While Neck of the Woods, Silversun Pickups’ third full-length was released last May, the Los Angeles four-piece garnered another round of publicity a few weeks back. Unfortunately, it was for all the wrong reasons. “It was very simple. We started getting emails from people asking if we were fans of Mitt Romney,” says the Pickups ebullient lead singer Brian Aubert. What Aubert didn’t know is that Panic Switch, one of the band’s tracks from their 2009 full-length Swoon was played before one of Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s speeches.
"We were confused until we found out that he’d used our song,” continues Aubert. “And we just said, ‘We don’t like that.’ So we had to do a cease and desist, make some comments, put out a press release to clear the air.” Though Romney’s policies have drawn the ire of many American artists, the dust settled relatively quickly. But not before the four-piece understood the full scope of this immediate exposure.
“Mitt Romney’s camp was cool with it. And then, afterwards, things got crazy. All the news and media outlets, however they felt politically, used it in whatever angle they wanted. It became less about us and more about Mitt using our song. And now it’s kind of dead. That’s what happens I guess. All we wanted was for him not to use our song. A lot of our friends came up to us all surprised, saying ‘I didn’t know you guys were this big!’ And all we could say is, ‘Neither did we!”
Aubert’s humility has a certain charm, but the fact that the Pickups have become an act worthy of mainstream coverage has been a long time coming. Neck of the Woods, released in May, was the product of a year and a half of relative quiet from the Pickups camp. The band gigged no more than a handful of times and shifted their focus to maintaining their day-to-day lives. It was a healthy break that spoke to the band’s ability to learn from experience.
“We learned from Swoon,” he says on the phone from his Los Angeles home. “Whether you’re playing live or you’re recording, you have to get yourself into that one particular mindset. It’s tough for us to do both, because both require so much focus. The reality of being a band is that when you write and record, you’re activating certain parts of your brain that were otherwise quiet most of the time. You’re listening for the most minute of details.
“And when you’re playing live, it’s this totally bombastic, extroverted experience. When we took a month off for Swoon, we couldn’t really take a month off because we still had to tour. There were still things to do. By the end of that we hadn’t really had the break we needed. We were so weary in a way we didn’t understand. It wasn’t Swoon that did it to us, it was everything else. And we realize that now.”
In order to craft the cinematic modern rock that would end up on Neck of the Woods, the Pickups made the only logical step – taking a break. In doing so, Neck of the Woods was given a weighty, introspective edge. It’s a compliment to the band’s trademark, landscape-sized sound. “Late in 2010 we realized there was nothing, absolutely nothing we could really write about. So we decided we had to take some time off and actually live our lives. To be honest, we just wrote and recorded this album quicker. It was nice to have more time to just be human beings, think and feel things without the pressure that we had early on.”
As quick as Neck of the Woods was recorded, Aubert admits that waiting until September for the band’s tour has been especially trying. “We’re a band that was birthed playing live. We played live for so long before we ever went into a studio. When you make a record, the whole live thing can’t necessarily happen in the studio or in the rehearsal space. We tried to get excited, but it’s not happening yet! We’ve become really antsy and we know it now. Before, we thought we’d be able to deal with this pretty well. And now we’ve realised we’re just so uncomfortable waiting.”
Aubert insists that through the band’s downtime, they’ve prepared for their upcoming run through America before landing in Australia by understanding how not to hide behind sonics. “We love these sounds, but we wanted to sound more dynamic. Anything that we felt shy about before, we wanted to expose. We’d have discussions where we’d voice concerns, and after a few minutes, we’d all look at each other and just say, ‘Get used to it,’” he laughs.
“Simple for us is the hardest thing to deal with,” says Aubert with the utmost clarity. Thankfully for Aubert and Silversun Pickups, the opportunity for them to dive into the many layers of Neck of the Woods in a live setting is right around the corner. And as Aubert believes, it may go over best in Australia.
“We have the most amazing times; last time around we did this Chinatown party thing in Brisbane, the Annandale Hotel in Sydney and the Ding Dong Lounge in Melbourne. And those were by far the maddest shows of our lives in terms of the crowd going apeshit. We were so overwhelmed. We really don’t know what we did to deserve this. We’ll take a boat to get there,” he says with conviction. “We’ll play in garages, we don’t care. We’re in.”
BY JOSHUA KLOKE
SILVERSUN PICKUPS are part of the second announcement for the massive 2013 Harvest Festival lineup, which has had an extra date announced in Melbourne, taking place at Werribee Park on Saturday November 10. Tickets to the Sunday November 11 Harvest are now sold-out.