Brooklyn-based trio The Antlers are renowned for their finesse in the aural exploration of human emotion. Celebrated worldwide for their stunning sophomore release Hospice , the record, the result of two years of self-imposed isolation, told the hauntingly beautiful story of a man losing a loved one to bone cancer and explores the powerful notions of his memories, regret and grief. The formulation of the protagonists’ plight through abrasive lyrics and disheartening instrumental segments saw the group receive a flourishing amount of media attention and critical acclaim, resulting in a rapid rise from obscurity. In 2010 they were exposed, uncovered and shared with the world and, as multi-instrumental member Darby Cicci explains, it was this exposure that solidified their beliefs of their own musical endeavours.
“It’s weird, everything sort of happened for us in 2009. It was the year of good news. Basically every day we’d get good news constantly and things went really well,” he explains fondly. “In 2010 we started to adjust to that and focus on honing in on what we were doing live. We’ve been touring all year and playing much bigger venues than in the past and we really tried to step up our game in every facet,” he shares before pausing and laughing with a sigh, “Hands down the defining moment of our career tour-wise was our two separate summer tours with The National. It was the first time we had toured with a band we were huge fans of before we got to tour with them. To tour with them put everything in focus for us in terms of where we want to be.
“When you’re first making music it’s really important to idolise and look up to musicians that you’re fans of, and to be put on the same stage as them really generated a feeling for us that we belonged there. We played with them at the Radio City Music Hall in New York which is one of the most historic and prestigious venues in the country; playing there felt so very surreal, but very right at the time.”
With the development and evolution of the group ongoing, the follow-up to Hospice is one of the most highly anticipated records of 2011. While continuing to be rich in unadulterated symbolism, Cicci explains that Silberman’s wistful and swelling falsetto will be accompanied by growth in group’s musicianship.
“We’re hoping we’ll be able to release our new record early this year. We’re working on as we speak; I’m actually in the studio today!” he laughs gently. “We’ve been working very fast and it’s been coming together very quickly. It’s definitely a different record from Hospice. I think it does a lot more with sound in ways that Hospice did in lyrics. It’s less of a narrative story which I think some people may be confused by. It’s a good example of using fewer lyrics not to tell a vague story but to tell it through images, rather than narrate the entire thing.
“Sound-wise it’s one of the most ambitious projects any of us have ever worked on,” he muses. “There are lots and lots and lots of sounds, it’s very intricate and there are a lot of layers. We’re doing a lot of things that we’ve always wanted to do and we’re doing it all in our own studio; it’s all us…” he pauses momentarily to gather his thoughts. “It won’t necessarily sound like Hospice, but it will sound like The Antlers… and I think that’s a good thing. “
Underpinning their meticulous productions is their dynamic, yet emotionally fragile performances. Their contemporary performances portray the story of Hospice, an exploration of a young man’s simultaneous decay of his lover’s health and their subsequent relationship, the endurance of despair and the idealisation of tension and tranquillity
“I don’t want to use the term ‘wall of sound’ because of the negative connotations associated with it these days,” Cicci chuckles, “but we’re definitely trying to make as much sound on stage as possible and to make as many layers as we can. Not necessarily in any kind of attempt to recreate the recordings, we’re really just trying to convey the emotion behind it. The subtleties in the record are really what make the recordings so great.
“Live, I think it’s the power and the dynamics that make it great. We try to do that, we don’t rehearse it too much; we really let it stay immediate and stay in the moment. We really try to let it evolve. We’re always performing for those watching us so we’re very responsive to the audience and how they react will affect how we play. It’s not a theatrical production, it’s much rawer. “
On the eve of their debut Australian tour, The Antlers are simultaneously approaching the conclusion of the recording of their follow up to Hospice. While the recordings are undeniably anticipated, the expansion of their performances to encompass their new material is held in just as high regard. As Cicci explains, he’s still unsure what our shores can expect.
“It really depends on what this record turns out to be, what we make of it,” he ponders. “If it turns completely insane then we’ll definitely be making the show a lot more theatrical. If it’s not then we might work on a smaller live production, but I feel that it’s going to get bigger.
“We really want to be able to start designing our own lighting shows and maybe bring not necessarily more inhibition but a more visual element to our show,” he adds. “We’re definitely going to be expanding the sound and we might even be adding another member for our live performances. We’re still not sure but we’re figuring it out, I’m looking forward to it.”
THE ANTLERS play LANEWAY FESTIVAL on Saturday February 5, along with !!!, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Cut Copy, Gotye, Holy Fuck, Beach House and a million other cool bands. Of course, it sold out months ago but you’ve still got a chance to see their remarkable live show if you snap up a ticket to their double-headline show at The Corner Hotel with Bear in Heaven on Wednesday February 9. Tickets from The Corner box office, 94279198 or cornerhotel.com.