter: I didn’t realise that at the time.
Do you think pop hooks have influenced your music?
Michael: I know some people feel there’s something dirty about pop, and of course it can be cheesy and you have to be discerning, but there’s a reason it’s popular music. People like it if there’s something to it that just catches fire, and you don’t really have to over-analyse it. Something can stand on its own whether it’s simple or complex. There’s a type of over-analysis which gets a bit much.
Peter: As far as writing songs goes, you want them to stick in your head. It’s a fun challenge, to make something simultaneously as weird and as accessible as possible. It’s very easy to fall into really cheesy stuff, especially as you become a more popular band. There’s more temptation to do that, I guess, because radio and mainstream success is dangled in front of you.
Darby: I just want to make really catchy noise music! That’s my life goal!
Originally published by British GQ.