by Victoria Lancaster circa early 2016
[This site was evidently too hip and trendy to bother with pesky shit like dates. I could not date this interview exactly. There's no date anywhere in the page markup, the EXIF data on the images is from the initial Better Nature photo shoot, so May 2015 (inconclusive), their Twitter got nuked, and the archives of their Twitter don't cover late 2015, only mid-2015.
The reference to a London show in March and a review of a live show from December 12, 2015 (Skepta and JME performing at the Brixton O2 Academy, if you're curious) posted a few articles before this makes me think very early 2016. I do a lot of digging for this site.]
It's not often that you can visualise the story of an individual, let alone a four-person band, via a phone connecting London to LA. Brian Aubert, lead singer of alt-rock band Silversun Pickups, however, proved to be an anomaly when we had the pleasure of chatting early this week.
We caught up about the release of their most recent album Better Nature and upcoming European tour. Aubert's natural charm brilliantly captures the essence of the band's authentic connection with being human.
The band originated in LA's Silver Lake, oftentimes considered the Williamsburg, NY of California when it comes to the indie alt music scene. Aubert mentioned the formation of the band as being, "pretty organic." Ironically enough, Aubert met the band's bass player Nikki Monninger en route to study at Cambridge years back.
Aubert said that the members of the group were in the same social universe and their foundation was natural. After quickly forming whilst fooling around in a rehearsal space for fun, they immediately coined themselves as Silversun Pickups. Not surprisingly, the name derives from a "spot in the band's own universe" somewhere around Silver Lake. Aubert credited the band's natural beginnings in 2002 to the nature of Silver Lake as a place where, "you didn't have to pay to play, you could just be weird."
Better Nature is the group's fourth studio album. Its focus lies primarily on the present, which serves as a contrast to the last record, Neck of the Woods, which, "was very nostalgic and a reflection of the past." Similar to the last album, however, Aubert's androgynous sound compels. The album's sonic effect—a bit more electronic sounding than usual—rivals the magnetism of Aubert's mysterious lyricism.
The lyrics, according to Aubert, are meant to be up to personal interpretation similar to the way in which you are meant to read a poem. He hopes that, "when you read the words or hear the words (sometimes you even hear other words!), you still build your own personal narrative to it." The band avoids robbing the listener of this narrative by believing that some significance is better left untold.
He did reveal something about the interpretation of Better Nature and that is a fascination with times passing. "As you get older, life keeps throwing stuff at you. The teenage angst period ends and then you enter this new stage of life, losing people, gaining people."
Aubert also touched on the importance of collaboration to the group. Better Nature is their second record produced by Jacknife Lee, Irish producer of past U2 and R.E.M records (to name a few). This collaboration was crucial to the band's direction especially the second time around, "because your shorthand and your language almost becomes lightning fast. Now you've really read each other. You both also have visions about what you want to change and do next and you collide."
Jacknife's recording space is said by Aubert to be a studio garage in the woods of Topanga Canyon. Each day the space is said to be filled with new lights that keep you awake. This shifting recording environment serves as a testament to the band's fascination with humanity, as an individual's experiences can also change with each passing day.
He hopes that the live show does just the same in reflecting human nature's natural, and often flawed, tendencies. Aubert says that the band wants the show to be, "scratchy so that it'll feel and sound like the record but like you're at the show, the live show." "Pins and Needles" is his favourite track from the album, but also the biggest challenge in rehearsing for the live show.
Aubert gave away very little about the live performance, but he built anticipation when he professed that, "boy oh boy the human element. That fucking element shows up. There is a natural inhuman thing when you are up on a stage. People look at you in a weird way, but once you break that barrier down you can see the reactions of faces in the crowd change." He also gave a piece of wisdom to aspiring musicians. Both curtly and genuinely he said, "Don't be a dick!"
To wrap up our conversation, after admitting to saying "true that", Aubert joked about becoming a new dad in hiked-up trousers, just a regular guy. Aubert serves as an obvious example of an artist who breaks the barriers between himself and his audience, just like he says that he hopes the live show accomplishes in Europe in the coming months. We can't wait to see the London show in March.
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