Consistently named as one of the top albums of 2009, the critically acclaimed album Hospice by The Antlers has received both well-deserved local and national attention. The Brooklyn-based trio consists of Peter Silberman (vocals/guitar), Darby Cicci (keyboard, trumpet, banjo), and Michael Lerner (drums/percussion). Here drummer Michael Lerner discusses the band’s growth and evolution, the incredible response to Hospice, as well as the creative music environment of New York, and a look at upcoming shows the band has scheduled this year.
On the background of the band, The Antlers began as a solo project and has further grown into a more collaborative effort, can you describe how the band was formed and how it has grown since then?
I had heard some of Peter’s (Silberman) music while he was still working on his own. I was looking to play with some new people at the same time that he wanted to expand The Antlers into a full band. Darby (Cicci) was introduced to us by a former band member and joined full time soon after that. We have been developing our group sound and continue to grow as a cohesive unit. We all give each other a lot of room to experiment and contribute musical ideas.
How did you feel about the overwhelmingly positive response of Hospice – did you expect or anticipate that it would be received as well as it was– and how has it affected your work or the direction you would like to take the music?
The response to Hospice took us by surprise, to say the least. I’m not sure what expectations there were. I know that we were happy with the record when it was finished and ended up self-releasing it so that people would be able to hear it. Once it was released, none of us could have predicted this situation we have found ourselves in. Now people may be paying more attention to us and future releases, which is very gratifying.
Is there anything you may have done differently in creating Hospice or do you feel that it turned out closely to what you were hoping to achieve?
Looking back, there is nothing that I would do differently. The interesting thing about recording this record is that it was done in a small bedroom studio setting which is a very different experience than recording in a traditional studio. I feel that the overall sound quality of the album and it’s sense of intimacy were a direct result of the way we decided to record. This wasn’t apparent to me until the mixing was finished and I had time to sit with the record for a while. Then it all kind of fell into place for me.
What are some of the influences or inspiration that we can look forward to in the creation of your next album? Are there any new elements or concepts that you are playing around with and would like to incorporate as a follow up to your previous releases?
As we write and record our new material, we are really not restricting ourselves whatsoever. There have been lots of ideas swimming around all of our heads while we have been on the road and now we get to play around with them in the studio and see what feels right.
In touring, are there any favorite cities or venues that you enjoyed playing that you hadn’t expected? How does your music translate in the live performances?
One place that stands out is Belgium. We recently played a festival there called Crossing Borders and got a really warm response from the people there. It was amazing! Our live shows are probably a little looser than people might think after hearing our recorded material. It feels a bit more post-rock in the sense that we all love to tour and play shows and love trying to achieve a really big sound while still exploring different textures and moods.
How can you describe the music scene in Brooklyn (or New York), and in what ways if any, has the music community here helped shape you as a band or fostered the growth of The Antlers as well as other bands?
The attention that Brooklyn/NYC is getting again these days is totally deserved. There really is so much interesting music happening here now. Much of what I find myself listening to recently has been music put out by New York bands. There is such a wealth of creative energy going on here that it is sort of impossible not to be inspired by it. I wouldn’t say that there is one particular scene, but many smaller scenes that coexist alongside one another.
Are there any artists or musicians that you are currently listening to or following or any bands that you would like to tour with in the future?
I’d love to play a show with David Byrne. I didn’t get a chance to see him, but I heard stellar reviews of his last tour. Antony and the Johnsons would be on that list too. I’d also include Yo La Tengo. I’ve been listening to them again a lot lately. They are so great.
Looking ahead, do you have any shared goals or plans as a band that you would like to continue to develop or what are some upcoming projects that listeners and fans can look forward to in the future?
We’re not really sure what to expect. Things have really changed for us this past year. We are going to continue to be on the road a lot this is year, so whenever we are home, we’ll be working on new material. We just plan on continuing to work hard and enjoy all of the experiences that come our way.
Finally, are there any new music releases or projects, festivals or shows, that you are looking forward to being a part of in 2010?
I am really looking forward to playing at BAM for the Sounds Like Brooklyn Festival. That is the kind of venue that I never though I’d have the chance to play. It blows my mind just thinking about it.
For more information on The Antlers Brooklyn Academy of Music show on February 5th, check out details posted on their MySpace page.