Interview - Catching Up With Silversun Pickups





We all have those few special bands that we care about deeply. For one reason or another, these groups found their way into our hearts, which we view almost like family. For me, one of these bands is the Los Angles based Silversun Pickups. My friends on the west coast introduced me to the Silverlake music scene, with SSPU being the first band I went out to see. Even in their early days, I was floored by their live performances. The band combines the sounds of the Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins, Sunny Day Real Estate and a few other core late ‘80s to early ‘90s alt-rock bands with an indie sound of their own.

After moving to New York, I still kept an eye on the band, waiting for some kind of album to finally be released. When I caught wind that Dangerbird Records was releasing an EP from SSPU this year, I couldn’t believe it. Finally, an actual release from this fantastic band!

I caught up with frontman Brian Aubert after their final night of a month-long residency at Spaceland.

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Brian: So how’s New York?

Chip: New York is New York. It is hot as hell this summer. So let me guess, it is 70 degrees and sunny in Los Angeles right now. Right?

Brian: No man. It is hot. It was so mild here, and now it is like crazy. The worst time to be here...

Chip: I dunno. There are very few places worse than New York when it is over 95 degrees outside.

Brian: Dude, yeah, it is pretty nasty. Some interesting smells come out of that city in the heat.

Chip: Yup, there is nothing quite like it. Although when I lived in Los Angeles, I have to admit that the heat in Burbank kicked my ass and then some...

Brian: Awful. Yeah man, when you roll into Burbank on the 5, that damn heat comes outta nowhere like a shield. That heat is so disgusting. And did you ever notice how many AMC Theaters there are in Burbank? I mean, they would tear down a multiplex just to build another one.

Chip: When I was getting ready for this interview, I started to think about all the random shit that I miss about Los Angeles. Surprisingly, it is mostly food, like the damn sweet potato fries at the 101 Diner. Those things were like heroine to me.

Brian: Yeah man, totally.

Chip: And it is that random shit that you don’t even really appreciate until you leave.

Brian: So it wasn’t until you left LA that you realized you had a sweet potato fry addiction. You gotta start something up in New York man... And what you really need is an In & Out Burger!

Chip: OH GOD! YES!!!

Brian: Man, if you opened one of those in NY, it would be pandemonium. Hell, even when they just opened one up here in Westwood people freaked out... there was a crazy line... People just freak out over those places. Like, in Silverlake they tore down a McDonalds and we all thought we were getting an In & Out Burger.. so we all got excited and shit… but they ended up just building another McDonalds. But then we were kinda happy, cuz we’d be so fat!

Chip: Yeah, so I guess we should talk about some music, right?

Brian: Hell, that is the end of the interview, right? Let me know how that sweet potato fry thing goes...

[laughter]

Chip: So, the one thing I really admired about you guys, not only the band but Silverlake in general, was the sense of community within the bands. You guys, Earlimart, Kennedy, Pine Martin and so on...

Brian: Pine Martin... rest in peace...

Chip: Yeah, totally. So is that music community still going strong?

Brian: Well, it isn’t dissolving, it is essentially still the same, it is just gotten bigger. Like, we’ll see Earlimart’s name mentioned in Spin and it is just kinda crazy. It defintiley isn’t local like it used to be. But the whole area is changing. Like, Silverlake is pretty, and lots of artists moved in, and there were good places to see bands. I mean, it became a hobby of residents just to go see bands.

Chip: Yeah, people seemed really involved and supportive of the music...

Brian: Yeah, people would just go out and see bands. Not nearly as much now, but some people still do. But now the neighborhood is turning into million dollar homes.

Chip: Shit, that is happening already?

Brian: Yeah, it is getting close.

Chip: I guess that happens everywhere. I mean, look at out here in Williamsburg…

Brian: Williamsburg is insane! It is like the hippest place I have even been in my life. Yeah, I heard that it is getting mad expensive! But for Silverlake, yeah there are still a bunch of bands, and the area kinda became important in a way for the music of Los Angeles, ya know it went from people asking where we were from and we’d say Silverlake and they’d ask “where’s that?”, to “where do you guys play” and we’d say Silverlake and they’d say “oh, you are one of those snobby bands.”

Chip: Pretty amazing how quickly people’s opinion on a particular area can change so quickly...

Brian: Yeah, and now people want to shut the clubs down and stuff... it is weird...

Chip: What the hell?

Brian: It is all the fun little stuff that is the reason people moved down here. And they might not realize that is the reason why the moved out here, but it has definitely paved the road. It has just gotten harder for them to stay open, cuz people are saying that the clubs are too loud. I mean, if you buy a $900,000 house next to Spaceland...

Chip: Then tough shit. You know what you are getting into.

Brian: Exactly. All in all, it is still a nice place to live though.

Chip: Well, when I moved out to Los Angeles, all my friends kept telling me to check out Silversun Pickups. In fact, you guys were the first band I went to see after I moved. So you were kind of my intro to Los Angeles music.

Brian: Shit, have I met you before?

Chip: Amazingly enough, we have never actually met. Which is shocking, since I know you guys are tight with Todd at Sea Level Records.

Brian: Hell yeah!

Chip: The crazy part is that when I was speaking with Jeff at Dangerbird about their upcoming records, and he mentioned that they were releasing your new EP, I was like no way!

Brian: That is awesome! Man, it just makes it feel so better having people we know helping us out. Makes it feel so much less foreign.

Chip: So the EP. This has been a long time coming. You guys must be thrilled to finally have a proper release out there.

Brian: It’s weird ya know? We haven’t really been waiting to put something out, this is just when we decided to do it. I think it makes us sorta strange because bands have t-shirts and websites before they even have songs, and we just kinda started playing and shaping our sound... we just kept playing... and then we’d record for fun, doing it all ourselves. It was really a learning experience.

Chip: Well, that way you really knew what the band was all about by the time it came to really record some material.

Brian: We keeping going through these hurdles, and we always seem to accomplish them, which makes us nervous. Ya know, we had some record label stuff, but it wasn’t what we wanted until it worked out with Dangerbird, cuz they are still kinda like a family. The EP is sorta like a thing that they just did. We just made it to get something out quickly, using existing recordings and sorta mixing it with newer ones. And it came out much better than we thought!

Chip: Yeah Brian, dude it turned out great!

Brian: I have to admit, it was supposed to be more of a pidge-podge, like you could
tell that one track was recorded in 2002, one was recorded later, like a reference to the things we self-released in the past.

Chip: Just to familiarize people with the history of Silversun Pickup’s music, to see where you have come from.

Brian: Yeah. But through the mixing of the EP, it has changed. It sounds a little bit bigger, I mean we have never had anything mastered before, so when we heard it we were like oh my God! Is this what people do? We felt like we got let in on some kind of trick! We were like why didn’t anybody tell us about this mastering?

[laughter]

Brian: We should have done this years ago! But to be honest, when we got the artwork, we were like oh shit!

Chip: And that is something I wanted to ask you about. The cover art is amazing. Who exactly did the artwork for the Pikul EP?

Brian: The girl who did it, Mel Kadel, is part of the Ship Collective. She has been a friend of ours for so long. Her art shows are so amazing. Nikki has a painting of Mel’s of these two girls on swings, and before that we had this scratch tree logo that Mel helped us design, so we stuck the two together. Then we went down to this place here called Smog, and she took these elements and then messed around with them and made it look so good.

Chip: It turned out amazing, Truly a work of art...

Brian: What we really love is that they silk-screened all the white, so when you touch it, it still feels like it is something we made ourselves. We were so fucking excited about how they turned out.

Chip: Backtracking just a bit, we have already covered the fact that Silversun Pickups have been around for a while. When would you say that the band actually was formed.

Brian: I would say that it really became Silversun when we did a residency at Spaceland back in 2002. Then Christopher joined the band, and it really started to shape, ya know?

Chip: Totally. So now people have finally gotten a taste of Silversun Pickups with the EP. Knowing that a few of these tracks are from various stages of the band’s career, what can we expect from the upcoming full-length?

Brian: Yeah, I mean the EP was just an extra thing, but the album is what we really set out to do. I think the EP ended up being a little bigger than they thought it would be, so things changed, so now we are working it a bit. So we have some touring to do, but we are in pre-production for the record. It will be out next year, and we are gonna make it as good as we can.

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Now I have heard a few demos that Silversun Pickups have done for this upcoming album, and it is going to rock your socks off. If you happen to be in NYC for the CMJ festivities this week, catch this great band Saturday at the FADER / [adult swim] Project, where they will perform at 6:40pm Click here for more info.



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Interview - Catching Up With Silversun Pickups