For those of you familiar with The Antlers you will no doubt also be familiar with the story of "Hospice", the 2009 full-length which thrust the New York trio into a considerable degree of critical admiration and cult adulation, and its use of the metaphor of a hospice worker and a cancer-stricken patient to illustrate the breakdown of a deeply personal relationship. It's highly likely you'll want to read on from this story, and discover what direction the three-piece has taken since then, on the dawn of the release of its follow up Burst Apart. To find out, Contactmusic.com sat down with multi-instrumentalist Darby Cicci.
Contactmusic- I understand this is the third show from which songs from 'Burst Apart' will be played? Are you nervous?
Darby- Yes, and this is the first set that's going to be a mixture of 'Hospice' and 'Burst Apart'. So we're still figuring out how to intertwine the two. Over the next month the set is probably going to be gradually different as we try to figure out what works and what doesn't.
It's been difficult because all of 'Hospice' has a certain theme throughout the album and as we played the songs live they branched out a lot more, and 'Burst Apart' has its own feel to it, there's a lot more synth, there's a lot more intricate guitar work. For me it's all about pacing, like on the album "Atrophy" it's a real chill song, it's really quiet, but the live version has become a lot louder, and a lot more energetic and psychedelic so we have to figure out where we place it.
On the other side, it's also finding out what people actually want to see in a show. I don't want to be self-indulgent and just play what I want to play, because...trust me, people don't want to hear that! If we just played what we wanted to play we'd definitely gravitate towards the psychedelic jams, we'd play a twenty minute jam every night. But those are better in small doses, I think most people don't want to hear that, so we're going to limit it.
Contactmusic- I guess one advantage of people downloading from the internet, and with you allowing a live recording of 'Burst Apart' to be streamed, is that a lot of people will be familiar with the songs already.
Darby- That would be great! It's the hardest thing for a band to do, to play a show when you're playing songs from a new record that isn't out yet. So if people are familiar that's good because with a lot of stuff from 'Burst Apart' it's hard to 'get' on first listen.
Contactmusic- With your mention of these two albums I presume you no longer play material preceding these two albums?
Darby- The last time we played any of those songs was from when we were first touring 'Hospice'. They're really old songs and it takes us back to a time when we were touring that was really hard and frustrating. They may come back but now there is enough material from the two albums to pick from, and several songs we have to drop from the set we wish we didn't without going back there. Plus the songs from that era are from before when we were really a band, and they'd take a lot of re-arranging.
Contactmusic- Going on to 'Burst Apart', it does seem like a true collaborative work.
Darby- Yeah, the three of us were there in the recording process every single day, eight hours a day for about five months, and all the songs were written together. Any time anyone had an idea they'd bring it to the table.
Contactmusic- Do you think there were any misconceptions with the personal nature of 'Hospice' that The Antlers is a solo project?
Darby- Not really. I think with 90% of bands people listen to a song and their personal connection is to whoever is singing. Most people don't have a human connection to drums or synthesisers. There's a technological barrier there. But 'Hospice' is a strange record because it does have an autobiographical concept to it so people will get drawn to that, but it has so much more going on too.
Contactmusic- So what does 'Burst Apart' mean to you?
Darby- It's kind of like a feeling of getting lost. If 'Hospice' was the break-down of a horrible relationship then 'Burst Apart' is moving on from it. Initially you're struck with quite a bit of distress, paranoia and animosity, and the record is about trying to come back to something that is comfortable and normal. Trying to fight the urges of paranoia and distress, and how you let that go. The letting go process isn't a smooth one, it's a matter of letting yourself go and finding yourself in the world, which can sometimes be through self-destruction or more self-destructing, meaningless relationships and the story of the record is trudging through all of that to something that makes sense, trying to find that home that you lost originally from this horrible time.
Contactmusic- As you said "Burst Apart" has a different sound to "Hospice". Have you been listening to anything that's driven this change?
Darby- I don't listen to a lot when we're recording unless it's for engineering purposes, listening to records that intertwine song-writing and textures and do it really well. I call them encyclopedia albums, an example would be Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco, how it combines storytelling with
sound-scapes and textures without being languid or boring. It's an excellent piece of texturing, all the orchestral parts and synth parts, even if the vocals are too loud!
Contactmusic- "Burst Apart" certainly sounds more orchestral.
Darby- Yeah, and it's hard not going overboard. Like I could arrange and layer forty instruments no problem. It's sort of an exercise in restraint to not do that. I wanted the arrangements on "Burst Apart" to sound like they were both from the past and from the future, sort of a futuristic vision of the sixties or seventies.
Contactmusic- So is that something you'd like to go into more, the orchestral side, even outside of The Antlers?
Darby- I'd love to, I'd love to go into scoring, particularly horror films. I'm supposed to be working on a horror film score right now, but it's pretty low budget and I'm touring now so it's hard, but hopefully that's something for the future.
Contactmusic-Which leads on to a final question; what are your plans for the future, both inside The Antlers and out?
Darby- "Touring, lots of touring. Also, I'm working on a solo record right now which is almost done. It keeps getting more and more complicated. It's kind of like a pop-electronica album, and I'll be releasing it under the name Minus Green. It sounds like Fever Ray but...faster, and louder, and some of the more fringe music we listen to like such as Deadmau5 or Modeselektor. But for now the main focus is touring."
There is a lot more to The Antlers than what you might read, and indeed a lot more to come from a band gushing with ideas and confidence that contrast the insular, retreating nature of 'Hospice'. 'Burst Apart' is a representation of this confidence, and it is also a superb follow-up that stands up as an individual piece and mixed up with its predecessor when played live. Moreover, it is a sign that there is plenty more to come.)