It’s not business. It’s personal
The sad events that inspired The Antlers’ recent work were so personal that songwriter Peter Silberman didn’t even share them with his bandmates until the album was almost finished. He talks to Jim Carroll as the band prepare for their Dublin gig
ALL YEAR long, Peter Silberman has been talking about his new alHospice. All year long, the New York state native has been discussing the songs on the record, and especially the stories behind those songs.
And all year long, the lead Antler has been doing his level best to remain friendly, polite and informative while trying not to talk about the real events and characters that shaped the album.
Even without the back story, it’s quite a record. While his previous album, In the Attic of the Universe, was a solo run, Silberman is joined here by Darby Cicci and Michael Lerner, who add texture and nuance to these intimate, deeply emotional songs about isolation and illness. Throughout, the broody, moody and intense soundscapes and atmospherics are embellished by Silberman’s fragile falsetto and pale whisper of a vocal.
Hospice has enjoyed a successful innings since Silberman put it out himself back in March. The Frenchkiss label picked it up for release first in the US and gave it a European release in October.
As a result of interest in the lb Th Antlers have been touring alm this year. “I didn’t really have tions for Hospice when we releas March,” says Silberman as the bark from the ferry in Dover an drive to London. “It really surpr it keeps going forward.” It also surprise Silberman that there’s h in the songs he wrote during an riod when he was hiding away fro in Manhattan.
Back then, he was trying to co with a bunch of deeply emotion personal events which had come early 2007. As far as we know, th volved Silberman spending a lo and out of a children’s cancer wa tal with a loved one.
“I’ve kept the real story und
Hospice is out now on Frenchkiss. The Antlers play Dublin’s Academy 2 tonight the sake of the people who the record is based on,” he explains for what must be the umpteenth time.
“I mean, I don’t have any problem with people drawing their own conclusions about the record. The only concern I have is when people assume it’s autobiographical and details get confused and it gets awkward. I have had people saying to me: ‘So, this record is about your girlfriend who died in a hospice’. I always correct people about that.
“ Hospice was a really convenient word to tie all the songs and ideas and stories together. When I started writing, I knew the story but in a kind of vague way in that I didn’t know how it was going to turn into this album. The idea of a hospice and a caretaker relationship and guilt was just the analogy I needed to pull the album and the stories together.”
Even his bandmates didn’t know about the subject matter until the recording sessions were nearly over. “When we were recording, the vocals and lyrics were the last thing to go on the tracks. Once the record was done, it was very strange to be playing it to people and not know how they would react.
“Some people are uncomfortable with very personal music like that, which is fine and I can understand that. Now, though, people are themselves what they think it’s how it makes sense to them. That’s would want from a record that’s to you which you are putting out people to experience.”
an’s desire to disguise the backstoou wonder if he really needed to proetails to begin with. “I think the ald stand on its own, but it does beneome introduction or context. Cerms need a backstory, but I think he backstory is in the record. I try ll it out too much. ally weird how information can get which I suppose is another reason ided not to dive into all the detail o and what the record is based on. easier and makes more sense to ecord as a piece of fiction.” was writing the songs, Silberman found himself reading a bunch of writers who had dealt with similar themes. “There were certain writers whose work and themes resonated with what I was writing about in a very strange, parallel way. That helped to focus the project a little bit.
“The characters in the songs, I suppose, are influenced by a few different sources, like Sylvia Plath and Leonard Michaels’s book Sylvia. It became an amalgamation of various characters and stories.”
Perhaps the most striking element of the Hospice experience for Silberman has been working with his bandmates. His first album, the gentle, melodic In the Attic of the Universe, was a solo project more by necessity than design.
“I’d played in bands in high school and when I was growing up, so it wasn’t so much a case of having given up on bands as much as I enjoyed doing the work on my own. I’d also just moved to the city and didn’t really know anyone there.
“After Attic, though, I was really looking to do something more collaborative. You have a lot of freedom when you’re working by yourself. You can be a total control freak without consulting anyone else or thinking you’re stepping on toes. At the same time, though, it is limited. It is whatever is in your head and you can’t bounce ideas off other people.
“You also get a different sound when you record with other people. When I played Hospice to one of my friends who knew the older stuff, they could tell instantly that there were other people playing on the songs because there was a different style coming through which I thought was interesting.”