An Interview with The Antlers


Originally published on The Line Of Best Fit. 

Here is a transcription of a chat I had with The Antlers before their Macbeth show, back in September…

I never know how to tell people about your music. How would you describe the album?

Michael: We have trouble too.

I never know.

M: People make band comparisons, and inevitably… there’s so many, for some songs… so I’ve stopped doing that.  And, style, also. ‘Epic’ is a word that comes up, but it’s…. sort of pretentious, in a way, to say it.

Peter: Yeah, like… I feel weird saying that, because it has these positive connotations, it’s like saying ‘it sounds like it’s amazing’, and that’s not what we want to say! I think we want to say it sounds ‘big’

M: Yeah…

P: But a better word for big.

Darby: I think the goal with it.. was to make it really dynamic, like, being really intimate to loud, and almost aggressive, just to let it be a full range of sound, I guess. Highs are high, lows are low…

M: I also like ‘cinematic’ or ‘literary’, that almost captures a certain sense of some qualities of it…

Yeah! Well, when you read the lyrics it’s kind of like reading a book…

M: Yeah. I think so too…

Do you do any writing?

P: A little bit. I didn’t, really, for a long time. Then this summer I started to write some stuff,  and I haven’t quite finished… and I’m not really sure what, if anything, I’ll do with it. But, I started to enjoy it. I was trying to write lyrics, but wasn’t quite there yet… I just tried to write something, more like stories, I guess..

Is that anything you would consider doing in the future? Maybe writing a novel, or some short stories?

P: I think a novel would be REALLY hard, I’m really unbelievably impressed by anyone who can write a novel, because  I have no idea how that’s possible! But maybe some short stories or something….

So when people hear the album… because it’s so personal, it must be interesting for you guys (Darby + Michael) to play something that’s so personal to Peter, how do you guys connect with the songs?

M: After the initial interaction with the record personally, I don’t think of the lyrics… I don’t think of that perspective. It’s more… the sonic quality. It’s not like ‘oh, I’m thinking of this depressing hospital, cancer victim’ or something like that. Anybody is welcome, like, interpretation by others is great, it should be a variety. But for me, it’s not locked into what the words and the stories are explaining, it’s more the musical quality of it…

D: It definitely, it feels like…there’s portions of song,  like ‘Atrophy’, it’s the sound… I think it’s all part of the story, in a way. When I heard it the first time, the lyrics… I could only hear some of the lyrics because it was recorded really badly. Scratchy vocals, pieced together, and finally know… knowing the story, it means something different.

Are you enjoying playing it live?

All: Oh yeah!

M: Very much so. We’re getting to explore some musical territory… we take it to different places. It keeps it interesting for us, we can inject some spontaneous creativity from night to night, really keeps it fresh.. keeps it fun.

P: It really keeps us on our toes, and keeps us really enjoying it. We can tell the difference between a good set and a bad set… and we’re enjoying ourselves on stage, so, hopefully… that’ll be more enjoyable to watch too. And maybe it’s unexpected… you don’t know what to expect when you go into it each night. Venue to venue, the sound is different, the crowds are different… everything is different, every night, in a way. We learn how to roll with that, bring something out of that…

Were you nervous about the show at 229? Was it your first show outside of America?

M: Well, Canada…

P: Yeah, Canada, but we haven’t gone overseas yet

D: I was nervous for soundcheck…. Primarily we were all pretty wiped out by the journey, 1 hours sleep… nerves kind of get over powered by the tiredness.

M: There’s an adrenalin rush…

P: I think we did okay with it.

M: After a very warm crowd reaction it wipes away anything to be nervous about. It’s like being with a bunch of friends, you know?

What’s been your best show so far?

M: One show?

Yeah, if there’s one show you could go back and re-live…

M: I would play the Pitchfork show just because of the massive crowd. It was our biggest show by far.

P: Yeah, that was a big, big surprise. We knew there would be a lot of people, but the reality didn’t hit us until then. We got on stage and were like… oh! We were totally, so shocked. We’ve started playing bigger shows and opening for bigger bands, but that was a huge shock. It’s not like we’re playing shows like that every day. It’s like it came out of nowhere. We had no idea how to react to it.

M: It sounds counter intuitive but once you’re there and it begins, it’s really relaxing! You start looking at the sky… (laughs)

Is there anything you’d like to change about the live show? Ever consider to get more members? I was thinking about how epic it would be to play with an orchestra…

P: For certain, it would be hard to tour with that many people…

One thing that’s really cool is Grizzly Bear are doing a one off show in London with the London Symphony Orchestra…

M: Right! They did a similar thing in Brooklyn. That would be amazing.

P: That’s awesome, yeah.

M: I would love to do that.

P: I think we’re a little less open to adding members to the band, like, full time members, the way we’re most comfortable is the three of us. But, definitely, we’ve had Sharon [Van Etten] sing with us a couple of times…

M: Like when Sharon sang with us, I love her voice, such a great voice,  so… you can’t not like that.

One of my favourite parts of the album is the bit where she comes in at the end of Thirteen

M: So good!

P: Yeah! I actually wish we had more of her…

More Sharon!

M: Yeah!

She’s brilliant.

P: She’s on a lot of places in the record actually. She pops up in places where it doesn’t necessarily sound like her. Like, she’s in Kettering, Thirteen, Shiva…

She sang on the Forest Fire record.

P: Oh cool. I haven’t heard that record. I saw that…

She sings on Sunshine City, but I didn’t recognise it was her voice. I thought it sounded like her but I just missed that it WAS her, and then when I found out it made it even more brilliant…

P: Yeah. She sings on a lot of records actually.

M: Did you see her play over here?

Yeah! She did a few shows in May. And she was brilliant. Completely brilliant.

M: Yep. She is.

So, obviously there are loads of brilliant New York bands. Are there any you would recommend in particular?

M: Well, you mentioned Grizzly Bear, they’re one of my favourite bands. Dirty Projectors, got a lot of play on tour for us this summer.

Do you go to many shows when you’re at home?

M: Yeah, we all live in Brooklyn, but we haven’t really been home that much lately. They do these free shows in the summer time in Brooklyn, but we get to see a lot of great bands on tour… now I feel less inclined to go see live music… I like to do other things besides live music.

So you all live in New York, are you all from New York?

M: Peter and I grew up in New York, and Darby’s a transplant…

D: I’m from Alabama.

M: Most people in New York didn’t grow up in New York.

Yeah, it’s the same as London. Everyone’s from all over the place.

M: People say that if you grew up in Manhattan, specifically, it kind of… breeds strange people. You kind of grow up too quickly… nobody knows how to drive….

I don’t know how to drive.

M: I’ll teach you.

Good! That’ll be amazing. How does living in the city inspire you?

P: Brooklyn especially, right now is breeding a lot of bands doing interesting things. Experimenting with textures. It encourages bands to work really hard… and be themselves, and be unafraid. Also, just New York, aside from music, has a really interesting cultural history. It has a personality of a person. A city has these things you love about it, things you hate about it. I find myself thinking about it a lot, as if it were a person. It’s got all these characteristics… a way of existing.

Could you live anywhere else?

M: Yeah. It would have to be outside of the US for me. New York… it gets in your system. It’s hard to replicate anywhere else, but perhaps a lot of European places can do that…

D: I used to live in a small town, I would never live in a town that small….

P: Yeah, I feel like I could either live in a big city like New York or London, or I could live in the absolute middle of nowhere.

M: I think it’s the dream for a lot of New Yorkers to have that getaway where you don’t check your email…

Have you had a chance to look around London much?

M: A little bit, we got to run around a bit today. It’s a great town, we feel really comfortable here.

Have you been to Rough Trade yet?

M: I have been in the past but we haven’t got a chance yet

It’s not far from here, 20 minutes walk…

M: Nice! We’re going to be at Pure Groove tomorrow….

Yeah, that’s a funny place. It used to be a record shop and now it’s like a café…

M: Yeah, it has like 6 records on the wall…

D: It’s like Cake Shop in New York

M: But it’s cool over there…

Yeah, it’s a nice place. They get a lot of good bands doing instores…

M: Yeah! I heard that.

I wanted to ask you why you’re called The Antlers. Because… I don’t know why you’re called The Antlers!

P: I don’t think there’s… well, I didn’t want to be a singer/songwriter, I wanted to be in a band. I was like ‘I need a band name’, it could be 20 people, or 6 people… it turned out to be 3. I think, at the time I just really liked the word ‘Antlers’. There’s a song by the Microphones called Antlers, which contributed to it. It’s not a great story (laugh).

You could make one up!

P: I know!

M: Great. We all like to hunt and kill…

P: (laughs).

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