by Mark Redfern on July 2, 2019
[Note: this is an interview that's currently still available and this archive is meant only to keep the contents and discussions inside preserved and visible online. Please follow the link in the header and read more from the source if you're interested.]
My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to Brian Aubert of Silversun Pickups.
The Los Angeles four-piece released a new album, Widow's Weeds, last month via the band's own New Machine Recordings. The band also features bassist Nikki Monninger, drummer Christopher Guanlao, and keyboardist Joe Lester. Widow's Weeds is the band's fifth album, the follow-up to 2015's Better Nature. Garbage's Butch Vig produced the album (he's also worked with Nirvana, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Sonic Youth).
It's been four years since the band's last album. In that time the band members faced some personal challenges. Lester's father died and Aubert decided to get sober and get treatment after finding himself in "an extremely dark place, for reasons he couldn't immediately explain."
"I didn't know how to get out of it," Aubert said in a press release announcing the album. "Finally, I was just like, 'Something big has to happen.'"
On how all this affected the album, Aubert said: "The record does have a mourning vibe, but it's not sad. It's change. It's growing up and moving on and letting go of things. And it's okay to be sad about those things and mourn them. It's actually healthy to do so and take the time to do it. At the end of the day, it's going to be much better and much more fulfilling when you get through it."
Read on as Aubert talks about the confusion of what his first word is, his first broken bone, sneaking out to the mall with his older sister, and how his first kiss didn't exactly go as planned.
There's a lot of debate about this. Half of my family is Hawaiian and the Hawaiian language is made up of only 13 letters. Five of those being vowels. Perfect for a little one to stumble accidental Hawaiian dialogue out of one's fresh mouth. Half of my family feels that I said a multitude of things all very important to the island culture. The other half remembers that I said "moon."
First best friend?
My first best friend is still one of my best friends. His name is Nashon and we met in fifth grade. I had best friends before, but this was the one where a true symbiotic relationship bloomed. Perfect shenanigan partners. I can sum it up best like this, he was a Luke guy, I was a Han guy. And off we go…
Besides the many goldfish won at little fairs that all met sad demises, I remember two hamsters. My sister's was called Lanai and mine was called Kauai. We thought they were the bee's knees. One day, coming back from school, I went to check on them and it appeared that Lanai murdered Kauai. I can't prove it but the evidence seems legit. It's a cold case that I'll have reopened one day when I get the time. But no matter how the crime went down, it was another sad demise. Maybe it's me.
First broken bone?
This was a recent affair. I thought that I somehow escaped this kind of peril now that I'm an adult. This was a foolish notion because it turns out it's easier for an adult to do this. Who knew? Why didn't anyone tell me? Silversun Pickups were performing in Boise. During the last song, I walked up to the front of the stage and was about to step on a bass fill that sits in front of the stage. Instead, I stepped into a void that was a lighting trick of the eye that appeared to be a bass fill. Down I went. Like little Bran Stark after hearing "the things I do for love." I curled up to protect the guitar and slammed on the ground. It hurt, but I shook it off and finished the song and the following encores, although in pain. I went to the hospital right after where the nurses told me there was no way I broke anything if I was able to perform. So they did an X-ray just to rule it out. One of the nurses came back with a big frown on her face and said, "I'm sorry, you broke your elbow." Next thing you know, a bunch of lovely people are installing metal in my elbow while I'm off in a dream land where there was a bass fill.
First time you had to go to the hospital?
I had a few surgeries before I can recall real memories. Two on my eye and one on my nose. I had an extreme lazy eye and was a nose bleeder. I still have these delights but they were problematic when I was wee. A third eye surgery after these is the first hospital recollection I can see clearly. I remember being very scared of going under, but also very excited that I was going to be rewarded with Pac-Man for the Atari game system. So it was a rollercoaster of complex emotions. Now that I look back at it, I got rewarded for doing nothing so it was a complete win. I wore a patch for a few weeks, which was a bit odd, but I kind of thought it was cool. You know, gave me some edge and a dark past that made me much more mysterious than the other first graders. As of right now, my lazy eye only reacts here and there. It's like my little Mad Eye Moody. I think it's trying to tell me something but I've never figured out what exactly that might be.
First person you kissed?
Fifth Grade. After school. Hanging on the playground with some friends. I was waiting by the fence for my mother to come and pick me up when this girl Irene came over to me and planted one on me out of nowhere. I had experienced little pecks here and there, but this was what I eventually learned "making out" was all about. She left and while I was in a daze my friend Fiona came over to me and immediately kicked me in the groin with all her might. While the pain set in she screamed "asshole" and ran off. Immediately after this, my best friend (who you know now if you were paying attention) came up to me and told me I was a dick and walked away. This all happened in about two minutes. What I learned from what just landed on my lap was that Irene liked me, Fiona liked me, and my best friend liked Irene. There were probably better ways to learn all of this information.
First album you bought?
My family took a lot of summer trips. We always ended up in Hawaii to see our relatives, but beforehand would go and experience someplace new. While we were in Anchorage Alaska, my sister (who is older) talked my parents into letting us stay at the hotel while they went off to another glacier or something. This seemed very exciting and dangerous to me. They left with the rule that we had to stay on the premises. This rule was immediately broken. Being led by my sister, we were immediately jay walking across large highways towards the mall. It was in this mall where I purchased with my chore money Cyndi Lauper's She's So Unusual. I loved and love this record and for some reason buying it and the whole adventure around it made me feel mighty.
First musician you had a crush on?
You know when you're little and you sleep over at someone's house and it's more of a tryout? Are the parents mean? Is the food gross? Will I be sleeping in the house? During one of these tryouts I found my first real musician crush. My friend was a bit odd but his parents were downright scary. They would communicate in the house by screaming at each other. His older sibling's favorite thing to do was make us feel like shit. They ate weird things. The house had an odor of something I've never experienced since. They had a vicious dog that they kept on a chain inside the house and would tell it to bite me, and then tell me they were kidding. Cut to midnight on the foldout bed in the middle of their living room. While the dog was eyeballing me from the corner, I was watching Saturday Night Live. All these house of horrors woes melted away when The Sugarcubes started to perform on the TV. I stared at Björk who was wearing this little orange dress and had a big clock around her neck and thought, "what is that? Is this an alien? Is she real?" Her voice blew my mind and I Immediately became obsessed. I escaped out of this home in my mind using her voice to guide me to a happier realm.
First concert you went to?
I can barely remember this but it had quite an impression on me. I saw New Edition at Disneyland. They were performing on Tom Sawyer's Island while the audience sat on the edge of the river. People were screaming and the excitement felt huge. The energy of how a crowd reacts to something that excites them and being a little thing in the midst of all that made my skin almost burn. Cool it now.
First book you read outside of one assigned for school?
The one that I remember loving first was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume. Obviously it's perfect for a kid, with fun adventures and Fudge and all that. But what I really focused on was what it would be like to live in New York City. All of those details thrilled me and I would imagine that I had a doorman or a lobby in my home in Los Angeles. I would compare and contrast what life was like between these two cities with only that book as my portal into all things Manhattan. I still do. When I'm in Brooklyn and I need something to do, I just say, "what would Fudge do?"
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